In crafting the vision and brand of Art-O-Maddic, downtown Canby’s new art gallery and creative makerspace, owner and operator Shelley Arndt turned to her favorite story, “Alice in Wonderland,” for inspiration and, in particular, the character of the Mad Hatter.
“I’m a huge fan of the book, the whole story,” she admits. “I wanted something that would be fun and approachable, and I immediately thought of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and how it still makes me feel like a kid.”
And, much like the quick-change artist himself, Shelley and her husband, Eric Arndt, needed only a few weeks to transform their space at the Graham Building into a vibrant and colorful gallery, masterfully showcasing more than 40 local, regional and national artists.
“We worked very hard,” Shelley says with a laugh. “It was 18-hour days for about two weeks leading up to the grand opening to the public on June 25.”
Of course, that wound up being the same weekend the area was scorched by a heat wave of historic proportions — something the native Minnesotans had not bargained for, though they said they appreciated that it was a “dry heat.”
The weather, fortunately, did not seem to put a damper on interest in the gallery’s work or upcoming classes.
“Things have been going really well, even better than we expected,” Eric says. “We’ve had a wide variety of folks come in, and everybody has the common thread of appreciating that this space is here now. Every person who has come in here has found at least one thing that they absolutely love. It’s been very validating.”
“We do hear it a lot, that people are very thankful that we’re here and that it’s incredible,” Shelley agrees. “I feel that people have really embraced us. Everyone in this city has been amazing.”
The gallery has taken shape so quickly it does almost make you think some Wonderland-style magic must be at work. The Arndts are longtime supporters of the arts, from music and theater to paintings and images that adorn their own walls, but even they did not imagine themselves owning and operating an art gallery in Canby, Oregon, before the idea hit them after a visit to Newport in February.
“There just really wasn’t an outlet for artists in this area like we felt like there should be,” says Shelley. “So we came up with the idea, and the city was fully supportive, which is amazing. Everyone has been so supportive of this idea, and I think that’s the whole reason it moved so quickly.”
One of the signatures of Art-O-Maddic is the Arndts’ personal touch in working with artists: sitting down with each one to hear their stories and share their own and asking them, “In a perfect world, how would you like to work with a gallery?”
“We’re trying to create an artists’ sanctuary, a tribe of amazing, talented artists,” Shelley says. “But we’re also showing the community that these people are here and what they can do. It’s amazing some of the talent that’s here, just in Canby. It’s astounding.”
Virtually all of the 41 artists currently on display at Art-O-Maddic are local or regional creators in a wide variety of mediums, from paint to mixed media to photography to printmaking to sculpture, with a few national artists whose work the Arnts have supported for years.
The artists’ backgrounds and experience are as diverse as the mediums and subject matters in which they work.
“We have one individual who just started last year — she’s super talented — and Jac Genovese out of Newport, who’s been at it for 45 years,” Eric says. “And everything in between: hobbyists, professionals, part-timers and they’re all sharing the same wall space.”
Art-O-Maddic is always looking for new artists to work with and is offering classes to new and aspiring artists in August and the coming year. They also host private events. Find out more online at artomaddic.com, or visit them at 181 N. Grant St., Suite 107 — across from the Backstop Bar & Grill.
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