Like the little engine that could, Artists of the Rim has defied the naysayers and pioneered gallery space for art in Payson.
“A lot of people in Payson said it wasn’t going to work,” said Glenda Roark, who spearheaded the opening.
“You’re absolutely right. It will not work unless you folks get off your duff and make it happen,” she told the artists.
Eighteen artists gathered, checkbooks in hand, to create the space they saw in their minds. The gallery opened in August 2006.
On Friday, Sept. 5, in conjunction with First Friday on Main Street, the gallery will celebrate its second anniversary from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sounds from the Payson Jazz Trio will supplement wine tastings, refreshments, light appetizers and desserts with outside patio seating. A quilt will also be raffled for the Payson Gateway Project, which is the group working to beautify the town’s northern entrance.
“We never really expected the success that we attained,” said artist Carolee Jackson. “Payson is not really a destination, per se.” And art is considered a luxury item.
But the gallery’s business model reflects the realities that economic cycles fluctuate and that most don’t consider art a necessity.
The artists share rent and operating expenses equally. “If we sell nothing in a month, we’re OK,” Jackson said. “We knew right away we could not count on sales to stay open.”
But the gallery has been successful. Jackson said roughly 400 to 500 people walk through in a month. During the first summer, “we were thrilled to see 100 people.”
The success led to other gallery openings, including Down the Street Art Gallery in April 2007. “Minette (Richardson) got a good view of what the community wanted. She saw how well we were accepted locally,” Jackson said of Down the Street’s co-founder. “The more the merrier.”
The gallery’s cooperative nature allows members to divvy time spent watching the store. “It works out very, very well having a co-op because you don’t have to be there six or seven days a week,” Roark said. “I’m 73 years old for crying out loud. I have worked all my life.”
Many of the gallery’s artists echo Roark’s sentiment — “it’s my retirement and I can do what I want to.” After creating art in intense solitude, the gallery allows its artists to hang the forces of creativity that clashed in their minds before manifesting in concrete form, and have other artists of similar caliber appreciate not only the piece, but also what went into it.
To ensure quality, not only is the artist juried in, but so is the medium. If the gallery accepts an artist’s oil paintings, that doesn’t mean the artist can bring in pottery to sell without prior approval.
Juries are composed of same-dimension peers. For instance, two-dimensional artists jury in other two-dimensional artists.
But it’s not a competition, artists say. “We’re a very tight-knit group, even though we really didn’t know anybody two-and-a-half years ago,” Jackson said. It’s become a family.
All artists are required to live locally. “We wanted 100 percent commitment from every artist that was in our partnership,” Jackson added.
“To us, art is the passion of humanity. And I think, for a lot of us, when you look at our work, you look at the individual artist’s journey,” Jackson said. “I think the gallery is a good representation of the diverse cultures locally.”
Roark said the gallery adds culture. “I don’t know what other word you can use. It’s kind of like having the Payson Choral and the symphony. It adds a certain ambience.”
Roark feels passionately about providing area artists with space to feel vindicated, that their art, an extension of their persona, does not languish hidden in an attic.
After examining sales receipts, Roark said for every two customers from Payson, another buys from the Valley. “It is a pretty impressive ratio.”