Community over Competition
Janet Lewis grew up surrounded by art.
“I come from a family of artists,” she said. “My mom was the first high school art teacher in Garnett, Kansas. My sister is a photographer and probably the best portrait painter I know.”
So it only makes sense that Lewis, a jewelry maker, spends a lot of her days in Pittsburg literally surrounded by art inside ArtForms Gallery, an artists co-op she helped open in 2016.
The mission of ArtForms is to provide display areas and sales opportunities for regional artists by giving them the opportunity to share resources and skills within the membership. The gallery at 620 N. Broadway features handmade arts and fine crafts for sale and has a classroom space for educational opportunities and workshops.
“What’s unique about us is that we don’t have any external employees,” Lewis said. “As part of their membership, we ask our member artists to spend some time working in the gallery. So if you stop in, anyone you see working here is one of our artists.”
Lewis co-founded ArtForms along with Sylvia Shirley, Sue Horner, Ruth Miller. The overall goal was to provide regional artists with a place to not only display and sell their work, but also to collaborate and support each other.
“It’s not a competitive thing,” she said. “A lot of people think that artists don’t want anyone else to work on what they work on. That’s just not the case, at least not always. Here, the goal is to support and inspire one another. That’s what I love about it so much.”
Sarah Springer-Prince, a stained-glass artist and ArtForms member, said she appreciates the collaborative approach to the gallery.
“It’s so interesting,” she said, “to learn about such a diverse group of people and how they put their background knowledge, life experiences, and personalities into their art. I am so proud to be a member of the Arts forms gallery. The artwork is phenomenal.”
“The arts scene in Pittsburg and this entire region is really impressive and surprising”
Lewis said ArtForms recently received non-profit status, which will help them with fundraising and future expansion.
“One of the things we really need at this point is more space,” she said. “We’d love to have more space for workshops and educational programs, and it would be nice to provide artists with more room to work.”
Lewis said her involvement with ArtForms has shown that the Southeast Kansas region is full of talented artists.
“The arts scene in Pittsburg and this entire region is really impressive and surprising,” she said. “We’ll have meetings where we invite local artists, and I’ll look around realizing I don’t know many of them. You end up seeing we have a secret blacksmith in a garage somewhere. There are so many talented people making amazing things. It’s inspiring.”
Check out ArtForms Gallery online.