Giving everyone the opportunity to showcase their artwork – that’s what the Howard Young Art Gallery is and has been about since it opened about a year ago.
“There’s no ideal here. There’s just a community of art,” Christine Alfery, Howard Young Art Gallery curator, said.
Creating an environment conducive for artists of all skill levels is what Alfery aims to do with the art gallery.
“All the artists feel comfortable, and that’s what I want them to feel,” Alfery said. “I want them to realize that this is just a whole educational process and everybody’s work has value.”
Throughout the summer there have been two judged art shows held at the gallery: a photography exhibition and “Landscapes and Wildlife.”
The third and final show of the season, “All Things Natural,” is currently on display with its awards reception being held at the gallery tonight, Sept. 14, 4:30-6 p.m.
“I’m just so excited. This show truly represents a broad spectrum of all the artists in the Northwoods because people came out of the woodwork that I didn’t even know existed. These artists just popped out everywhere,” Alfery said.
The awards that will be given out tonight include Best of Show, Judge’s Merit Award, Curator’s Merit Award and four Honorable Mentions.
“I chose to do the Curator’s Award because judging is a subjective thing. So if the judge picks things that are really well done, really professional looking, my Curator’s Award will go to someone who’s shown enormous improvement,” Alfery said.
The Curator’s Award is one of the reasons the gallery has such a variety of artists participating.
“That’s why we get the diversity that we get. The Curator’s Award encourages everybody to become part of the art community.”
Judging the “All Things Natural” art show is Kathleen Kvern, development director for Northwoods NiiJii and project director for NiiJii’s Woodland Indian Arts Initiative.
Kvern’s past experience working as project director of mnartists.org at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis gives her a depth of knowledge working with individual artists, community building in the arts, program management and development with artist communities.
At the awards reception, Kvern will be available for artists to ask questions regarding their artwork.
“Then there’s a good, valid educational part of this whole show that travels on,” Alfery said.
Paintings to chain saw sculptures
Walking through the Howard Young Art Gallery, you can see an array of mediums that artists work with – copper and brass, basket weaving, wood-turning, stained and fused glass, photography, paintings, and the list goes on – that add a creative, personal touch to the hospital halls.
“They’re very institutional walls, but the art gives a warm feeling to it,” Alfery said. “People waiting in the waiting room will wander through, and I’ve seen [Howard Young] Auxiliary members who work on the second floor bring people down in a wheelchair and they’ll just talk about the art.”
One such example of bringing personality to the hospital is a combination of poetry and a photograph of an elderly woman.
“The artist came to my studio and asked if she could put some poetry in and this is what she came up with,” Alfery said. “The poetry is absolutely beautiful; I love the photo; I love the teacup; I love the napkin. I love the whole realness of this piece.”
The artwork that give the walls a splash of color also tell the artists’ stories.
“Everything has a story to it, and people will tell you their stories,” Alfery said. “So it’s not like you have to be really good artists to be here – it’s a community thing so everybody can participate.”
And it truly is a community gallery with artists from all over submitting their work to the “All Things Natural” show.
“I’ve been reaching out to all these groups to ask them to bring their artwork in. This time not only did I have people from the Manito Art League and the Lakeland Art League, but I had people that I didn’t know were artists in the community. For some reason, this show is just clicking,” Alfery said.
Something new that Alfery has implemented is the emerging artists section for artists 18 years and younger.
“The emerging artists’ pieces were judged and they’ll have ribbons awarded to the winners. Hopefully for every other show next summer more emerging artists will partake,” Alfery said.
And as the curator of the gallery, Alfery has come to know new artists and watched their technique develop.
“I’ve seen growth. As you continue to show; as you continue to expose yourself, continue to talk to other artists, you, as an artist, grows,” Alfery said.
Now Alfery is working with Lakeland Union High School art teacher Leah Wood to show students’ art in the gallery.
Over the winter months, the gallery will host featured artists’ work.
“It’s filled through next spring,” Alfery said, describing the schedule of featured artists. “And everybody’s so excited. They really enjoy showing here.”
Giving back to the community
All art sales go through the hospital’s gift shop with 25 percent of the sales benefiting the Howard Young Auxiliary, which redistributes the funds back into the community through projects like scholarships.
“The hospital loves promoting the gallery – they love the community connection,” Alfery said. “This all got started because the hospital’s director of operations wanted art from all of the communities, not just a small section of the community.”
The gallery has ties not only to the Northwoods community, but also to the man who made the hospital possible – Howard Young, who built an impressive career as an art dealer.
“The hospital feels like it’s promoting Howard Young’s legacy because art was part of his vision,” Alfery said.
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at email@example.com.