Inside Heather Friedli’s new West Seventh Art Gallery, hundreds of stories wait to be told across the space. Stories from her six-and-a-half-month hike on the Appalachian Trail, stories from her solo treks up north to paint the natural world, and stories of all the other artists she will welcome to her gallery space.
This story begins, like many others, in the midst of the pandemic – Friedli calls this period just before he got the idea of opening his gallery his “spring mad”. Energized by the outdoors but tired by the pandemic, the word “community” kept popping up in her head. How does she maintain it in times of social unrest? How can she interact with people from a distance?
“And one night, in the middle of the night, I woke up and I was like, ‘You know that plan you had to maybe open the art gallery in 10 years? Well, maybe that’s a plan right now, ”Friedli explained. The idea of the gallery was to create a space for artists, as well as members of the St. Paul community, to organically interact with one another. The Friedli Gallery, which officially opens on October 1 with a community exhibition, will not only be a space where artists can exhibit and sell their work; it will also serve the community through art classes, artist and author talks, art and wine events and more.
Her West Seventh art gallery, previously owned by St. Paul’s board member Dave Thune, will be a commissioned gallery for the work of the artists it features. “I want to make sure that it is my responsibility as a gallery owner to go out and sell their work, which is why I am a commissioned gallery with exhibitions,” Friedli said. “I don’t run a store. I don’t charge for wall space.
This approach to selling art makes room for in-person exhibitions and community connections, a benefit both for the artist who exhibits his work and for the gallery owner who hosts the exhibition. “I always like to see spaces run by artists for artists and I think it’s unique because it’s a studio, a gallery and a learning space,” said Maggie Thompson (Fond du Lac Ojibwe ), a textile artist based in St. Paul. In the winter of 2022, Thompson will be teaching a wool felting class in the gallery.
The October 1 opening features works by 15 different artists, mostly local artists and a few national artists, as well as a few pieces by Friedli herself.
Friedli grew up in California with art and nature all around her. And in 2010, a few years after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art, she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, one of the longest hiking trails in the world. Starting in Georgia and ending in Maine, the course took him six and a half months and stretches for 2,193 miles. Friedli began his journey in April through the seasons, “welcoming spring with every step” and concluded the journey to Mount Katahdin in October. This trip, she says, was the affirmation she sought to pursue painting professionally.
“As I was hiking I realized more and more that I needed to come home and be an artist now – like this was my transformation that I needed,” she said. “Before, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I remember I was walking at the steady pace of my feet on the trail every day, and suddenly I smelled the smell of oil paint in the room. ‘air and I imagine myself painting. “
She returned from the trip with a renewed zeal for works of art. Soon after, she moved and began working as an artist in Minnesota, winning a few state and country level snow sculpting competitions and heading north to paint the serene landscapes she sees.
As a contemporary impressionist, she paints scenes from nature with a vibrant and distinct palette – cerulean sky, sap green trees, cadmium orange sunsets. “Her works of art make stained glass appear to come to life,” said Jocelyn Mackenzie, an artist colleague and friend of Friedli. “To me, landscape paintings are a genre that sometimes feels a bit safe, but Heather completely breaks all the rules of what it means to paint landscapes – like they feel like they’re alive and breathe, ”she said. Mackenzie will also be showing a few pieces of his own abstract paintings at the opening exhibition of the Friedli Gallery.
“We have had a few years without being able to sell the work to the public and there is a lot of pessimism that we will never be able to go back to the way things were,” ceramicist Brad Menninga said of the current arts climate. visuals in the midst of COVID-19. Menninga works at the Schmidt Artist Lofts, where Friedli worked before the pandemic, right across from the new gallery. “There wasn’t a lot of public support for artists. And so, Heather takes on a huge challenge, but she also has the motivation and the optimism to make it work. Viewers can see Menninga’s ceramic vases on display in Friedli’s gallery.
“We can’t be isolationist,” Friedli said, “we’re not going to be like lone cowboys, the only way is to work together.”
Opening of the Friedli gallery
- When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. October 1; the exhibition runs from October 1 to 25
- Or: 943 W. Seventh St., St. Paul
- Info: friedliartsgallery.com or 248-660-3771