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Hands Gallery celebrates 10 years on King Street



Article Published: Aug. 4, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

mtfrontdesk@mountaintimes.com

Hands all over.

That's the concept of Hands Gallery, and it's kept it in business for more than three decades.

Established in 1975, Hands Gallery is Boone's first and oldest art cooperative. Celebrating its 10th year on King Street in downtown Boone, the gallery opens its doors to the Downtown Boone Art Crawl on Friday.

Sculptor and painter Chrissie Callejas is the featured artist. As Hands Gallery's longest-running member at more than 30 years, she knows a thing or two about the gallery's staying power.

"We've stayed in business for so long because of the quality of our members and the stick-to-it-ness of all of us," Callejas said. "We all share responsibilities, and we treat each other equally."

As a cooperative, all members of Hands Gallery have a stake in the business. Essentially, they are the owners and operators. The members determine every aspect of the gallery and are accountable for keeping it afloat.

Most of the artists at Hands Gallery have been a part of the cooperative for more than 15 years. The longevity of its members has insured the gallery's stability. Callejas said there's a reason people have been with the gallery for so long.

"It's been an incredible experience to have a place where you can work, sell your art, meet your customers and run a business together," she said. "The whole concept of a co-op is amazing."

The Hands Gallery consists of 18 artists, all of whom have a stake in the business. The artists sell their art in the gallery and volunteer at the store two days every month. The artist keeps 90 percent of the proceeds from sales of their work, with the remainder going to Hands Gallery to cover overhead expenses.

Callejas said it's an ideal situation for the artists involved.

"Most other galleries charge up to a 40 percent commission on works sold," she said.

Callejas said the family-like atmosphere is another reason artists have remained with the gallery.

"A lot of us have raised our kids together, went through marriages, divorces and deaths together," she said. "We all share a bond and look up to one another."

Callejas said keeping Hands Gallery in the community is also attributed to its emphasis on local artistry. Aside from Hands Gallery members, other artists in the community can apply to sell their items at the store. Every other month, the members act as a jury and approve outside artists' use of a spot inside Hands Gallery.

"Ninety percent of the work here is from local artists," she said. "If it's not local, it's regional."
Hands Gallery recently welcomed five new artists into its cooperative: Jane Campbell and Sue Graham (felted wool), Dale Forrest (photography), Kay and Eric Reichard (pottery).

While a few of the artists at Hands Gallery have second jobs, many of them pursue art full time, showcasing at the gallery and other locations in the High Country.

"This is a business, and we're all trying to make a living doing this," she said.

Despite Hands' lengthy presence, Callejas said there are still people that don't know about it. She said the Downtown Boone Art Crawl is the perfect opportunity to see what they have to offer.

"It's difficult to imagine how a lot of people in the area have never been in here," she said. "The art is high quality and affordable. It's not country crafts either; it's fine art."

For Friday's art crawl, all artwork in the store will be for sale, with a special emphasis on Callejas' pieces. Her works include colorful combinations of pencil, crayon and oil on canvas, as well as numerous stoneware pieces in the shape of houses and female figures. Her stoneware comes together through a combination of sculpture and drawing. Callejas uses pastels and colored pencils to enhance the pieces after they are fired.

Hands Gallery will be open until 8 p.m. Friday. Normal operating hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Hands Gallery is located at 543 W. King St.

More information can be found on Hands Gallery by calling (828) -262-1970 or visiting HandsGallery.org.

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