Midland Arts Co. celebrates new home
If you go...
What: Grand opening Celebration
Where: Midland Arts Company, 101. E. Third St., Rifle
When: 5-8 p.m. Friday
Over the course of its 10 years in existence, the Midland Arts Co. has moved twice — each time into a bigger and better location.
To celebrate its most recent move to the former Timberline building at 101 E. Third St., in the heart of downtown Rifle, the Midland Arts Co. is hosting a grand opening celebration from 5-8 p.m. Friday. The event will feature appetizers and some of the artists behind the broad selection of local paintings, crafts and other eclectic items sold at the store.
In many ways Midland Arts and its new home is symbolic of a steady transformation in Garfield County’s second largest municipality.
Founded in 2005 by five partners with a handful of consignment artists, Midland Arts was a venue to sell pottery and fine crafts, explained Michelle McCurdy, a founding partner and longtime area resident who runs the ceramics department at CMC’s Rifle campus. One learns how to make pottery by making hundreds of pieces, she added. Consequently, McCurdy and some of her students had plenty of inventory.
“When we originally started we thought, ‘What the hell, we have all these pots,’” McCurdy said. “‘Where are we going to sell them?’”
Midland Arts took its name from the Midland Building, where it first opened in the first-floor room, on Third Street. The company continued to add consignment artists and managed to weather the oil and gas bust that shuttered so many businesses toward the end of the decade. Sustained growth spurred the first move into a larger space directly across the street in the Mercantile Building. It was twice the size of the space in the Midland Building, said Lindsey Johnson, another partner at the company.
Over time, even that space became too small for the growing offerings, and having had their eyes trained on the former Timberline building at the corner of Third Street and Railroad Avenue for some time, the company finally made a move on the location in October, Johnson said.
While the space had been a dream location, it did not come easy. The carpeting smelled like mildew — Johnson worried they would never be able to free themselves of the smell — and the roof leaked. New heating and air conditioning was needed, and gallery lights were installed. The wood paneling was removed to expose an original brick wall. It took 10 weeks of hard work to transform the space — making the new home itself a work of art.
“It was a shell,” Johnson said of the building before renovations started.
Midland Arts quietly opened in its new location on Jan. 1. In explaining the grand opening this Friday, McCurdy joked that the group needed time to “get our act together.”
A Changing Climate
Today the Midland Arts Co. is home to approximately 30 consignment artists, and it offers a diverse range of “high-quality” items, including paintings, furniture, clothing, jewelry, pottery honey, candles and more.
The artists pay 35 percent of their monthly commission in order to sell their items in the store.
The six partners who run the store all weigh in when a new artist asks to be featured. The process can be difficult, Johnson said.
On one hand they want to maintain the quality that Midland Arts has become known for, while offering the arts and crafts at an affordable price. On the other hand, all the partners are artists and do not want to be dismissive.
They have all been on the other side of the equation, McCurdy said.
Part of the role of Midland Arts is to foster the creative culture when possible.
Sometimes the partners will offer advice to an artist or craft maker who does not quite make the cut.
“Some things need a little bit more practice,” Johnson said.
For those reasons, and others, Midland Arts remains popular among its consignment artists.
Part of what makes the Midland Arts Co. so special is that it is a community, rather than just a gallery or a crafts store, said Carmel Walden, a local artist specializing in watercolor painting.
“It’s a gem,” she said. “It’s amazing to have that quality of work and … the people there are so considerate. That’s the reason I’ve … been there for so many years.”
The move by Midland Arts comes at a time of growth and increased exposure in western Garfield County’s art community. That transformation was documented in an August story published in the Post Independent and The Citizen Telegram.
Midland Arts Co.’s grand opening is being incorporated with a First Friday Crossover event, which will feature local art at the Midland, the Whistle Pig Coffee Stop & Cafe, and the Bookcliffs Arts Center.
While the art community is certainly emerging, McCurdy said she believes it is part of a larger change in Rifle. She pointed to the spurt of new businesses that have opened over the past year in downtown Rifle, including the Whistle Pig, Olive Ridley’s Coffee Tea & Travel, and the Brickhouse restaurant.
“I think things are changing for the better,” McCurdy said.
Although it has not always been easy, Johnson said community support has helped sustain the Midland Arts Co. As for the new location, Johnson summed up the feelings in a short exclamation.
“We’re pretty excited,” she said.
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