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10 local artists collaborate in new Ho-Chunk Centre gallery

10 local artists collaborate in new Ho-Chunk Centre gallery

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What a year it has been for the art community and the Ho-Chunk Centre; first Gallery 103 opened, bringing around 18 artists to the building, and now Art SUX Gallery is about to open in Suite 105 (right across the hall from Gallery 103) on Dec. 13 and is ushering in eight more local artists.

There are 10 artists total that will be sharing this new space, seven of whom are fresh to the building, and three who will be featured in both gallery spaces in the artist-friendly building. Many of these artists have had artist spotlights in The Weekender over the last year, and for some of them this is the first gallery in which their art will be shown.

The instigators of this new gallery were abstract artist Amy Thompson and her husband Matt.

"I was in the Benson Building and other places working by myself," said Thompson. "I decided I was tired of doing it by myself. Matt and I had previously discussed buying a building and making it into studios and a communal gallery, but we just couldn't afford it. We finally decided to rent a space, so we talked to the people at the Ho-Chunk Centre. I then reached out to artists, and some artists reached out to me and our space filled up fast. There were more artists that we didn't have room for, and it broke my heart."

The artists featured in Art SUX Gallery include: Amy Hoffman (abstract acrylic, intuitive and spiritual), Robin Vaughan (acrylic folk realism), Tom Kleber (abstract), Ann McTaggart (oil paints with imagery and birds), Jean-Guy Richard (oil surrealism/fantasy), Amy Thompson (abstract using multiple mediums), Kristin Võ (resin, alcohol ink and acrylic celestial/abstract), Betty Skewis-Arnett (oil abstract), Debra Knealing (oil fantasy) and Shannon Sargent (3D pop-art/sculptures).

We all know that the designator of the Sioux Gateway Airport is SUX, but why did Thompson decide to name her gallery Art SUX Gallery? Doesn't that give a negative connotation to the art? Does it mean the art sucks? No way in hell! The art in this gallery is amazing.

"I've always loved that SUX code for the airport," said Thompson. "I loved when (George) Lindblade came up with the cups. I bought the cup, the T-shirts and the hats that said 'SUX.' I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek way to laugh at ourselves. What else are we going to do? Be mad? I don't know where Art SUX came from, but I put it on my license plate before we started this gallery. That's our personality here. A mix of the fine and the fun."

Three of the artists, Richard, McTaggart and Knealing, will have a spot at both Gallery 103 and Art SUX Gallery. According to Richard, it has to do with having more space to put his art.

"I needed more room because I have larger pieces I wanted to show," said Richard. "103 is a great place, but unfortunately it is pretty small with 18 artists. The great thing about that gallery is that you can see it when you are walking through the lobby of the Ho-Chunk Centre. Something that is even better about Art SUX Gallery is that you can see it when you are on the street (Fourth Street). I'm double dipping here. It's great!"

"And I'm totally fine with that," said Thompson.

"I'm still at 103, too, but when I saw this space, I knew I needed to have it," said McTaggart.

So why did these 10 artists decide to join Thompson on this artistic journey to start a professional gallery?

"She (Thompson) was so inviting," said McTaggart. "She encouraged us. It is great."

"I think it is a bit of a free-wheeling type of thing," said Richard. "It was time to start a new venture, and of course, look at these walls (pointing at the extremely high walls with lots of space for artwork)."

For those artists outside of Art SUX who may want to display their works in the open spaces of these gallery walls, there may be an opportunity to rent space. Just get in contact with Art SUX Gallery (an easy way to do this currently is to reach out on its Facebook page).

One beneficial aspect that stands out with these galleries housing multiple artists is that they have formed artist communities where they can bounce ideas off each other and grow their talents. The artists at Art SUX Gallery want to reach out to their neighbors at Gallery 103 to form an even stronger artistic bond.

"They (Gallery 103 artists) have been very welcoming through this process," said Võ. "It's about working with each other and not against each other."

"We are all in the same business, anyway," said Richard. "We want to work with each other instead of undercutting each other's business."

"All the interpretations of art that you see here now is really cool," said Kleber. "It is going to inspire us and our creativity."

The grand opening of Art SUX Gallery will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 13 in the Ho-Chunk Centre. All ages are welcome, but parents are asked to keep an eye on their children.

"There's going to be a lot of great art on these walls," said Kleber.

"Some of us have never shown our art," said Võ.

"It is going to be different," said Hoffman. "It will be an experience for people to see all this art. Plus, there will be refreshments. It's going to be awesome."

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