When One Store Closes… Local Artists Open Gallery at Northwest Arkansas Mall

When a Store Closes… Local Artists Create a Gallery at the Northwest Arkansas Mall – The Free Weekly | Pro Club Bd


MONICA HOOPER
mhooper@nwadg.com

When a clothing store closes, an art gallery opens. At least that’s what happened at the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

“The mall made a very, very generous decision in March to donate space to local artists,” says Melissa Milton, who is an artist herself. “The mall representative said, ‘We’re willing to donate the space, but you artists just have to run it yourself and you pay utilities. But other than that, stay family-friendly.’”

Milton and others worked together to build The Art Gallery, a space dedicated to supporting local art, in the former banana republic across from Victoria’s Secret at the Fayetteville mall.

“I started us as a non-profit organization,” says Milton, a retired attorney. “We got state and federal nonprofit approvals, we drafted our charter, we got a board of directors, and we got it right.” She and the artist group called for more artists on Facebook. “We still have the signs telling them how to apply. And it was really everyone according to their abilities. We have 46 artists and our rule is that you must live within 70 miles of Fayetteville.”

The artists exhibited in the gallery are mostly new artists who are showing their art publicly for the first time. Milton adds that “a few of us are in other galleries, but all this beautiful stuff was in their homes” before it was displayed at the mall.

Both established and new artists helped transform the 7,000-square-foot store into a legitimate gallery with soft lighting, wooden floors and walls, and shelves covered with a variety of local artwork. The artists have also shown each other the ropes and taken on various roles in the founding of The Art Gallery.

“Those of us who have gallery experience have taught [the younger artists] how to hang and label your art and stuff like that,” explains Milton. “We have a woodworker and carpenter who hung our hanging system because he’s good at it. We have the retired lawyer here who drew up the artist contracts and archived all the legal stuff. We have a lady with decades of marketing experience and she and two former and current gallery owners will form our marketing committee.

“We have an artist who is a graphic designer, so she designed our logo. We have another artist who prints her own art, so she printed the signs” and another artist who “knows everything about making websites” is building one for the gallery. An artist and teacher organizes the gallery classroom. “So this is a DIY. It’s amazing, but I think it’s quite beautiful,” concludes Milton.

Others have borrowed or donated materials and furniture to keep the do-it-yourself gallery up and running.

“A lot of things are borrowed because we only had a tight budget. But we had generous local businesses! We wouldn’t have gotten this far without the mall donating the space and several local businesses donating money.

“I feel like it’s a win-win for us and the mall,” adds Milton. “It gives local artists an opportunity to exhibit that they might not otherwise have. It pays the utilities for the space that the mall had to pay utilities for just because it was sitting here; quite a bill runs to heat and cool. It brings more walk-in customers to the mall. We had a lot of people come in and say, ‘Oh, I haven’t been to the mall in years!’”

The art gallery is now open on weekends with various artists from the collective occupying the shop.

“We are the only art gallery where artists (to my knowledge) receive 100% of their sales revenue. Because we’re truly nonprofit, and artists pay a $60 monthly membership each,” Milton continues. “Furthermore, we have no employees; They each volunteer four hours of their time [each month] to occupy the gallery. So we say to the people that come in, ‘Everyone on the team is an artist. So if you have a question, ask an artist.” People seem to like that; then ask questions. The sales surprised us positively. In our first three weekends we grossed over $2,600.”

They intend to host a grand opening in September. They also hope to have a rotating monthly exhibition of public school art at the gallery. “We feel like this will bring kids into an art gallery that maybe no one else would,” says Milton. They are currently looking for public school art teachers who would like their students to exhibit art in the gallery.

At the back of the gallery there is a large room for a classroom where art classes will take place.

“We have an art teacher in a public school who will be responsible for our art classes,” says Milton. They currently have several pieces of art that have been loaned or donated to the gallery by other artists.

“We will offer free and low-cost art classes to the public. Once we’ve raised enough money, we want them all to be free,” says Milton. “These classes will be for all ages – children, seniors – everyone. … We’d like to start classes as soon as next month, but it really depends on how quickly we can raise funds for the classes.”

For now, Milton and the other artists are enjoying the spoils of their work and overcoming the naysayers.

“There were other artists in the art scene who said, ‘You don’t want to do that. It’ll look like a flea market,” laughs Milton. She is very happy with the place.

“I know I gush, but I’m just so proud and happy that this happened.”

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FAQ

The Art Gallery at NWA Mall

WHAT — A new art gallery founded and run entirely by local artists

WHEN — Friday 4pm-8pm, Saturday 12pm-8pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm

WHERE — Across from Victoria’s Secret in the former Banana Republic store at Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville

For free; Art is for sale

INFO — Email melismiltonart@aol.com

FYI – A monthly arts reception with light refreshments is held on the second Sunday of each month from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m

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FYI

To broadcast

Artists whose work is currently on view at the Art Gallery at Northwest Arkansas Mall include James Arnold, Margery Shore, Janet Cross, Mary Curtis, Katelynn Barker, Sepastian Bocanegra, Crystal Brown Ratliff, Lennia Daulton, Terry Dushan, Emily Frame , Erica Frame, Randy French, Charlotte Glick, Jordan Greene, Brooke Groover, Kyle Hale, Megan Rose Hiers, Jay Hinely, Ryan Howard, Susan Idlet, Gary Johnson, Debra Koertge, Detlef Koertge, Beana Laden, Darlene McVay, Melissa Milton, Thea Morrill, Reed Novotny, Ashlynn Patrick, Mike Rice, Lowell Ridings, Annika Ringle, Kim Seaberg, Raegan Sikes, Randi Sparks, Diane Stinebaugh, Melissa Swan, Pat Sweeden, Jeremy TenHaken, Kayla Thompson (Rhoads), Jaci Tucker, Molly Van Roekel, Shelli Palazzi, Stefani Christianson, Tana Washington, Trish Whitsell, Madison Woods, and Rin Wynters.

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