Nonprofit organization replaces former art gallery

BUCKHANNON – Artistry on Main is coming to Main Street.

Effective Dec. 31, 2013, the Main Street Gallery, which had been struggling for some months to stay afloat financially, was dissolved, Create Buckhannon member CJ Rylands said.

Now, two former entities – the for-profit gallery and the nonprofit Main Street Arts Cooperative – have merged into one nonprofit organization: Artistry on Main.

Artistry on Main will occupy the same space as the former gallery at 27 East Main St. It is currently closed for renovation, but will reopen in March under its new name, Rylands said.

But its name isn’t the only aspect that’s new: Artistry on Main will not only be a retail outlet for artists, but also a community arts learning center, where arts classes, artisan demonstrations and more may be conducted.

Rylands, a founding member of Create Buckhannon, told the Buckhannon Rotary Club Tuesday that the Main Street Arts Cooperative formed in 2009, under the leadership of local artist Tom Lynch. In August 2013, when Lynch was in the midst of trying to organize the co-op’s annual arts festival, he sought help from Create Buckhannon and the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Create Buckhannon volunteers stepped in to aid in coordinating the festival, but those efforts led to a discussion about ways to strengthen the nonprofit co-op and the for-profit gallery, which was having difficulty paying its bills. Create Buckhannon volunteers began meeting at 11 a.m. every Thursday on the second floor meeting room of CJ Maggie’s Restaurant to discuss possible ways to reinvent what was then two entities: the gallery and the co-op.

In mid-November, Rylands said a group of 50 or 60 artists, art enthusiasts, volunteers and community leaders convened at West Virginia Wesleyan College’s performing arts center to find a financially viable way forward for the gallery/co-op.

“There were two separate boards, one for each entity,” Rylands said, “and having two groups was confusing from the get-go. So we were all tasked with, how do we create a sustainable retail arts outlet in our community? How do we create a vibrant learning center where we’re bringing diverse groups within the community together in a creative environment? How do we serve the community?” Rylands said.

First, rather than charging a 40 percent commission on each piece of artwork sold in the gallery – the model under which the gallery was then operating – the working group unanimously voted that member-artists should receive 100 percent of the sale price of their work.

The group also decided that directly involving community members by developing a space for art classes, workshops, presentations and demonstrations would be the most effective way of accomplishing their goals.

“We are going to be expanding 33, up to 40 percent of the square footage in the back of the building,” Rylands said. “It will be a community arts learning center, but you could also do guest artist presentations. You could have any number of things, and I’d ask for any ideas any of you might have,” he told Rotary members.

“It could even be used for music lessons after hours. We want it to become a place that you want to stop in when you’re downtown and see what’s going on or say hello.”

Artistry on Main offers three membership options – artisan/vendor, volunteer/partner and citizen/partner. Individuals who join as an artisan/vendor must pay $30 per month membership fee, and they will receive 100 percent of the sale price of their products. In addition, the artist or a surrogate volunteer must work eight hours a month in Artistry on Main.

To be a volunteer/partner, a person must work eight hours a month at Artistry on Main and will receive exclusive, prerelease invitations and announcements for gatherings and events.

The third membership option is a citizen/partner option through which a person will contribute $10 per month to Artistry on Main. Citizen/partners will also receive early invitations to and announcements about Artistry on Main events.

All members – regardless of which option they choose – “will have a voice in the operations and activities of Artistry on Main,” according to a membership application Rylands distributed at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Ironically, if you’re basing all your decisions on what is in the best interest of the community, things seem to fall into place,” Rylands said. Email for more information.