By Kiersten Clifford
Basements, garages and abandoned trucking company complexes. When you think of these spaces you don’t necessarily think art gallery. But, one Eau Claire resident is trying to change the way you think.
“We just want to change the way that people in the community are viewing contemporary Art,” Kelsey Wenburg said.
Wenberg is an Eau Claire artist with a vision. ArtFly Gallery has been in Wenberg’s heart and mind since college. It didn’t always work out, but Wenberg thinks that Eau Claire is ready for a new way to think about art. ArtFly is a contemporary art pop up gallery. It is designed for one night only art exhibitions in unconventional places. Pop up galleries are popular in big cities all over the world, but the trend hasn’t reached Eau Claire until now. It’s different from a typical gallery. It’s a way for people who don’t feel comfortable in traditional galleries or who don’t know a lot about art to experience art in a more personal way.
“At ArtFly we really just want to transform Eau Claire’s art scene.” Wenberg said.
ArtFly got its start in Madison, Wisconsin when Wenberg was attending college. The idea was to get student art work that wasn’t being seen out in the community to fill all of the empty store fronts around the city. Madison wasn’t ready for ArtFly though, Wenberg says. She received a lot of no’s and eventually other things became more of a priority.
Then Wenberg moved to Eau Claire in the fall of 2016. She immediately got involved in the art scene, as well as working on her own macramé art but ArtFly had never left her mind. She knew that Eau Claire was ready for something like this.
“Eau Claire has this huge lack of a consistent space to view contemporary art,” Wenberg said. “The goal of ArtFly is to show work of contemporary artists – local, regional, and hopefully, in the future, national.”
ArtFly consists of Wenberg as well as a committee of volunteers, most of whom submit their own pieces to the shows.
ArtFly had its first two shows this fall. The first one, the Garage Show, popped up September during the Third Ward Garage Sale in Wenberg’s garage. The show was made up of 7 different artists, 6 pieces, and a performance. The show went on for 11 hours and 120 people showed up. It was more than Wenberg had expected.
After the Garage Show the local newspaper the Leader Telegram and Volume One, an arts and entertainment magazine, both ran articles about ArtFly and so when the Basement Show came around in October they had 90 people show up in just 4 hours. The theme was creatures and hosted 10 artists with multiple pieces from each artist. The show also had more members of the community show up than anyone had been expecting. Wenberg said that the support that Eau Claire has shown for ArtFly is more than she could have ever imagined. But, ArtFly is doing great things for art in the city of Eau Claire as well.
“Kelsey Wenberg offers the Eau Claire area an outsiders perspective on the arts in Eau Claire with her highly innovative ArtFly pop-up galleries,” Rose Dolan-Neil, Director of Visual Arts at the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, said. “As a new and relatively young member of our arts community, Kelsey is able to jury her own art exhibits through ArtFly, thus sorting through our community’s many visual artists and finding a unique voice. Kelsey is quickly becoming an established insider in our art scene though; applying to and being accepted into the arts council’s Community Supported Arts program, joining the arts council’s Visual Arts Committee which offers insight and guidance on all visual arts related activities of the arts council, and volunteering for arts events.”
A reason that Wenberg thinks that ArtFly has been so successful is the way that the art is presented. The art is shown in basements and garages for completely free. It’s shown in a location that makes the art accessible to everyone.
“People relate to the art more on a personal level, not on an academic level,” Wenberg said. ArtFly’s goal is the make art accessible for everyone. They don’t think that art should be just for the elite or just for people who went to art school. Wenberg says that people have approached her telling her how much they love ArtFly because they don’t feel comfortable in a traditional art gallery for multiple reasons.
“ArtFly is really a social event centered around the art,” Wenberg said. “Our motto is ‘art for everyone’ we want contemporary art to be shown in Eau Claire on a level that is accessible to everyone.”
ArtFly will show any piece of art as long as it’s smart, creates dialogue and fits in with the theme of the show. They will show the art in any space that’s untraditional yet suitable for a gallery.
See ArtFly’s next show January 20th at Artisan Forge. The show is centered around the theme of hair. Wenberg says that the show is going to be the largest, most thought out, and politically charged. Wenberg hopes that Eau Claire will continue to support ArtFly and that in turn ArtFly will continue to fill the contemporary art gap.
Watch the video below to see and hear Wenberg talking about her macrame art.