Collective energy drives new art space

Grimshaw Gallery opens doors to young artists in downtown Lawrence

Five young artists only recently finished sorting and clearing out some of the odds and ends left behind by the previous tenant of this cavernous downtown space.

Still, they're pretty sure the peddler of used and curious goods is lingering in the building he occupied for some 10 years.

"We saw something in here last night," painter Matt Ridgway half-joked last Friday at the opening of the Grimshaw Gallery, 731 N.H.

But it's because of, not in spite of, the "haunting" by the late Clyde Chapman, proprietor of what was once Chapman's Used and Curious Goods, that the gallery/studio space is so inspiring to work in, the artists say.

"I like the environment of it. I like the people who work here," said Gus Huber, a Kansas University senior who creates sound installations on his computer. "I think that there's a lot left behind by him (Chapman) and all the people who journeyed through here looking for junk."

When the Grimshaw Gallery opened Jan. 31, it became Lawrence's only working gallery -- where artists both create their pieces in a studio setting and then sell them in a retail gallery space.

The gallery was packed for the opening with paintings, mixed media assemblages and metal sculptures, as well as furniture that gallery owner Schuyler Lister collected in Bali. A steady stream of gallery-goers browsed the work as Huber's soundtrack of environmental sounds layered with jazz music played in the background.

KU senior Jay Gordon said the co-op filled a much-needed niche in the Lawrence arts community.

"It's a great opportunity for a lot of young artists coming out of KU to have a venue that's approachable," he said.

Customers who happened into 731 N.H. before Chapman died of a long illness last winter would hardly recognize the place now. The store has been transformed into a bright, airy gallery space.

It's ample enough to display the work of the five artists currently renting the studios and a collection of carved, wooden furniture that Lister has collected on his travels.

Though the gallery seems large, it could probably fit at least five times over inside the multi-level space at the rear of the building, where the artists have established their studios. In fact, there's still room for three or four more artists.

The cluster of studios allows the artists to work as a collective, feeding off each other's creative energy, critiquing one another's work, designing exhibitions, publicizing their shows and, on a very practical level, sharing tools.

"Yeah, like I don't have a drill. But he has a drill," Ridgway said of Gordon.

"Everyone brings their own resources to the table," Gordon agreed.

Though the gallery's first show features work very much unique to each individual in the co-op, the artists may collaborate to create a large installation for the next opening, Ridgway said.

What: Grimshaw Gallery, a gallery space/artist co-opWhere: 731 N.H., in the building that most recently housed Chapman's Used and Curious Goods.Hours: 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Friday, noon-8 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. The artists plan to open a new show the fourth Friday of every month. The next opening is scheduled for Feb. 28.Contact Jenny Long at 842-0884 if you're interested in renting studio space at the Grimshaw Gallery.

Jenny Long, artist and Lawrence resident, has been working in her Grimshaw studio since July, shortly after Lister acquired the building. Though creating on dark nights has sometimes been spooky, she has fallen in love with the space.

"There's so much history in this building," she said, adding that the size and resources were nice, too. "Your pieces have so much room to grow. We have a welder. We have fire."

And they have a cozy den named after the man who left behind some of the old doors, light fixtures and other sundries that find their way into the artists' work. The Chapman Room -- filled with couches, chairs and other gear suited for lounging, socializing or sketching -- occupies the heart of the studio space.

"We're pretty sure Chapman is still here," Ridgway said. "But it's a benevolent ghost if anything."


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