By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Local artists are giving a holiday trial to an idea to increase local art sales: an artist-owned gallery.
"It's kind of a treasure of local artists' work," said Vicky Campbell of Havre. "There's going to be something for everybody."
The artists plan to open the gallery in the Atrium Mall from Wednesday through December, she said. It will be open Monday through Saturday, with a special event every other Friday to highlight several local artists.
A reception will be held Friday at 6 to 8 p.m. for the first three featured artists - Arlene Morgan, Ned Malone and Patty Greytak.
Artists will be encouraged to use the gallery as a studio, working on art at the gallery, she added.
Campbell is a member on a steering committee studying whether to create a cooperative of local artists to help them market their art. The committee met with the Montana Cooperative Development Center and Bear Paw Development Corp. in August.
The art gallery, Art in the Atrium, is a test run of an artist-owned gallery, Campbell said. If the seasonal gallery is a success, the group may continue to operate it, she added.
Craig Erickson of Bear Paw Development said the gallery may help determine whether an artist cooperative would work.
"The Christmas store may help with that. It may also identify weaknesses and strengths in the idea," he said.
Bear Paw Development's Small Business Development Center and the Montana Cooperative Development Center are analyzing a survey of local artists conducted to find the level of interest in a co-op.
Erickson said creating a cooperative is very different from what the artists are doing with their gallery.
"A cooperative is a legal structure very carefully articulated in Montana law," he said. "(Creating a cooperative) is a time-consuming process."
Having a cooperative provides some tax, employment and liability advantages, and allows its members to leverage their money for greater effect, Erickson said.
The analysis probably will be completed this week, and will show if enough local artists are interested in the idea to make a more comprehensive study worthwhile, he said.
Campbell said Art in the Atrium is "kind of our own feasibility study."
She said the group hopes that artists from all over the Havre area join in the effort, helping run the gallery while taking advantage of the opportunity to sell their work.
Local artists pay a fee to join the group, and will pay a commission to the gallery for each piece of art sold, she said. The group has taken a four-month lease on the space on the main floor of the Atrium.
The artists will donate their time to run the gallery.
Erickson said if the cooperative idea is workable, it could be a major benefit to members, helping them buy supplies, operate the gallery and market their art as a group.
Other artists in Montana use cooperatives, he said.
"The cooperative structure is a perfect fit for this," he said. "It's an interesting idea and we're very glad to help them with this."