Making art work for students at The Art Major

A new Southwest gallery provides an option for cost-conscious buyers

College is a time for learning, creative expression and finding a career. To many, taking college art classes is part of that journey. The collateral is often paintings and drawings left behind, winding up in the crawl space of an attic or in the back of a garage.

Terry Friedlander said this reality sparked a business idea that became a gallery that opened at 2404 Hennepin Ave. S. in August.

The space, called The Art Major focuses on student artwork displayed and sold in a gallery setting open to the public.

Artists don't currently have to be students to display their work, but they have to have created it while they were students.

The Art Major was created for "students who create one, two, three, or five wonderful pieces of art that have been given to grandma's garage," Friedlander said. "It gives them an opportunity

to get rid of and to show their work at relatively fair prices."

He added, "We want this to be a launching point for a lot of these artists. And we also want to be a clearance for those who want to get rid of their stuff. There is no competition."

Tony Andersen, in charge of artist relations, said The Art Major is a great stepping stone for their careers. "It's not a place you'll make tons of money off your art, but you'll get your name out there," he said.

Setting the stage

Items range from $20 to $1,500. The bulk of the work is between $75 and $300, Friedlander said.

Though there are a few galleries with the same concept out West, The Art Major is the only one in the Twin Cities. The space - approximately 1,600 square feet - features artwork ranging from paintings and sketches to photography and sculpture.

Many student artists produce work in multiple genres because they are trying to find their voices, said Friedlander. "As an art student, you are asked to work with materials that you may not want to, so you end up with that one sculpture."

Works are strung floor to ceiling on wires that Friedlander said gives the place an art-focused feel. Next to each piece of artwork is a biography of the artist to be sent home with the buyer.

Mobile walls also allow the gallery's layout to be easily rearranged so it will be different each visit.

"We want a dynamic, fluid flow," Friedlander said.

Getting down to business

While this is his first gallery venture, Friedlander is no novice to business. He owns and operates three seasonal stores at the Mall of America.

He said the idea for The Art Major was sparked watching a friend's daughter, a former art student, try to find space for all of her art while she moved. It took him two and a half years from the time he wrote his idea on the lid of a coffee cup to secure the money and space for the gallery.

He said he and his ex-wife re-mortgaged their home to fund The Art Major. She also helped cater the opening gala.

Friedlander said the gallery setup benefits the artists, art buyers and artistic integrity. "The patron wins because they get affordable, original art; the artist wins because they are able to show and get rid of their work, and are sometimes motivated to continue," he said. "And we win because we make money."

Friedlander would not disclose what percentage of the sale price the gallery keeps, except to say it varies piece by piece.

"Some galleries take anywhere from 10 percent to 90 percent, but we aren't looking to do that," he said. "Each piece is priced individually, and the artists' take is based on each piece individually."

To protect both parties, the artists must sign an agreement which states that the art was created while the artist was a student, that they own the artwork and that they agree to a 90-day showing. The prices are also included in this agreement.

The agreement is a legal form, but it's only that form and Friedlander's trust certifying that the artwork was created while the artist was a student. He also looks carefully for work that was signed and dated.

The artists

One student artist Friedlander is sure of is one of his former Mall of America employees. Carrie Miner, a Wedge resident, is an employee as well as a featured artist at The Art Major.

She's showing paintings mixed in with collages she created at Art Institute International Minnesota. They will sell for about $50 or $60, including mark-up.

The 22-year-old Miner, who handles artist relations, said that being a featured artist while trying to get other student artists to sign up helps with the persuasion. "I can relate more to others when I'm trying to get them to sign up," she said.

Miner wants to keep her art constantly rotating in the gallery. "I have tons of artwork," she said. "All I really have to do is look and say 'what am I sick of looking at today' and put that in the gallery."

The first artist Miner and Andersen signed is also The Art Major's graphic designer. Zachary Flategraff, 20, said he was surprised to find Friedlander and Miner waiting for him at a coffee shop one day.

"I was there with a couple of friends, and I fell asleep on the couch and they waited for me to wake up," he said. "I was bombarded to show them my work."

Flategraff is a graphic design student at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park. He has also been writing poetry since he was 10 years old, plays guitar, paints and sketches.

His experience with The Art Major so far has been "enlightening," he said. "The people I have met blow your mind."

He explained, "It'll get my art out there, and with being the graphic designer and having my logo on a building, it'll be good for my portfolio. It's good that I'm just making connections and make friends that like to do what I like to do - it's all about networking."

The Art Major is still accepting submissions. For questions or to apply, contact Tony at [email protected] or Carrie at [email protected]. Hours are Monday by appointment; Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The gallery's phone number is 377-8999.

Note: The first Tuesday of each month is charity night. The Art Major will donate a percent of the profits made to a charity close to a featured artist or an art school that needs funding.