Marcia Pugh and her dog, Cirro, would take walks on the Independence Square and see the possibilities.
She’s an artist – “I paint acrylic paintings” – and is involved with the local arts community.
She jokes that it was Cirro’s idea that some of these artists get together to show and sell their work. That idea, a new business called the Art Squared Gallery, has come together inside The Emporium at Main Street and Maple Avenue on the Square.
“This is our first space, and this is good,” says Pugh, who’s managing the site.
A handful of businesses focused on art, history or some of both – Art Squared, the Blue & Grey Book Shoppe, Sherri Haupert’s haupART frame gallery, and the studios of artist Jim Shaw – all have moved into The Emporium in recent weeks. There’s also Do-Sal’s Collectible Treasures, which has been in The Emporium for 13 years after the original business for many years was on 23rd Street.
The artists’ idea is that together they can make a go of it and, by giving a higher profile for the arts, bring more people to the Square and create a degree of synergy with such attractions as Primary Colors, also on the Square, and the nearby Jackson County MyArts program for youth.
One plan is to work with local middle-school and high-school artists and give them some exposure.
“We want the students in the area to have a chance to see their art hanging,” she said.
This also could help the Independence Art Association, which has been around for decades but, Pugh says, isn’t well known. The group runs the Robert Tindall Scholarship for seniors from Eastern Jackson County pursuing a post-secondary education in art, and some Art Squared proceeds go to that.
The Art Squared artists cover a range of media: photography, graphic art (pencil), oil paintings, pastels, water colors, wood carving, jewelry. In addition to Pugh, the artists are Carlos Benson, Roger Campbell, Pat Deeter, Johnni Dowhower, Bette Kunkle, Colleen Latimer, George Lightfoot, Refa Sawyers and Ted Stillwell. Another 18 sell on consignment.
Stillwell, a longtime Examiner columnist focused on local history, also is tied to the Blue & Grey Book Shoppe. He and Betty Key have run it for years, and now they have moved it into The Emporium from the Blake Museum three blocks away.
Stillwell says traffic is up since the move.
“The bookstore is doing fine,” he says.
The store has a little of everything – even doll dresses – but mostly focuses on military history, specifically the Civil War era.
“That’s the only way you can do it, is specialize,” Stillwell says.