Left Justified: Used art, not used artists

By Stanley Campbell

I was reintroduced to the local art scene when I went begging for art. Rockford Urban Ministries (RUM) is hosting its third annual “Used Art Sale” in January, and you are welcome to 201 Seventh St., where the artwork will be on display.

My introduction to local artists occurred when I walked upstairs to the then-downtown gallery of A Step Up. It was run by the Midwest’s best glass worker Frank Houtkamp, along with an assortment of talented artists and craftspeople. Well, Frank is still downtown, he just moved a block north and across the street (he’s next to Octane, and will open the door if you rap persistently).

The spirit of the place is contained in the upstairs art gallery, Kortman Gallery, though A Step Up was always draftier, and Kortman has a much better bartender, and the bathrooms are cleaner.

A variety of artwork has been donated so far to the RUM sale: oil and watercolor paintings that once hung on people’s wall (hence the “used” aspect), photographs by Jeff Swanberg, textiles from Una Gail, and a statue by John Verl McNamara (all are Rockford artists).

Former Rockford artist John Berry has four pieces donated by various supporters. The largest piece is a portrait of Albert Einstein that belonged to me, but I have to sacrifice, especially if everyone else does. Mr. Berry once decorated Charlotte’s Web, inside and out. He and ne’er-do-well Matt Myhre painted the South Main railroad trestle, which finally wore away.

The sale begins this Friday, Jan. 8, and runs through the month. The “used art” gallery is open during JustGoods fair trade store hours Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., or you are welcome to call me for a special showing at (815) 964-7111.

A large selection of used art books and sheet music was donated by Rockford’s best antiquarian bookstore, the Book Stall.

Asking for art is easier than asking for money, and all nonprofit organizations put their hand out to all the artists in this town. Almost every dinner has a silent auction loaded with artists’ work. I know they cannot get all the value of their art taken off their taxes. It’s a shame, because they do a large amount of good in this community.

Some of my art came from purchasers through the various fairs and shows in town. There are fewer venues for artists, and I hope that trend changes. JustGoods, in fact, is looking for artists to show in their gallery here on Seventh Street. There are a number of empty storefronts that could easily welcome gallery space, at least until the economy turns.

The JustGoods art gallery is, of course, free and open to the public, and the art is priced to sell. All proceeds benefit Rockford Urban Ministries (for which I work) and its partner projects. RUM’s latest project is hosting a work camp for large groups of volunteers to work on indigent people’s homes.

Donations are still being accepted for the sale. If you have anything that could be considered art, and would like to help, please donate it to the gallery at 201 Seventh St. during store hours. Or, call me for pick-up or special arrangements.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue