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
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
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.