Run completely by its members, the State of the Art Gallery at 124 W. State Street is a nonprofit organization aimed at providing “an opportunity to support local artists,” according to member Diana Ozolins. Begun 15 years ago by a small group of local artists seeking space to showcase their work, the gallery has since then evolved into a staple of the downtown art scene.
The gallery is usually composed of around 20 artists; new membership determined collectively by current members after the applicant’s work is evaluated. Being a member of the gallery yields numerous benefits beyond the ability to showcase personal pieces. Because it is entirely operated by members, artists who become members are given the opportunity to learn how an art gallery is run. They in turn form committees that make decisions concerning gallery operations. In a similar vein, the gallery is always looking for student interns serious about learning the trade.
In celebration of its 15th year anniversary, the gallery’s September exhibit showcases the works of numerous members both past and present. The result is an eclectic mixture of artistic works ranging from the abstract to the representational in multiple mediums. Ozolins compares traversing the gallery to “taking a stroll down the farmers market” while also noting that the conjunction of varying pieces often sparks unintended, yet interesting comparisons.
From the whimsical to the peaceful to the violent, the September exhibit effectively satiates all corners of your imagination. Traditional oil paintings like Ozolin’s own Travels with Paint series manage to nestle a moment of calm within the hectic demands of everyday life by presenting a tranquil landscape to escape into. Meanwhile, Stan Bowman’s Toronto Birds series is a combination of digital art and photography, resulting in a complex creation with interwoven forms and layers.
Changing fluidly with each passing month, the State of the Art Gallery presents all different types of exhibits. From solo artist shows to multiple artist invitationals, the gallery is always looking for new pieces as well as new forms of art to showcase. Other than traditional modes of fine art, entire shows have been dedicated to photography or digital art.
Unique to the month of October, the State of the Art Gallery will be participating in the “Greater Ithaca Art Trail,” an annual event to enable exploration and appreciation of regionally produced fine arts. Armed with your own studio tour map, you too can follow the works of 51 different local artists in galleries around the area as they form the “Art Trail.”
Beyond its monthly exhibits, the gallery also hosts art forums where guest speakers give talks on different art-related subjects. Past topics have included public art, digital art, art in relation to the media, publicizing your own art, and grant opportunities. According to Ozolins, the gallery wants to bring even more awareness to the community by making its space available to host performing arts in addition to visual arts. Poets and musicians are always welcome as the gallery seeks to enrich local culture.
“To have a community of artists is enlivening,” said Ozolins. Art affects people in unique ways, an experience shared by both creators and appreciators of art. According to Ozolins, taking “extensive painting excursions” can remedy the hectic routine of daily life that we often find ourselves trapped in. She also mentioned that an interesting part of working at the gallery is being able to witness, first hand, the reaction of others as they are exposed to art. Whether they are first timers or knowledgeable connoisseurs, the situation allows for an opportunity to meet many different types of people.
Ozolin attests that being in such a collective atmosphere has given her “a greater appreciation of different styles.” She adds that being a member of the gallery has enabled her to see fellow artists progress and change in their creative processes. “Being involved with other artists increases your own creativity and often inspires you to try new things. Artists shouldn’t produce in a vacuum even though creating art is often a solitary process,” said Ozolins.
Fellow member Buzz Spector lends his support to community art galleries with the idea that “artists should exhibit where they live because they are interested in the community. In community galleries, art world status doesn’t matter because membership is not motivated by commercial or critical success.” Spector concludes that instead, community art is about “being able to connect with people who care about art.” For future exhibits, Spector hopes for more curated, thematic shows with a local angle in mind.
Easy to access and dynamic in its exhibitions, the State of the Art Gallery is a convenient way to experience local culture at its best. Composed entirely of regional artists, the gallery represents a distinctively Ithacan flavor of creative expression. With various types of shows and mediums, the gallery has something for everyone, guaranteed to provide you with a uniquely personal experience.
Archived article by Tracy Zhang