Artists Prepare Space For December Gallery Opening

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Payson's newest artist co-op is the culmination of something that began 15 years ago between Dan Basinski and Minette Hart-Richardson, known to the world simply as Minette.

They had a standard hair stylist-client relationship. He talked. She cut his hair.

Little did they know back then that their conversations would someday lead to the opening of Down the Street Art Gallery on Main Street.

"This is all part of giving Payson a soul," Basinski said.

"Soul" requires the cooperation of other nearby businesses and the support of the local art community.

Down the Street Art Gallery is located at Minette's Place, a pioneer home on West Main Street.

It's in a neighborhood primed for redevelopment -- a place that continues to carry historical significance. Five local artists have invested their time and money in the new endeavor: Basinski, Minette, a sculptor named Gail, jewelry artist Pat Allebrand and beader Gwen Storybead Zissler.

A sixth artist, Ann Locklier, a painter from Texas and longtime friend of Minette, is also involved.

The home is stripped bare in preparation for its transformation into a gallery. The walls are painted butter cream and the dark-wood floors are empty except for a large green plant, a few lawn chairs and a ladder.

Minette purchased the home, a one-time boarding house, 20 years ago. Even back then, Minette wanted to turn it into a gallery.

But need trampled passion. To support her family, she ended up using the space as a salon.

"Art fell by the wayside," she said. "I've always doodled around. I just didn't have the time."

But the recent death of Minette's mother changed her perspective on life.

"It was my mother's dream for me to open a gallery," she said.

So, Aug. 1, she packed up the hair-washing sink, barber chairs and shampoo, and moved everything out.

As the transition from salon to gallery occurs, Minette and Basinski are lobbying nearby shops and galleries to start a monthly art walk -- an opportunity for community members to browse, sip wine and socialize.

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Minette Hart-Richardson, known simply as Minette, is opening the Down the Street Art Gallery in a building she formerly used as a hair salon.

As a painter Minette works large, preferring 30-by-30 canvasses over smaller ones. The images she creates in acrylic paint or pen and ink lean toward the abstract, although she incorporates reality into some of her work.

"Realism is not my way," she said.

Basinski's art-with-a-purpose

Basinski's art has solved the problem of every good host or hostess -- how to pass the nuts without straining a back muscle or creating a break in conversation. Basinski's solution is the nut passer -- an oversized apparatus that looks like a spoon. But it has an added feature. The arm of the nut passer acts like an outrigger, stabilizing the spoon's hull so to speak.

"My art is functional," Basinski said. "Every once in a while, I'll make an unfunctional piece."

For the most part, that's not Basinski's style.

"I make wooden cooking and serving utensils for discerning chefs from exotic hardwoods," he said.

Basinski was born into an artisan family. His father and grandfather worked as craftsmen. They passed their talent for turning raw material into something functional but beautiful.

Before Basinski delved into his art full time, he worked in real estate, advertising and designed his own rustic furniture.

"I was doing everything I could to avoid a real job," he said.

He honed the cooking utensil idea after his wife busted her favorite wooden spoon. He carved a new one and she liked it better than the store-bought model.

Applying the success of his newfound carving savvy, he made a salad set for a friend's wedding. Soon everybody wanted one.

Basinski, a Michigan native and Rim Country resident since 1989, prefers working with madrone wood from the Pacific Northwest because of its easy sanding and light color.

His repertoire includes wok spatulas, serving ladles and condiment holders. And he never varnishes his work. He just rubs it down with mineral oil and lets time do the rest.

"Over time, it gets seasoned."

The co-op officially opens its doors in early December. For upcoming details, watch the pages of the Payson Roundup and Rim Review. To get involved in Down the Street Gallery, call (928) 468-6129.

Other investors

Patricia Allebrand, jewelry maker

Back in fifth grade, Patricia Allebrand, a sculptor and jewelry maker, took a turn toward a life pursuit of creativity. While everybody else figured out their multiplication tables during a math class, Allebrand's teacher saw in Allebrand a natural ability. She sent the Arizona native to the back of the room to draw.

"I've made art all my life," she said.

In the late 1960s, she worked on her master's degree in fine art at the University of California, Berkeley.

She received a degree in sculpture and went onto New York City where she lived for 18 years. Allebrand's trademark polyester resin sculptures were born in her Soho studio.

"They were nonobjective large cast egg forms," she said.

Over the years, she's scaled down her affinity for large sculptures to wearable art.

She especially enjoys creating necklaces.

Allebrand, an eight-year Payson resident, specializes in raw, semiprecious gems and cabochons -- or smooth, non-faceted stones -- set in gold and silver.

For more information about Allebrand's work or to receive one-on-one training, contact her at (928) 472-7175.

Gail, sculptor

Gail. She refers to herself by one name, but her work is a three-dimensional visual experience of bronze realism.

She draws inspiration from the natural world, and her sculptures capture the human experience, especially those rooted in the contemporary American West.

"I've been around horses my whole life," she said.

Gail's talent lies in her ability to depict the nuances of form -- the wrinkles of clothing, the sinews of muscle, the ripples of water and the complexity of emotion.

Like the other co-op artists, Gail immersed herself in art at a young age.

But unlike many members of her community, Gail earned a living from her craft from the beginning.

Her knack for photo realism evolved from painting to sculpture over the years.

Gail's award-winning bronze figures have appeared in several galleries in the West, garnering national attention.

To learn more about Gail's work or to arrange personal instruction, contact Gail at (928) 474-8182 or visit her Web site at: www.gail.bigstep.com.

Gwen Storybead Zissler, beader

After a lifetime of the search for a calling, Gwen Storybead Zissler found passion as an artist.

"I was always a seeker," Storybead said. "I was seeking to find my place in the world. I'm a beader and the beadwork tells a story."

For the past 13 years, Storybead's work has evolved from simple pouches and bracelets created from seed beads stranded on nylon string to more spiritual, intuitive designs.

Medicine bags and her latest concept, the Iroquois Wind Spirit, brings the art of beading to a new level.

Storybead provides one-on-one lessons. To contact her, call (928) 595-2400.

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