Art comes in all forms – ageless, unbridled, appealing to the masses, and sometimes alluring only to the eye of the beholder. But it can always make you feel a myriad of emotions… happy, sad, content, angry, or excited. One single piece of art has the power to do all that and more. But can you even imagine one entire little shop of artists, under one roof, displaying their individual genres and really stirring up your emotions at every level? It’s not just sensory overload – it’s “Hello Galena.”
On what the natives call “back street” behind historic Main St. in Galena, IL, some 60 local artists have joined forces to create a community that displays and sells their artwork. That community also happens to be quite fittingly located in a building on the historic Old Market House Square at 121 N. Commerce St. which is owned by the State of Illinois and leased to the City of Galena, which in turn is leased to Hello Galena.
“We are in our 11th year as Hello Galena,” said Toni Klingler, Manager of Hello Galena for the past six years. “It has evolved over the past 11 years, starting out as a sort of welcome center and a place where we sold tickets to community events. We also started as a venue for local products and some artists. Then we drifted off to more of the sellable arts, which is where we are at today.”
And while the location isn’t exactly the main stream the group would prefer, Toni says the shop is definitely a noticeable highlight for people who stumble upon the gallery. Numerous artistic expressions are displayed, from traditional and contemporary paintings, pottery, sculpture, and stained glass to handcrafted jewelry, wood working, woven baskets, and photography to mention only a few. All is for sale.
“We are a nonprofit organization,” explains Toni, a basket weaver and gourd artist herself. “Everything is made by local artists and everyone involved with Hello Galena are volunteers. That’s the only way we are able to give back all we can to the artists.”
As a result, all the money the store makes goes into the store’s upkeep, which doesn’t leave them room for a much more expensive Main St. Galena location – a definite goal they would love to reach, Toni insists. Regardless, the artists who choose to be part of the volunteer base receive a 75% commission on their work, where non-volunteer artists receive a 55% commission, which is “Just about as high as any gallery provides,” Toni noted.
“It’s so neat to interact with all the different artists,” Toni said. “For the most part, the artists are hobbyist who have other jobs. Our youngest artist just turned 17. Our oldest artist is in her upper 80s.”
Hello Galena is part of the Galena Cultural Arts Alliance (www.galenacaa.com), an organization that was founded in 2000 to spearhead activities of the various cultural arts organizations in the Galena area. The group acts as an umbrella over eight different affiliations in an effort to help provide volunteers, coordinate events, and create avenues to help promote individual artist. Member affiliations include the Apple River Fort, Galena Center for the Arts, the Galena Artists Guild, the Galena Festival of the Performing Arts, Grace Arts Council, the Friends of the Library, the Spirits of the Museum, the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundations and Guards, and Hello Galena.
“All of the groups are different,” Toni explained. “The Galena Cultural Arts Alliance is our umbrella organization and carries our nonprofit status. We all work together, we promote each other instead of competing against one another.”
Hello Galena is open June through December, Thursday through Monday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Winter hours are January through May, Monday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., closed Tuesday and Wednesdays, and open Friday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In addition to the gallery’s ongoing show of artists, each month the group highlights both a two- and three-dimensional artist as part of their programming.
Two special events are being held in December. On Thursday, December 10 from 5:00-7:00 p.m., Hello Galena will hold a ladies’ night with holiday shopping advice, demonstrations, book signings, and refreshments. On Thursday, December 17, the group will hold the same event geared towards a men’s night, which will also include gift wrapping.
Local artists who are interested in joining Hello Galena are encouraged to contact Hello Galena at their Commerce St. location, through their website at www.hellogalena.org, by calling (815) 777-1448, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Potential artists must live within a 30 mile radius of Galena in order to be considered for membership and must meet the group’s advisory committee review.
“I’d love to bring in some new people. I really enjoy working with all the artists,” Toni said. “Expanding people’s mind on what art is all about is one of our overall goals. We’re all local artists,” Toni concluded. “Just some more loco than others.”