For some, having coffee while marveling at art is not an everyday occurrence, but Edwardsville locals don’t find this unusual thanks to a group called The Gogh-Getters, who keep art ever-present on Main Street.
The group consists of graphic designers and fine artists Steve Hartman, Kerry Smith, Dave Thomas and Jim Harper. After the Edwardsville Arts Center moved to the local high school and this new location began to see more visitors, the four saw a need to keep art downtown.
“So, once the art center was gone and the Main Street gallery was gone, there was really [no art] here any longer so the idea of The Gogh-Getters to do this here was to specifically keep it in this old downtown area,” Smith said.
According to Thomas, the four began by helping Bigelo’s decorate their space. Eventually they began managing art at Sacred Grounds Cafe and coined themselves The Gogh-Getters. They held their first showing at Sacred in November 2011.
Smith said in keeping the art downtown, The Gogh-Getters also promote local businesses besides Bigelo’s and Sacred Grounds. They also make sure to mention other businesses when advertising.
“What we wanted to do was keep art downtown and have people make an evening of it, you know, come see the art show, have dinner, go to the Wildey, that kind of thing,” Smith said.
According to Hartman, the diverse array of contemporary art The Gogh-Getters choose to showcase complements the Edwardsville community.
“Edwardsville is a unique town where it’s a really rural community but it’s also a very educated community with the university, and there’s lots of professional services like attorneys and doctors and so because of that kind of weird fabric that we have, art helps to support that mentality,” Hartman said.
While the art shown is up for sale, The Gogh-Getters said their ultimate goal is to expose people to things they have never seen before.
“That’s the goal of showing art: to get someone to be inspired or think a little bit differently or expose themselves to something new,” Hartman said.
The art shown in Bigelo’s is mostly changed when it sells and is created by various artists. In contrast, the art lining Sacred Grounds’ walls highlights one artist’s work for a six to eight week stretch.
Showing artists on a rotating basis at the cafe allows for plenty of exposure after the initial opening typical of galleries, according to Smith. Because the art at Bigelo’s is on display longer, it gets even more exposure.
“One of the great things, I think, about a place like this is, where as [with] a gallery once the opening is done, there’s not a lot of traffic, with this, once the opening is done, you have 300 to 400 people coming through a day, so a lot of people see the artwork,” Smith said.
For the artists being shown at Sacred Grounds, The Gogh-Getters offer the option to have an opening celebration where community members can meet the artist. To Hartman, getting to meet the artist adds even more value to art.
“When I buy art, I like actually knowing the artist and getting to meet them and see the person who actually created that object,” Hartman said. “It makes that piece of art much more enjoyable for me, once I get to know the artist and know where it came from and what they were thinking when they made this, so that actually gives me more of a human-to-human connection with the piece of art that’s hanging on my wall and makes it more valuable to me.”
Another advantage of showing art through The Gogh-Getters is the artists keep a majority of the money from their sales. Hartman said The Gogh-Getters only take a 25 percent commission on the art that sells, while galleries charge more than 50 percent. He said this is a reflection on The Gogh-Getters’ commitment to helping artists succeed.
“We want the artist to actually, if they sell their work here, make some money, because we don’t need the money,” Hartman said. “This is not our job, so we just use some of the money to pay for our advertising costs and we give away some free alcoholic beverages at our openings.”
While The Gogh-Getters will offer pricing suggestions, the artists ultimately set their prices. Thomas said he considers most of the art to be priced reasonably for those who are committed to owning original work.
“I think most of this, for working adults, is affordable if you’re committed to supporting artists and having original art in your home instead of a print from a world market or something,” Thomas said.
The Gogh-Getters will consider showing anybody’s work, from professional working artists to students, according to Thomas. Smith said having four different perspectives guarantees that Bigelo’s and Sacred Grounds will always see a diverse array of work.
“It’s nice to have four curators because everyone has their own style of what they like so each of us bring styles that we like,” Smith said.
However, only having wall space limits the type of work they can show.
“One of our limitations is [because] we have wall space, it’s hard for us to show three-dimensional work like sculptures for ceramics because that’s typically in cases or on pedestals and this isn’t really a gallery space like that,” Thomas said.
The Gogh-Getters are currently looking for artists for 2020 and encourage graduate art students to contact them about showing opportunities. Those interested in showing can contact The Gogh-Getters via Facebook. To stay updated on The Gogh-Getters, follow their Facebook and Instagram pages.