New Eau Claire Art Gallery is a Family Affair
trio of artists opens gallery and store on Clairemont Avenue
author & photographer by Rebecca Mennecke |
Even though Kathy Steinke worked as co-owner of Seattle Pride Coffee & Smoothie from 1995 until 2008, she now starts every day with a fresh cup of green tea. In the afternoon, she drinks red tea, and – at night – black tea.
Whether she’s drinking coffee or tea, Steinke always has energy and enthusiasm for art that pours over, as she has been passionately creating intricate art since before third grade.
“Somebody says, ‘How long does it take you to make something?’ I said, ‘All your life,’ ” Steinke said. “It takes you practice. And sometimes the only thing you can do at the end is take a hammer to it, throw it in the Dumpster.”
This passion for art inspired her, her husband, Dennis, and their son, Nathan, to open Art of the Valley, a new gallery at 2533 E. Clairemont Ave. which features and sells work from more than 22 local artists.
“We didn’t really want to be a high-end art gallery that’s stuffy and unfriendly, and white walls and one picture to a wall,” Steinke said. “We wanted it to be more comfortable, more blue jean. Pizza-and-soda kind of people.”
We didn’t really want to be a high-end art gallery that’s stuffy and unfriendly, and white walls and one picture to a wall. We wanted it to be more comfortable, more blue jean. Pizza-and-soda kind of people.
CO-OWNER, ART OF THE VALLEY
Dennis Steinke owns Always Over The Top Photography, a wedding photography business, and also participates in a local photography club. Their son, Nathan, creates primarily scenic paintings, often depicting mountains. After their artwork started piling up, the family thought to open a business last August to sell their work. After the pandemic hit, they realized artists had few opportunities to showcase their work. So, on Feb. 1, they opened their locally focused gallery and shop, hoping to give new and experienced artists a place to show and sell their work.
Their price range is between $5 and $1,000, making it an affordable art store – and the family takes a commission of just 30%, whereas most art galleries take a 40-50% commission.
“We want to help artists get their art on people’s walls, in their homes, in the Chippewa Valley,” Steinke said. “A lot of people would like to buy an original piece of art, but they can’t afford to pay art gallery prices. So we’re really trying to really gear toward that group of people.”
Their community outreach doesn’t stop there. Each month, the family plans to donate portions of their proceeds to local charities and nonprofit organizations. For the month of February, portions of their proceeds will go toward the Eau Claire County Humane Association.
And, the gallery has a little back room (featuring Dennis’ photography) which will be used for teaching classes. Dennis frequently teaches classes on using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, applications used in photography, but the family will offer the space for local artists to use (free of charge!) to teach lessons.
“I’m a connector,” Kathy said. “I like to connect people and things together.”
Each quarter, they also plan to hold a children’s sale, where local kiddos can sell their artwork in the store for family members and locals to purchase. This teaches kids how to put up tags, set up a table to answer questions, and gain valuable experience selling their art. Best of all: Art of the Valley will take no commission from children’s sales, so all money goes to the kiddos.
“We want to have fun doing it,” she said.