A new gallery and community art center in Herrin aims to provide Southern Illinoisans with greater access to fine arts.
Hartley Art Gallery & Event Center, located at 100 S. Park Avenue, has offered art classes and events over the past year and will host its grand opening later this month.
Owner Victoria Hartley drew on her background in business and her lifelong passion for the visual arts in dreaming up the space, which features a new art or photo exhibit each month. The business will also be available for rent as an event center and will offer music events and book signings.
The gallery has already shown exhibits by artists from Missouri and Kentucky, but Hartley said she loves putting the spotlight on local Southern Illinois artists.
“We have so many wonderful people here that have such great talent. They don’t have an opportunity sometimes to go out and promote their own work, so I’m their link to that,” Hartley said.
Hartley and her father have spent the past year designing and renovating the previously vacant space; they’ve breathed new life into the building, which is the original site of the First National Bank built in 1900. Its upstairs once served as the United Mine Workers’ headquarters, Hartley said.
“They actually used to print money here at this building. So it’s got just a lot of really good history with it,” Hartley said.
The gallery hosts several painting classes each month offered by professional artists. Materials are provided.
“Part of the reason it’s a dream job is I get to work with all the professional artists who come in here, and I take all the classes. Of course, I’m very particular about the classes, so anyone who teaches here, I make sure it’s a curriculum that is suited to giving the students something that they’re proud of when they leave here,” Hartley said.
Hartley said one of her goals is to help mentor young artists and show them the steps professionals take to exhibit their work.
“One of the reasons I started the business was to connect younger students who have potential to established artists, because I was a very gifted child in the arts and there weren’t a lot of people when I was growing up to take private lessons with, and you don’t get the full instruction that you really need,” Hartley said.
All classes are open to beginners, Hartley said.
“If someone comes in, I don’t even care if they can only draw stick people,” she said. “I just say, come on in here, don’t be afraid. I think that’s the whole message: don’t be afraid to come in and try art. Just come in and grab a paintbrush and look at a class that might inspire you and let your creative talents flow. I think that everybody has to start somewhere, and you don’t know if you’re going to have that talent unless you try it.”
Herrin Mayor Steve Frattini will lead a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Hartley Art Gallery and Event Center at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18. A reception in the gallery will follow. The event is free and open to the public.