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David and Art - It Takes Work

Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis

Art galleries are a fundamental part of an local art scene.

I’ve said many times that art scenes don’t just happen. They take a lot of work that the public doesn’t really see: a lot of sustained effort by a diverse group of people who want such a scene to flourish. Most of the population—even those who support the arts—don’t know how much different kinds of work goes into making an art scene sustainable and ongoing.

I spent some time a few Friday evenings ago at one of central Texas’s best art galleries, watching people come and go for a wine and cheese open house. Paintings by local artists covered the walls. A local musician with an acoustic guitar provided background music. Everyone with whom I talked that night said variants of the same thing: This is great. We should do this more often. It’s wonderful that you can find a scene like this in town.

A critical component in making an arts flourish is gallery owners and when you talk with one, you begin to realize how much of a partnership there is between gallery owner and artist. And how much attention that relationship requires.

Susan Sistrunk is the owner of the Sistrunk Galley and a wonderfully talented and perceptive painter in her own right. She takes her job as gallery owner seriously and sees it not just as a way of selling art, but as being a critical part of the broader local art scene. And that begins with her attitude toward local artists.

“I believe galleries within a city have an obligation to promote local work,” she explains. But she doesn’t define local just by the city limits. She looks for the work of artists who live within a 100-mile radius of Waco. “There’s a wealth of talent in central Texas,” she notes. And while some may think even that purview is far too confining, she believes that’s where her duty as a gallerist lies. I watched her talk with every artist who was in attendance that evening, and she shared in their excitement when one of their pieces sold.

Those obligations to artists she believes are matched by those that extend toward the public as well. “The most challenging part of getting the public’s attention is making sure each exhibition is fresh, new and an interesting concept,” Sistrunk explained to me. Galleries aren’t quite like museums. Aside from the fact that you can buy the art you’re looking at—not usually the case in museums—Each time you drop by, you’re likely to see completely different things.

Which is why, like a favorite restaurant, art galleries can go on your list of places where you regularly check in. So, if you happen to be pondering a New Year’s resolution, dropping in once a month to a local art gallery would be a great one.