Martha Churchwell: New Joplin Art Gallery Serves as a Mixture of Cultures | Lifestyle

Joplin’s newest gallery, Art Gallery and Studio Elements at 2207 W. Seventh St., is as much a cultural experience as a place to buy art.

His artwork represents a mix of cultures from the heartland of Missouri, Texas and Illinois to as far away as Portugal, India and China.

Not only will the gallery feature artwork from other locations around the world, but visitors will also be served Chinese Kung Fu tea, perhaps even some Asian appetizers, while viewing the art. It will also host art events to promote other cultures, including their food and fashion.

That’s important to the owners, artist Cher Jiang, a native of Sichuan, China who came to America 10 years ago, and her business partner, Carthage artist Kristen Hawkins.

They want to use the gallery to promote Jiang’s local culture as well as those of other countries, and provide gallery visitors with artworks from different geographic areas, in addition to those created by local artists.

“We want to be different, but with art and culture and trying different things,” Jiang said.

The gallery currently features 14 artists whose work includes all types of paintings, photography, mixed media, resin furniture, jewelry, glassware, and ceramics.

Some of the artists, plus Jiang and Hawkins, will teach classes in their respective mediums, plus there are plans to bring in artists to teach artworks practiced in other countries, such as China, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. Jiang offers examples of classes in Asian shoe painting or folk art.

“It’s going to be a very unique Asian art that goes back centuries,” Jiang said of those classes.

The gallery includes nearly 5,000 square feet of floor space with an Asian-themed seating area and a petition area for some of the artwork. Otherwise, it is an open floor space to accommodate 3D artwork, classes and art events. There is ample parking space, which will allow for plans to have an Asian food truck there from time to time, Jiang said.

Although the gallery is far from downtown, which is home to our other galleries, Jiang and Hawkins believe that designating West Seventh Street as part of historic Route 66 will help attract customers. They’re seeing a growing number of businesses opening in the area, including an authentic Chinese restaurant, Fu Noodle House, which Jiang and another partner, who is also Chinese, opened a few doors east of the gallery.

Jiang and Hawkins also noted that the Missouri Department of Transportation announced major improvements to 4 miles of Seventh Street, including the gallery area. The couple hopes the project will energize this business area.

“We hope to be part of the revitalization of this part of town,” Hawkins said.

Jiang reaching out to her to open the gallery seemed to be at the right time.

Hawkins always wanted to open a gallery, but was sidelined by motherhood. She took interest in art in her childhood with the help of her mother who was a hobby artist. But in adulthood, she had to put her interests in art on hold while raising her children.

In 2010, she began creating again, participating in group exhibitions at venues such as artCentral and Koka Gallery in Carthage and the Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin. She practices a range of media including resin art furniture.

She and Jiang met about 10 years ago at the Carthage Art Walk, where Hawkins was showing her work. It turns out that they lived just a few blocks from each other in Carthage and soon became friends.

At the time, Jiang had just moved to Carthage from China and was working as an illustrator and figurine designer for Precious Moments, a museum and chapel in Carthage. She had a background in book illustration and fabric design, one of her designs was selected for a fashion show at New York Fashion Week in 2016.

But when she came to Carthage, she still needed a better understanding of the English language and American culture. Hawkins helped her with this and they often got together to practice their drawing. When Jiang found herself with a building that worked well for a gallery but had too much space for her to manage on her own, she turned to Hawkins as a business partner.

The gallery’s first course in water lily painting, which attracted mainly Asian students, has already been held, but weekly courses are to come. The schedule will be posted on the gallery’s Facebook page. The gallery opening party is set for 6:00 p.m., Friday, August 5, and will include Asian food and artwork drawings.

Art Gallery and Studio Elements opening hours are 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tuesday through Friday and 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Saturday.

Although Jiang said the gallery has currently reached the maximum number of artists it can accommodate, she urges artists who wish to join the gallery to contact her about future openings that arise.

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