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On and Off the Wall: New gallery at Racy’s features casual art talks

Eric Christenson

WALL THE POTENTIAL IN THE WORLD. Artfly curators Kelsey Wenberg (left) and Josh Treankler established a gallery at Racy’s in Eau Claire along with casual art talks.
WALL THE POTENTIAL IN THE WORLD. Artfly curators Kelsey Wenberg (left) and Josh Treankler established a gallery at Racy’s in Eau Claire along with casual art talks.

Since its conception in 2017, Artfly has had one tangible and lucid goal: to bring art to the people. With pop-up galleries all around the Valley in basements, garages, different local businesses, and all kinds of spaces, Artfly mastermind Kelsey Wenberg wants to tear down whatever barriers exist between people and art.

“I want to make viewing and talking about art more accessible for everybody,” she said. “It shouldn’t be this scary, uptight thing.”

“I think for a lot of artists, it can be hard to market yourself and make it a career. Anything spaces like (Racy’s) can do to facilitate connecting the artist to the community, I think is really important. And we have a unique opportunity here
to do that.” –Josh Treankler, Racy’s manager

Where previous pop-ups would last for a weekend or a single day, the latest collaborative Artfly project is making more of a long-term, steady home for itself at one of the most popular cafés in Eau Claire: Racy D’lene’s Coffee Lounge, 404 Riverside Ave. A 40-foot wall in the main lounge at Racy’s will now be filled with works by local artists for six weeks at a time, unbound by theme, featuring a cross-disciplinary and multifaceted collection of art.

“Racy’s has always been an eclectic mix of people and ideas, and a very unintimidating place,” said Josh Treankler, who manages the café and collaborates with Wenberg on Artfly. Right off the bike path, tucked behind Water Street, and a couple of hops from UW-Eau Claire, a wide breadth of people frequent Racy’s week in and week out. For Wenberg and Treankler, that’s a gift of an opportunity to get all kinds of eyes fixed on local art in a casual, unassuming way.

But the coolest things here are the talks. Exhibitions at Racy’s won’t have the typical trappings of opening or closing receptions: Instead, the goal here is to let people engage with art in a free and open discussion called an Art(fly) Talk. People can come in, talk to the artists, talk with each other, communicate what they’re seeing and feeling, and give themselves a broader understanding of art.

“Critiques don’t have to be soul-crushing or demoralizing. It can be casual and constructive,” Wenberg said. “We’re all learning how to talk about art better.”

The first Art(fly) Talk is from 5-7pm on March 1. Each talk is guided by either Wenberg or by different local artists and professionals, and she said the biggest goal is to get people invested in thinking about art, and having the openness to talk about it and learn. On the flip side, the artists themselves get to hear critique and discussion from real people – not other artists or curators – actual, everyday human beings. “The more education you can get, even in such an informal way, it does allow you to connect with the art in a whole different way,” Wenberg said. 

Whoever you are, this gallery is a safe and simple way to educate yourself and enjoy some local art. For artists, this gallery is yet another way to get your work in front of people. Artists can price it out and possibly sell some of their work, or leave it unpriced simply for viewing pleasure.

“I think for a lot of artists, it can be hard to market yourself and make it a career. Anything spaces like (Racy’s) can do to facilitate connecting the artist to the community, I think is really important,” Treankler said. “And we have a unique opportunity here to do that.”

Currently on the wall are works by four local artists: Thomas Gardner III, Theresa Schneveis, Christy Ann Skuban, and Mark Lone. For future shows, Artfly has ongoing online submissions set up for anyone that wants to display their work at Racy’s. All you have to do is find Artfly on Instagram, Facebook, or via email (artflygallery@gmail.com), send them your stuff, and you might be included in a future show. 

Then at the end of each year, the organizers plan to put together a zine-like publication featuring works that have been on display throughout the year, as a memento.

“Getting people to want to hang out, and stay with the art for any amount of time is an accomplishment,” Wenberg said. “This gallery is really a neat way to keep the art in front of the audience, and vice versa.”


To submit your work for the Artfly gallery at Racy’s, you can reach Artfly on Instagram (@artflygallery), Facebook, or at artflygallery@gmail.com. The first Art(fly) Talk is from 5-7pm on Sunday, March 1.