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in the news


April 22, 2006
The Dallas Morning News

Oak Cliff: Gallery owner showcases talent in Bishop Arts District

By JADE JACKSON / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Michael Puttonen went for tacos with his wife as a veteran graphic designer a month ago. He came back a working artist.

How? He saw the open door to the Artisans' Collective, a new Bishop Arts District gallery, and walked through it. Gallery owner Ted Matthews invited him to bring his work by the next day and within 24 hours, Mr. Puttonen became the gallery's newest artist. 

"I've never shown my work before, so this has been a cool experience," said Mr. Puttonen, 39. "It's been incredible. I've had more fun in three weeks than I have the past 12 years being a graphic designer."

Showcasing the talent of newcomers like Mr. Puttonen is one reason Mr. Matthews opened the gallery in December. Giving Dallas artists a home for their work is another.

"I think we need to focus on our local artists," Mr. Matthews said. "We need to support them, encourage them. They don't get the representation they deserve."

His 23 artists come from divergent backgrounds, work in various styles and mediums, and vary in experience from amateurs to professional artists who show nationwide. Besides paintings and etchings, the current exhibit boasts everything from blown glass and gourd art to handmade jewelry, hats and silk scarves ranging from $15 to $3,500.

"We're so caught up in retail malls and [art] that's mass-produced," said Mr. Matthews. "I have everyday items that are created by individuals."

A lifelong lover and creator of art, Mr. Matthews had to abandon his passion for painting and sculpting to work in graphic design and make ends meet.
Now, Mr. Matthews hopes to make a second career of giving the community the "creative energy and talent within our own community" and helping people "rediscover their art."

The 2,500-square-foot space at 520 W. Davis has already accomplished that, gallery visitors say. "I spoke with a lady today who said she's been looking for something like this for five years," said Micah Fletcher, 50. "Finally, it's here."  

"It's the dreams of the artists," said Joe Russell, 52. "It's the dreams of the proprietor. It's a spirit that's here. There's something here that everybody can connect with.  "The community and the city need something like this," he said. "Artists don't know how to market themselves, so they need people like these guys to help them."

Mr. Matthews encourages artists to leave their business cards so visitors can contact them. He also encourages them to create smaller pieces of art, like postcards and key chains, so that even if people don't buy the big works, they've still sampled.

"There's no better feeling than to know artists are being inspired through the gallery, to create art," said Mr. Matthews.

Those like Mr. Puttonen are enjoying the ride.  "Maybe someday I can make a living doing this," said the photographer and digital artist, who sold two pieces in three weeks. "But I'm just having fun playing with the images."

Jade Jackson is a Grand Prairie-based freelancer.


  Michael Puttonen
  Ted Matthews


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