Cooper Corner Gallery refreshes its walls, kindles art appreciation throughout community
On the corner of Cooper Avenue and Eighth Street, a selection of colorful paintings, landscape photos mixed in with decorative bowls, mugs and vases entice window shoppers into Cooper Corner Gallery.
Inside, artists and volunteers last week refreshed the selection with new works, new paint for the walls and a rotation of the displays intended to keep the gallery feeling fresh.
“We have 24 artists and 24 display locations within the store,” said Judy Burke, a clay artist who enjoys making mugs. “Once about every three-four months, we rotate the space based on a schedule we created together.”
Unlike some art galleries, Cooper Corner is owned and operated by the artists, who take turns manning the register and collectively make the day-to-day business decisions.
“The atmosphere of the partnership is like a family,” said Annie Brooks, who works with glass and clay. “Because we all take turns running the shop, we have to get to know each other’s work, and in some instances, I feel like I know other artists’ work nearly as well as I know my own.”
Working as a partnership allows the artists to avoid consignment fees, keeping their prices lower than a customer might expect at similar galleries.
“We want every-day, working men and women to be able to afford art,” Brooks said.
A painter of every medium except oil, Nancy Martin said the gallery caters to art enthusiasts of all ages.
“We get a surprising number of children, who come in to buy art for their parents and family,” Martin explained. “The appreciation of art starts young, and we want to nurture that as much as possible.”
Becoming a partner in the gallery is a process, and like many aspects of the business, the process is facilitated by a committee of partners.
“I lead the jury committee,” Brooks said. “Which really just means I’m the first point of contact for most applicants.”
Potential partners must be local, because part of the partnership requires working at the shop at least once a month. Once admitted, the partner is then trained on the register, store operations, artist rotation schedules and educated about artwork from each of the 24 partners.
While egalitarian, the model is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
“None of us are paying our mortgages with this,” Brooks said. “But, one of our bigger points of satisfaction is meeting our clients. And, it’s being part of an artists’ community.”
As the pandemic tapers off, Burke said the gallery is looking forward to a year without facemask requirements, and hopefully, absent of any natural disasters.
“The joy of being a partner here is meeting new people, new artists and adjusting as life changes,” Burke said, recalling the rollercoaster of running a local business through 2020 and 2021.
Burke said the gallery’s clientele spans the Western Slope, but the locals keep the artists in business.
“Our local customers are why we’re here,” she said. “We are truly thankful for the support we’ve received, especially in these last couple, trying years.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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