Eleven years ago, 20 local artists started Eastbank Art Gallery in a storefront at 8th and Railroad Center, at a time when that part of town was known largely for the rail yards, and not much else. Over the years, things have changed exponentially, with even more change promised since the City of Sioux Falls purchased more than 10 acres of the downtown rail yard from the BNSF Railway for redevelopment. People know where Eastbank is now, and as a gallery, they have forged a good reputation with artists.
The spacious gallery has one of the largest, readily available collections of local and regional art in Sioux Falls. Unlike any other gallery in town, they are member-stocked and member-ran. The walls and display cases boast the work of the current 16 members, and range in style, technique and trade.
I sat down with vice president, Jim Heroux, to talk more.
Tana: So, is it kind of like a co-op?
Jim: Yes, it is very much like a co-op, but it’s officially a corporation, an LLC. But it’s basically set up like a co-op in that all of the members pay a fee to be here, and share in the work that’s involved. We ask our members to put in 9 to 12 hours a month working 3-hour shifts. When there’s a block party out here, we’re open. This Friday is our reception. We have food that we put out – hors d’oeuvres and wine. We have people that work, and talk about the art. We have the artists give an art speech about what they do, and how they’ve come to do it/what makes them special. So, it’s all kind of fun and interesting to learn these things when new artists come in.
We always have a guest artist. Once a month we change out the guest artist. They are usually from the region. All the way from Rapid City and Spearfish, into Minnesota. I’d say [we have] about a 300 to 400-mile radius of regional artists. This month’s [guest artist] has been Janet Judson. Also, every month we have a featured member artist. So, they get their own space and advertisement. Each of our 16 members gets a chance in the limelight.
T: I noticed that your artists have art at the downtown library right now.
J: We do. Some of our promotion is to find ways that we can become more noticed, and more a part of the community. So, we were fortunate to arrange three months with the library to show our member work. They were very happy to have their featured artists from a local gallery. They like promoting local businesses, as well.
T: What would you say is your goal as a space and organization?
J: The gallery’s goal is to remain open and available for the members, so that members can show their art. We are trying to get better at promotion. Sioux Falls isn’t exactly a tourist town for art. So, our goal is to have our local artists display their work and gradually, as they become better known, increase their prices to do better business.
T: What are some of the events you host?
J: There’s a block party here that first Friday of the month. We’re open during the First Friday, but we have our own reception that second Friday of the month for our guest artist and member artist. So, we are open both first and second Fridays of the month. We find that if we have our own reception [separate from the block party], it brings in people who want to look at the art, that are familiar with the artists, and want to know more about what the gallery actually does, rather than people walking in from the concert outside, and eating hors d’oeuvres.
T: But that is just the summer, right?
J: That’s just the summer. We do First Friday [for our receptions] in the winter when there is not a block party involved.
T: How can artists or designers reach out to exhibit at or become involved with your gallery?
J: Well, it’s pretty simple. Whenever we ask for new members – and we’re constantly open for new members, any time –
T: You don’t have a limit?
J: We don’t at this time. We ask them to bring in 3 or 4 representative pieces of art that they do. It can be jewelry, pottery, watercolor, oils or chalk, or whatever kind of art that they do. We have our members look at and jury the products to make sure that they are of the quality that is advancing the gallery, rather than selling crafts.
T: What advice do you have for artists who have yet to find gallery representation?
J: There are a limited number of galleries in town. I think it becomes [about] relationships if you want to get in some of the other galleries. Now that Prairie Star has closed, there’s a real lack of Native American art in the region. She was unique, because she bought the art direct from the artist, and then put it on display to sell. So, she had a tremendous inventory of purchased art, where we don’t. If the artist put up something, it’s for sale. The gallery doesn’t have anything invested except for the time, and the space putting it up.
To get involved in a gallery in Sioux Falls, if you’re good enough, this is probably the easiest gallery to be involved with because our fees are so low. We have a pretty good reputation with artists, and people knowing where we are now. In some of the earlier years, the east side of town was not as well-known for anything outside of the rail yards.
T: What is it that makes an artist and their work stand out as something you would have in your gallery?
J: It’s the quality of art, first of all. They have to be good enough to get past a jury of their peers. Then, to be a member, you have to be able to work at the gallery from 9 to 12 hours a month, 3-hour shifts (sometimes more because of committee work, and so forth). So, if you can work, the quality is good, and you’re willing to serve the gallery, you’re in.
For members it’s $40 a month, 20% commission. We [also] rent wall space for those who want to display, and we charge them $100 a month with no commission. So, if you want to test the winds, that’s a good way to do it.
Then we have a consignment section that, for $40 for six months, you can get a smaller area to display your art. Then we take a 40% commission. So, we have a variety of options for artists to choose from.
How can artists contact you?
The Gallery: 605-977-2667, www.eastbankartgallery.net
Jim Heroux, VP: 605-940-1626, firstname.lastname@example.org
T: Anything else we should know?
J: A lot of our artists are available to do workshops. We had a watercolor workshop [last] month. We had a workshop [in May] with our featured guest artist, Robert Hagberg. He drew about 40 people to an oil/watercolor workshop. That was a 2-day workshop. Tremendous. They did it upstairs in the office of the Railroad Center here. Mine [was] at the Arts Council just across the street. It was limited to about eight people, but that’s about where I want for my workshop. We have had workshops with felting animals. (Don’t ask me, I don’t know anything about it.)
But we’re trying to get our members to do workshops, as well as our guest artists. That’s another way to promote art in the community. With the sculptures downtown…I think that art is growing in appreciation in Sioux Falls.
Location: 8th and Railroad Center, 401 E. 8th St., Suite 116
Hours: Tuesday through Friday 11-5, Saturday 10-5
*Be sure to check out their one-day, outdoor art festival, Art on the Boardwalk, on Sunday, August 7, from 10 to 5.