Visual Arts Cooperative opens its 12th annual show at the Arts Council
The Visual Arts Cooperative kicked off the 12th anniversary of its three-gallery exhibit at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri at April's First Friday celebrations.
The cooperative shows artwork every month in the Jean Chapman Gallery at the Arts Council, named for its founder. However, this show is unique in that the Jean Chapman Gallery, Lorimier Gallery and Gallery 100 are all dedicated to the work of the nearly 50 total artists listed as members of the cooperative.
According to Vicki Outman, treasurer of the Visual Arts Cooperative, each artist is allowed to display up to three pieces. Outman approximates that there are around 150 pieces of art hung and on floor display. The window and miniature displays generate a sum of almost 200 pieces.
A mix of mediums are exhibited in the gallery, including ceramics, paintings, photographs, sculptures and even weavings. Outman described a metal sculptor using recycled aluminum cans to create landscapes and still lifes. Small pieces of the cans are cut and arranged to create a scene. At a distance, she said, "you'd think they were paintings."
"There are just all sorts of different media that give the viewers a wide variety of fine art that they can view without having to go to a large city, to a museum, to see a big variety of fine art," Outman said.
The cooperative wants its artists to be distinguished beyond "craft makers." Accepted ceramics and porcelain must be handmade and hand thrown, rather than poured into a mold.
"We really jury our pieces in so that they have to be considered still a unique piece of fine art. It has to be beyond just a craft," Outman said. "It's nothing you would just see in a craft show. It is something that would be worthy of seeing in a fine art museum, something that is truly a unique work, that is not anything that would be replicated."
The ultimate goal of the cooperative is to provide a venue for artists to show their work and to meet other artists in order to grow and develop their skills.
The show is dedicated to Herbert F. Wickham III, though his friends knew him as Herb, who passed away a little over three weeks ago. He was a charter member of the cooperative, meaning he had shown work in each gallery at the Arts Council. He was an alumnus of Southeast Missouri State University, a colonel in the U.S. Army and, before retirement, a high school football coach who recruited his players to take his art classes.
"He taught them that you can be a rough and tough football player, but you can still take art," Outman said.
A specific part of the gallery is sectioned off to show two of his pieces along with a commemoration. His specialty, Outman said, was in oil paintings depicting the rural landscape of the southeast Missouri region. A memorial scholarship has also been developed in his name.
Along with Wickham's dedication, eight new members of the cooperative were announced Friday.
The exhibition allows viewers to see a group of the artists' work compared to seeing one piece at a time, and gives them a better sense of the artists' full ability. It also helps members who aren't able to participate every month reach a broader audience and market a larger portion of their work.
Caroline Kahler, professor and chairperson of the art department at Southeast, has three personal narrative fans on display. The fans are not anything like the typical Japanese style but instead are a three-fold paper design. Kahler was a ceramicist but took up this medium in her move to Cape Girardeau. A significance of place resonates in her art, bringing back memory and making a connection between past and present.
This is Kahler's second time exhibiting in the annual show.
"I really believe in small-town organizations and what they bring to a community," Kahler said. "To me, it's like this idea of having the opportunity to exhibit amongst people within the community. It's a very positive opportunity."
Both Outman and Kahler hope to see more Southeast students become a part of the art community in the future.
"The talent that is in this area is unbelievable," Outman said. "I love the talent that the young people are showing. I'd love to try and get some younger people in our group. They have so much to offer."
First Friday's are often an opportunity where students can exhibit art, whether that be in a coffeehouse or small local gallery. An artist or not, Kahler encourages students to go and see the arts their community is making.
"I think sometimes people live someplace, but they don't necessarily embrace it," Kahler said. "I think embracing your community through the arts is a really fun thing to do."
To apply to the Visual Arts Cooperative, students can send a letter of interest along with six or more images of their work to Outman at firstname.lastname@example.org.