In Sharon Killian's perfect world, the art gallery on the southwest corner of the Fayetteville square will look just like the developing region around it -- in all the community's "growing diversity." And the more that is true, she says, the more people from outside Northwest Arkansas will also see themselves reflected in the art and be comfortable in that space and in the community at large.
Killian is the president of the board of the Fayetteville Art Alliance, the nonprofit organization that oversees that art gallery on the square. Once known as the Fayetteville Underground, the gallery was "rebranded" during a First Thursday event on Sept. 7 as "Art Ventures."
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WHEN — 5 p.m. Thursday
WHERE — Art Ventures, 101 W. Mountain St. in Fayetteville
COST — Free
INFO — 439-8641
"We believe that our new name will better suit our dynamic, forward-looking organization," Killian says. "While our new board has been operating somewhat in the background for the past year, the group has quietly worked to bring exciting local, regional and international art to Northwest Arkansas. The Art Ventures mission to promote the visual arts by collaborating with the community, supporting artists working to the highest standards and encouraging education and public engagement in the arts has been in sharp focus."
The Underground was born in the basement at 1 E. Center St. almost a decade ago as studio space for working artists who sometimes also showed their work there. In 2011, it was "revived" above ground at 101 W. Mountain St. in the form of an artists' cooperative.
"This form of business organization was at that time primarily for the benefit of 'members' of the co-op and was managed by the artists themselves," Killian explains. "It is difficult to sustain a co-op as a business entity, and it did not fully reflect the more inclusive community involvement necessary for long-term support. Transformation of the mission, governance, curation, and management style began in 2014, with retroactive IRS approval of nonprofit status."
What that means to artists is that they are welcomed as "represented artists" without becoming part of the gallery's management structure. Killian says more than 90 new artists have exhibited in the space in the last year, and "the accelerated transformation of the gallery ... has brought in both lesser and more widely known artists not previously exhibited in our area. Programming reflects the new commitment to inclusion of the diverse population of Northwest Arkansas as well as drawing more broadly from Arkansas, surrounding states, and the wider world of art including Europe, Asia and Africa."
Art Ventures, says Killian, is intended to work in cooperation with other art entities in the community, the biggest being the new University of Arkansas School of Art planned in Fayetteville. But she also assures that there is no plan to take over any programming already successfully in place -- not the classes taught at the Community Creative Center, for example.
"The university might want to bring some students in for certain things," she says, "and there will be studios here where artists can teach, but there's no need to reinvent the wheel. What I see us doing is going to our core of art-inclusive micro-communities and really making that core the most excellent it can be -- something everyone will be able to appreciate.
"We are always going to show fresh, new works," she adds, perhaps not in shows that change monthly, but "every month, there will be some happening that will bring people out of the house and into our space, to enjoy some art, some education, some programming that will engage them.
"Expanding the base and building broad community support are high on the board's agenda for the coming year," Killian adds. "The goal is to build a sustainable organization for the long term. Art Ventures certainly dovetails nicely with all the other expanding venues that make this a desirable place to live and a tourist destination."
NAN What's Up on 09/29/2017
Print Headline: By Any Other Name