When any small town business survives and thrives for 20 years, it is cause for celebration, but add in 20-plus people in the mix, all offering their input, and new partners coming in, others leaving. That is a real reason for a party, and it is going to happen Sunday, Sept. 16, from 2-4:30 p.m. at ArtForms Gallery in Hill City. ArtForms anniversary celebration will showcase their new location on the Main St. side of Old World Plaza, and the festivities will fill the gallery and spill out into the courtyard.
Not only will current artist members display their latest work, but invitations have been sent to contributing artists from their 20-year history. A pork barbeque will be prepared and served by members along with other refreshments and entertainment. Those in attendance will have an opportunity to win door prizes and other giveaways.
“Twenty years in any business is an achievement. We are proud to have this long-standing relationship with the Black Hills art community and Hill City. This is a chance for us to share a little of that excitement with our patrons and our town,” said Jim Tiller, ArtForms Anniversary Committee member.
Mary Jo Marcy, a remaining founding member, remembers the time, 20 years ago, when she and Dianne Murray, Denize Etzkorn and Anne McKernan met to discuss what it would take to create an artists’ co-op.
Marcy was teaching art at the Hill City School when she got a call from McKernan, who was framing artwork for Jon Crane, whose gallery was in what is now the Harley Davidson building. She said Jon bought the Johnson Hotel and would be moving his gallery there. She wanted to talk about establishing an artists’ co-op and putting it in the building Crane was leaving.
“Anne had a lot of enthusiasm for the co-op because she had lived in Steamboat Springs and was part of a co-op there. She knew a lot about how to get it started, and if it weren’t for her, I’m not sure we would have gotten it off the ground in the first place. She moved back to Colorado shortly after that,” said Marcy.
Etzkorn recalls that they initially met at the Hill City Café to discuss the idea, and Marcy remembers many Sunday afternoon meetings upstairs at the Chute Rooster, hammering out what they needed to do. When they put out a call for artists, 50 artists responded from the area.
“I remember a meeting with artists at Mary Jo’s house, and we went around the circle and asked them why they came to the Black Hills. They all said, “We felt pulled here. We had to be here.” I thought that was pretty interesting,” said Etzkorn.
In order to come up with money for the first month’s rent, the group hosted a chili feed fundraiser at the Chute Rooster and made enough for the rent. After the first month all expenses were covered by dues collected from the initial 35 member artists. Members took turns manning the store, which is still true today. In 2005, the group moved to a space in the back of Old World Plaza until this year when they moved to their current location, 280 Main St.
At one time, Etzkorn remembers it was the largest artists’ co-op in the state, and now, Marcy said she believes it is the longest-running artists’ co-op in the state. Nancy Reinhart, the current president of the co-op, said there might be a couple reasons for the longevity of the group.
“We offer a wide variety of artwork. We are open to so many different types. Tourists like the idea of buying something made in the Black Hills. We get repeat customers who want to know what is new in the store. It keeps the artists on their toes,” said Reinart.
The gallery has traditional artwork such as painting, sculpture and photography, but they also have woodcarving, glass, jewelry, books and art that does not fit in any category. There is something for everyone in the gallery.
Reinart said the other reason for ArtForms enduring is, for the most part, everyone works together quite well. Though artists leave the group for things such as health or age or moving away, other artists join them and are eager to enter in to the camaraderie of the group.
That is something 18-year member Paul Horsted appreciates. He said having a support group and networking with other artists is important because many of the artists work on their own.
“At our monthly meetings we have a lot of fun, lots of laughter, but then we do get down to the business of the gallery,” Horsted said.
ArtForms is a member of the Hill City Arts Council and the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, visit their website at artforms-gallery.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/ArtFormsGallery.