Pop-up gallery fosters collaboration between Lawrence and community artists

Magdalena Waz

(Photo courtesy of The Rabert Gallery )

The Rabbit Gallery, Appleton’s first pop-up gallery, will officially open May 17 in the space where the gift shop portion of Conkey’s Bookstore once stood.

Pop-up galleries have become popular in larger urban centers where vacant storefronts have gone un-leased for months and sometimes years. To fill these spaces and make them more attractive to potential renters and passerby, artists have rented them for brief periods of time to display and sell artwork.

Lawrence students Chris Dorn, Yuxue Li, Sidney Pertl and Krissy Rhyme developed the idea during a Spring 2010 class entitled “Entrepreneurship in the Arts.” Dorn and Li graduated last year, but the project has continued to develop with the addition of Ranga Wimalasuriya, though it has taken almost a year to be realized.

Finding a suitable space on College Avenue was difficult, noted Rhyme. Convincing building owners that a pop-up gallery would turn an unused space into potential advertising for it was also an obstacle.

In order to help with the practical aspects of such an ambitious project, the students involved went to seek help often from their advisory board, which includes Assistant Professor of Economics Adam Galambos, Associate Professor of Art and Frederick R. Layton Professor of Art Rob Neilson, Lecturer of Economics and Coleman Fellow Gary Vaughan, Lawrence Trustee Mike Cisler, Executive Director of the Trout Museum of Art Tim Riley and Executive Director of Appleton Downtown Incorporated Jennifer Stephany.

Rhyme noted, “The advisory board is there to ask questions such as, ‘How will you get insurance?'” She pointed to the large number of concerns that necessitate the students to take a truly interdisciplinary approach. The students involved have had to think together and work with professors and members of the community who provide different types of expertise to make this project possible.

Artwork both by Lawrence students and artists working in the area will be featured in the gallery. The space will provide a unique opportunity that aims, according to Rhyme, “to bridge the gap between downtown Appleton and the Lawrence community.”

One of the major goals of the gallery is to allow students to make their way down College Avenue to a space where they can interact with community artists and to allow community members to interact with Lawrence’s young artists. The gallery has the potential to strengthen these ties.

“Ideally, the Rabbit Gallery would reopen in the fall of next year,” said Rhyme. Four students in the class put the structure together, and it would be feasible for any interested students to continue hopping from one un-leased space to another.

As a whole, the project has provided students with very valuable experience from setting up a gallery to displaying their artwork in a professional setting.

The opening of the gallery, though, has presented more obstacles. The new space required painting and preparation for a professional display of artwork and all financial, legal and organizational matters had to be settled.

The gallery, funded by Appleton business owners, a senior experience grant and interested individuals, is still accepting donations through its Kickstarter page, and more information can be found on the Rabbit Gallery’s website.