After one year, owner of Elgin gallery has big plans

  • Rich Evans, owner of Art Area Studio 51 art gallery and coffee shop in downtown Elgin, says he's "an average guitar player" and "a big fan of art."

      Rich Evans, owner of Art Area Studio 51 art gallery and coffee shop in downtown Elgin, says he's "an average guitar player" and "a big fan of art." Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Art Area Studio 51 on Spring Street in downtown Elgin has hosted face painting for kids, social painting nights, musical performances, poetry slams, a yoga event, and parties for the Oscars and the Kentucky Derby, all open to the public.

      Art Area Studio 51 on Spring Street in downtown Elgin has hosted face painting for kids, social painting nights, musical performances, poetry slams, a yoga event, and parties for the Oscars and the Kentucky Derby, all open to the public. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/10/2017 7:04 PM

Rich Evans' vision for his art gallery and coffee shop in downtown Elgin is to offer a space for, well, almost anything.

Art Area Studio 51 at the corner of Spring and Fulton streets, on the first floor of Artspace Lofts, exhibits a variety of works for sale -- paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, mixed media and more -- made by artists both local and from across the county.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The coffee shop area features free Wi-Fi, coffee and tea made from electric pots, and a few tables. There are snacks for sale, along with soda and water.

The space, which will celebrate its anniversary March 17, has hosted face painting for kids, social painting nights, musical performances, poetry slams, a yoga event, and parties for the Oscars and the Kentucky Derby, all open to the public.

Evans has many more ideas for the future, including music lessons and art classes, possibly featuring nude models for whom he would meticulously drape the windows, he said. He's even in talks with a local high school to host a Ping-Pong tournament, he said.

Evans, who works as a certified public accountant and has lived in Artspace Lofts since 2013, describes himself as "an average guitar player" and "a big fan of art."

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"I learn something new every day," he said. "For me, there is never a dull day at the gallery."

So who gets to exhibit there? Pretty much anyone has a shot, Evans said, pointing to artwork made by Noely Bonilla, a student at Elgin High School. The only requirement is to get a thumbs-up from the gallery's informal "committee" made up of artists and friends of Evans.

"Sometimes people ask me, 'Will you show controversial art?' " he said. "As long as it's not brutally offensive, we'll try to show everything. From avant-garde art to things that you would hang on your wall behind your sofa, like a landscape."

Elgin artist Nancy Turpin-Mitchell said she's happy to exhibit her work at the gallery.

"The first year it's always kind of hard to break into the area," she said. "But it's starting to look real nice. He's starting to change that corner around a little bit, and he's really trying to move Elgin in the art field."

Elgin has a great vibe for art, but it's still not easy to make a go of it in the retail art business, Evans said. "The business plan is moving in the right direction, but slower than I thought," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Gallery hours vary and are more consistent in summer when there is much more foot traffic, he said.

A "Paint N Sip" painting class featuring wine is 7 to 9 p.m. March 17. Tickets are $35.

Musician Jack Wilson, who took first place in the 2016 international finger style guitar competition at Walnut Valley Festival in Kansas, will perform March 18. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the opening act is Steve Pollick. Tickets are $10 and include a beverage.

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