Artist-created greeting cards starting at $2.50 is one of the scores of reasons to visit the new Arts Alliance Center in the College Mall. Not to be confused with the past Art Beat, which no longer exists, this new gallery and gift shop (with imminent performance and workshop rooms) is steps west of Target.
“If the Arts Alliance Center learned to speak, its first words would be ‘Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here,'” said Abi Zagel, “accidental techie,” center coordinator and store manager. “The center is the physical extension of the Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington, and we are super, super grateful to Simon Mall.”
Being located in the mall helps to serve people both familiar and unfamiliar with the arts. Entering an art gallery can dismay, but not here. The center is a project of the Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington and is a place for artists to display, sell, perform and instruct.
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One of the pandemic’s troubling aspects, of course, is the reins it put on artists’ getting noticed. To sell, one must show.
The front entryway of the center is a gallery and gift shop offering both 2D and 3D art. Artists pay a monthly fee to exhibit.
The flex space in the back will be available to rent for art-centered activities and performances. Zagel said plans include theater lighting, a mirrored wall, curtains and a sound system. Still in progress, it needs a licensed electrician’s help, hopefully donated, bartered or at a reduced fee. When the flex space is finished, the center plans to host its own classes and events, which will be open to the public.
“Any person or organization can rent the flex space for art classes, rehearsals, performances, meetings, etc.,” Zagel said. Rental information for artists and flex space users is available at the Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington website, https://bloomingtonarts.org.
There is also a community art project open to all visitors, in which materials and instructions are provided. In fact, this is Zagels’s favorite part.
“Every visitor is welcome to create a sticker (all supplies provided) that is then stuck on the sticker wall behind the front desk,” she said. “Our goal is to cover the entire wall with unique stickers.”
The center will host its Holiday Arts & Crafts Show on November weekends. Management seeks artists who would like to sell their original, handmade pieces there as well as volunteers to lead youth-friendly holiday crafting.
“In these times, the hardest thing for an artist is to get noticed,” said artist Rose Brenner in an email. “An artist could be painting masterpieces, but if no one sees them, they can’t sell them.”
Brenner, whose paintings and greeting cards are for sale in the gallery, uses vibrant color in her landscapes, animals and city scenes. Her greeting cards lead people to her website RoseBrenner.com. She also volunteers, as part of her agreement to show her art, bringing in her paints during her shift.
Artists are not required to volunteer in the gallery. They can choose to volunteer, however, to lower their rental rate.
“People enjoy seeing how art is made. Any day I get to paint is a good day,” Brenner said.
The curating committee judges all applications once a month. If accepted, artists sign a six-month contract and pay the monthly rental fee one month at a time. The Arts Alliance Center takes no commission on sales.
Artist Henry Leck is part of the jury that admits new artists.
“I am now working with Indiana University to create opportunities for students to do internships and have more community involvement,” he said. “I have also sponsored a visual artist to come to provide workshop opportunities for local artists.”
The last workshop, he said, was with Mary Ann Davis, a respected oil and pastel artist, and roughly a dozen painters from the Upland Plein Air group. “We welcome all people who have interest in or support the arts in our community,” Leck said.
For the vendor application and details visit https://artsalliancecenter.org/holiday-arts-crafts-show.
To become an “Artist on Display” in the gallery, people from the Bloomington region may apply online at https://artsalliancecenter.org/.
For a fee, any artist or organization may sign-up to be an Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington member at https://artsalliancecenter.org/aagbmembership.
NOTE: According to member and artist Joanne Shank, ArtBeat was the mall’s first art center, which the Arts Alliance opened as the pandemic was beginning. For safety reasons, it soon closed. When Simon Mall closed part of the mall for reconstruction, a different space became available. The mall offered the Alliance a new location west of Target. “We have reopened with a different name and a new look, but we are the same Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington organization.”
WHAT: Arts Alliance Center at College Mall
WHEN: Currently open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Hours will increases as additional artists and volunteers join.
WHERE: College Mall, 2894 E. Third St., with the center near Bath & Body Works