Three Artists in Charge of River Gallery in Galesville Celebrate 25 Years in Business
The mighty triumvirate. As a form of leadership, it seems good on paper, but rarely lasts. Usually two go against the third and its all over. But at River Gallery in Galesville, three artists are proving that leadership by a trio can work out quite well. So well in fact, that this year the three artists, Roxanne Weidele, Laura Dixon and Elsie Whitman, are celebrating 25 years in business.
Their story goes back to 1988. Then it was seven artists living and working in South County that got together to work, critique one another, talk about art and have a couple of shows. The first art show was on Riverside Drive in Galesville, across from what is now Thursdays restaurant.
They were a loose cooperative art group at that time.
The show was thrilling though—until county zoning enforcement checked in on the place. They had to find another space. That’s when 1000 Main Street became available. It’s where their shop still is today. Back then it was a sailmaker’s shop. The walls were corrugated tin, there was no ceiling and the front door was a big barn door. It was practically an open-air stall.
They shared a wall full of holes with their neighbor, an antique shop.
“There were holes in the wall and so we hung paintings over them,” Whitman said.
“For a ceiling, we used a tobacco cloth,” Weidele added.
Within the first five years, the seven original artists became six artists, then five, then four. The years passed and they watched each others families change.
“We watched each others children grow up,” Dixon said.
For the last 15 years, its been the three of them. Dixon said that its worked out well because they all have complimentary skills. Dixon is a numbers person, so she has handled keeping the books. Weidele retired from teaching art at Southern High in 1999, so she has a lot of knowledge to share about materials. Whitman knows about framing and can remember any patron’s name.
The building has taken 25 years to soften into the space it is now. Every year, they made little improvements—changing the front to a regular door with a storefront window, hanging sheetrock and insulation over the corrugated tin, painting the floor, putting in a ceiling.
The three also have different artistic talents. Whitman does collages and photography; Weidele paints in pastels and Dixon does collages from magazines and watercolors.
They still critique each others’ work. They’ve brought on a fourth person to help with their marketing and Facebook efforts, Frances Borchardt is a South County photographer.
They’ve made it through hard economic times and times when things are going well. Lately, people have been buying fewer paintings and more pottery and jewelry.
They have a rhythm to the day-to-day, and to the seasons.
They all agreed that deadlines for the shows work well for all three.
“It encourages me to do things. While I really love [creating art], a deadline helps,” Weidele said.
They host regular shows, like their annual “love” themed show around Valentine’s Day. They break that down for the Community Art Show, which is juried. The juror they select comes in and sifts through hundreds of pieces of art. When the juror has selected what they want in the show, the three ladies return to hang and present all of the pieces.
“They definitely take things we wouldn’t,” Whitman said.
The 24th annual Community Art Show is ongoing now until April 7. After that, they will showcase Plein Air paintings from artists who paint around Galesville. That show starts April 12 and runs a month.
River Gallery is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To make it 25 years is an accomplishment. Congratulations to River Gallery’s three remarkable women. Here are a few photos of the gallery through the years: