Artist Co-op Opens in Bristol
Studio Seeks to Create an Aura for the Arts
By ROGER BROWN | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | March 16, 2010*** This story appeared in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier on Tuesday, March 16. ***
BRISTOL, Tenn. – The music was soothing, the floors glistening and the bright walls were alive with bold colors and visions inside the new 606 State Street Art Gallery Monday afternoon, and Sam Samuel sounded just as upbeat and vibrant.
"We want to be a hotbed for the largest collection of artists ever brought together in this area," said Samuel, president of the State Street Artist Co-Op. "And we hope to be a place that encourages and supports them, too."
Samuel voiced his hopes during a reception Monday to celebrate today's official opening of the gallery, which will be run by the artist co-op. The group, made up of artists across the Tri-Cities, is leasing two floors inside the former E.W. King building, which went unsold during an auction earlier this year.
Starting out, some 22 artists – specializing in a wide range of paint, sculpture and fabric styles – will have displayed works available for sale. Eventually, Samuel said the co-op hopes to have 60 or more artists showing off their works.
"We just want to add to the artist community that's already here downtown," said Samuel, whose wife, Joyce, serves as the co-op's treasurer. "But we're also hoping to create the aura that you have in a major art center." Among the artists proudly displaying work was Alex Thompson, 16, of Bristol, Va., whose striking oil, acrylic and pastel images of animals covered a section of the gallery's walls – and captured plenty of eyes, too.
"It's incredibly exciting to have my own spot in a gallery," Thompson said, as her mother, Katherine, stood by with a beaming smile. "It's inspiring, especially when I see all the great, creative work from the other artists."
In a corner across the gallery, away from the cheese, crackers, pastry, punch and other reception treats, Bristol, Tenn., artist Val Lyle was working on a clay sculpture of an infant – a work she was recently commissioned to produce.
Lyle said the gallery's prime location, smack dab in downtown Bristol, will be a huge boost for area artists.
"You need people to see your work, and this will be fantastic for artists," Lyle said. "And it means a lot that it's being run by a co-op of artists. We work together. We share our inspiration. And we can identify with the passion each one of us puts into our work."
It's that sense of artistic support that the 606 State Street Gallery hopes to keep building once its doors open today, said Robert Delapp, a co-op member and artist from Abingdon, Va.
"Of course, it means a lot for us, as artists, to have our work displayed here," said Delapp, whose work includes wood carvings and stained-glass images. "But it's also about inspiring someone who walks in the gallery and looks at all this vast array of work. And maybe they see that one piece that makes them say, "I can do this, too. I want to create something, too."