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Archive for Sunday, February 14, 1999

S RIVERFRONT GALLERY REMAIN CLOSED

February 14, 1999

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The future of the Lawrence Art Guild gallery is uncertain.

They've hung up their paintbrushes and laid down their clay.

At least for now.

The Lawrence Art Guild gallery in the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets sits silent while guild members contemplate its future.

Guild president Victoria Silva said the guild hasn't held an organizational meeting to determine what will happen to the gallery.

"We had one scheduled for January but that was canceled," she said. "I don't want to make a decision about the space. That would be made by a membership vote."

The guild's board of directors decided in September 1998 to close the gallery due to lack of financial and physical support. Gallery director Sharon Falkner resigned from the gallery Oct. 12.

In a Sept. 28 letter to the board and members of the guild, Falkner stated: "Without adequate financial support and sustained personal involvement by the board and more members of the Guild, it has been a difficult job at best."

John Wysocki, a past LAG president, said that recent sales had dropped at the gallery, which opened in April 1996.

"Today, relative to Day One, we're not selling work," he said.

There are a number of factors that contributed to dwindling sales, he said.

"When you don't have the time to run it effectively, you don't have sufficient numbers of artists willing to show work and you don't have the foot traffic coming through, it explains the situation we have now," he said. "Because we're a volunteer organization and nobody is getting paid, there isn't the incentive for people to work at making a gallery a viable thing for us. You have to be very devoted to a cause to get it to thrive."

The space the gallery now occupies is donated by the mall. In January, the mall was sold to a group of buyers that include the Simons family, publishers of the Lawrence Journal-World.

Dolph Simons III said the buyers are not certain what they will do with the building. For now, the spaces rented by retailers in the mall are operating as they did previous to the sale.

In December, Laurie Culling hung the gallery's last show. Although the gallery was having problems before the sale of the building, Silva said rumors of an impending sale and fewer customers coming through the space added to the decision to close the gallery.

"We had an all-member meeting to discuss what would happen," she said. "We decided to have a couple more shows and get through the holidays, and then we would close so we wouldn't have to deal with staffing issues. It all kind of happened at the same time."

Silva said she doesn't know when the next membership meeting will be. Board members won't plan one until they learn about the fate of the mall building.

The guild currently has more about 200 members, and each can cast a vote in the future of the gallery.

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is jwatson@ljworld.com.

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