The West Liberty Area Arts Council received a grant from the Ryan Trust to open an art gallery in downtown West Liberty.
Opening an art gallery has been a dream of WLAAC and local artists like Rusty Brotherton and Karel Cline, for many years. The new gallery, named Brick Street Gallery, will be located at 104 W. 3rd Street, in the space previously occupied by the Liberty Social Club.
Building owners, Jason and Lisa Wertzbaugher, have donated the space rent free for two years to support the project.
The West Liberty Area Arts Council has been active for many years hosting events, teaching classes, and promoting local artists.
For the size of West Liberty, there are a large number of artists, some recognized on a national level. Officials pointed out that it is not well-known in the community, and one of the gallery goals is to elevate these artists to both West Liberty residents and tourists.
In addition to promoting local artists, the Brick Street Gallery will host events as well as classes for adults and children, and host rotating art exhibits for display and sale. The Brick Street Gallery will showcase art of various mediums including photography, paint, sculpture, wood, jewelry, and more.
Most items will be for sale. which will add to the retail strategy for Historic Downtown West Liberty. Studies show that art, culture, and architecture are the three biggest drivers of tourism and tourism economy.
Located in a completely restored historic building, the Brick Street Gallery supports all three of those initiatives. WLAAC is looking forward to moving into downtown and working with other business owners to foster retail and nightlife.
The gallery will employ part-time staff and have hours that complement the hours of other shops in West Liberty.
WLAAC created a Gallery Committee, chaired by Deb Weiss, to oversee operations. Weiss is the West Liberty High School art teacher and a WLAAC member. She is retiring at the end of this school year, freeing up time to devote to the gallery.
The committee had a lot of debate about the “right timing” for opening the gallery given Covid-19 considerations.
A formal gallery opening has been set for Saturday, June 26, with regular business hours starting in July. Although the pandemic has not ended, vaccine roll out is moving along, and WLAAC felt it was important to open sooner rather than later in support of the other downtown businesses that have stayed open throughout the past year. As people start moving around more it is important for West Liberty to be ready to welcome locals and tourists with activities, nightlife, shopping, and dining, officials said.
"WLAAC is beyond thrilled to see this long-time dream coming to fruition. We are so grateful to the Ryan Trust and the Wertzbaughers for supporting this project,” said Weiss. “We look forward to working with other downtown business owners to cross-promote events."
Local supporters are asked to mark their calendar for the gallery opening on June 26. The evening social will be open to the public for shopping and tours.
Anyone interested in supporting the Brick Street Gallery with a monetary donation, volunteer support, or apply for the staff position, should contact Weiss at 319-430-5437.