Art hoppers find creativity in pop-up spots in SuperiorTenby Owens bought the space at 1112 Tower Ave. from the city of Superior for a dollar a decade ago. The joke at the time was: The city should have paid her a dollar.
By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
Tenby Owens bought the space at 1112 Tower Ave. from the city of Superior for a dollar a decade ago. The joke at the time was: The city should have paid her a dollar.
The century-old building was born as a pharmacy and became an Italian restaurant. It had been abandoned for 20 years when Owens bought it, and old photos show a decrepit spot that resembled the dingiest of basements. Since renovating it, the space has held a sewing store, guitar shop and tea shop. Now it is without a tenant again — but it’s not unoccupied.
During Saturday’s Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop it was reincarnated as a boutique filled with large-scale portraits of women and
ceramic sculptures — “(Re)emergence,” an art exhibition by Oulu artist Tonja Sell.
The 22nd annual gallery hop included open houses at more than 20 galleries in Duluth and Superior and an eARTh bus to transport art hoppers through the Twin Ports.
Owens’ store is one of four Phantom Galleries in Superior, pop-up spots that temporarily host art exhibitions.
The concept gives people a reason to notice the empty store — and consider renting — and a spot for Sell to show — and potentially sell — her work.
“This is such a perfect fit,” Owens said. “As property owner, you want people to come through and look at it. And it’s wonderful exposure for Tonya.”
While gallery hoppers stopped to talk art with Sell, Owens said she had heard from at least five visitors who were interested in the property.
Sell, who has a background in commercial
illustration, recently has returned to art after taking an 18-year hiatus.
She has been experimenting with ceramics — which she immediately took to, a credit to her background, she said. Her father is behind Oulu Glass. Sell also does portrait work, with a vintage-modern mix. She recently has begun dabbling in collage and textures.
“I haven’t shown locally,” Sell said. “I wanted to be a part of what’s going on here. There is a great attempt to make things happen in Superior. I wanted to be a part of it.”
The combination of the store and Sell’s work were a match made by Erika Mock, director of Phantom Galleries, who said people were waiting to get into the exhibition when it opened Saturday morning.
“That’s one thing I like to do,” Mock said. “It’s part of the curating, to work with what the space asks for.”
This is the second year of Phantom Galleries. In 2011, there were seven
installations, Mock said. Shows last about two months.
One feature of Phantom Galleries: its installations can be run without the artist present, the artwork visible all day every day. Two of the galleries during the gallery hop were quick-hit stops, just images behind glass and short write-ups about the artists, but no artists on hand. Erik Pearson’s show “Hiked out Reeling in the Rush” is in an empty corner store at 1302 Tower Ave. and includes a sculptural scene — an old man with an accordion in a boat with a mermaid out front. His paintings were in another window. Across the street Cecilia Ramon, Sheila Packa and Kathy McTavish are sharing space at 1215 Tower Ave. for a multimedia mix of artwork.
Artists Ellen Sandbeck, who works with paper cutting, and Jim Grittner, who works with clay, are sharing space at 1412 Tower Ave., a former coffee shop. Sandbeck specifically hung her show with the off-hours passerby in mind. There are banners advertising her “Buddha a Day” project hung at an angle to make the room seem smaller, and to better showcase her work.
Sandbeck spent a year creating one paper-cut Buddha every day. She would find an image — perhaps Buddha lounging or wearing glasses — and create the piece by making cuts into linen paper with cuticle scissors. Her exhibition includes some of the Buddha work, as well as pieces from her follow-up project: paper-cuts of demons.
Mock said the timing is right for Phantom Galleries.
“We’re at a place in culture where people are asking for art and to engage with art and to have different experiences,” she said.