- Will Juntunen
Open Space Art Gallery and Studios - Ottawa, Illinois
For years, Amanda Weygand believed that she would lead an artistic community. During the excitement of OmniPrize for the Arts in September 2018, she stumbled upon a space at 223 West Madison Street, Ottawa, with an expansive plate glass window. Listed for rent, she put in an offer.
When a prior bid fell through, Weygand got the nod from the landlord in October 2018. "Is this really happening?" she thought. "I'm an artist, not a business person." Lexi Poulakos gave her the number of Amy Lambert at the SBDC, who gave the artist two months of weekly business tutorials. By December 8th, 2018, Weygand and her team welcomed a large turnout to the first night at Open Space Art Gallery.
Open Space grew into the center of the Starved Rock Country Art Community. The gallery opened monthly shows. The communal studios were filled with activity. Every Third Friday, Open Space teamed up with Cats Eye Wine Bar and City Folk Urban Decor for art walks in downtown Ottawa, complete with live music and magical moments.
Then 2020 arrived with its long list of challenges, thanks to Covid-19. Weygand pivoted. She turned her gallery show, Printed Matter, into a traveling show, first shown at the Prairie Art Center in Princeton, Illinois. She brought the celebration of #ArtistSunday to the Starved Rock Country, a day for artists between Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. In December, she leased a chalet at the Kris Kringle Market in downtown Ottawa, representing the artists she knew through Open Space. The December calendar of classes went virtual. Weygand delivered art supplies to participants curbside. Teaming up with twenty-three local art businesses, she assembled one of a kind Holiday Gift Baskets, again delivered curbside.
Weygand looks forward to helping artists in her network establish art businesses in the post-vaccine world. "I refer my artist friends to the SBDC when they want to get legal with an LLC. And thanks to Tina Curtis at the SBDC, I can do my own taxes for my second year in business."