Susan Parent is an interior decorator by trade, but the Toledo woman is an advocate for local artists at heart.
Tucked away in the back of Mrs. Parent's D'Vine Designs interior design shop in downtown Perrysburg is a co-op art gallery filled with collections of work from Toledo-area artists that's been open since April. She charges each artist $25 in rent for approximately six feet of wall space and asks them to work in her shop one day each month.
When one of them sells a piece of art, the artist doesn't have to pay the shop owner anything in commission.
Mrs. Parent said there's a need for more of the public to be exposed to contemporary painting, sculpture, and design, but she knows the real reason she first opened her arms to fine art: There's an even greater need for aspiring artists to have a place to show their stuff.
"I'm very aware most artists only get to show a very small amount of their work in most art galleries," Mrs. Parent said. "Most of these artists are so busy working that they wouldn't have time to run their own galleries. I'm giving them a greater opportunity to truly express themselves and exhibit their talent."
Nannette Sturtevant of Delta has sold only one piece since she joined Mrs. Parent's gallery in July. She painted a portrait of her cat and placed the photograph she used next to the painting. The customer bought the photograph.
Ms. Sturtevant wasn't upset, though. She's just thrilled to be one of the 26 artists fortunate enough to rent a space on Mrs. Parent's walls.
"This is my dream: to be in a gallery instead of trying to sell paintings outside," Ms. Sturtevant said. "It's tough to sell paintings outside when it starts raining and your colors start to run."
Others are enjoying lucrative sales, at least by a local artist's standards. Nancy Jean of Perrysburg is a poetry artist who writes poems and decorates the paper she prints them on. Ms. Jean, one of the original 15 artists to join Mrs. Parent's gallery, said she sells 10 to 20 poems a month and averages $200 a month in revenue. She said she is most thankful for Mrs. Parent because of the networking opportunities she has provided.
"This has given me the venue to have exhibits to show to potential clients," Ms. Jean said. "They can meet me here and see what I can do. Plus, people who would never go to an art fair may see my work here."
Ms. Jean said she has used her space at D'Vine Designs to land numerous contract jobs for weddings, funerals, and other important occasions.
Julie Baumker of Perrysburg said she has also enjoyed creating contacts through gallery friends as a purse designer. She said the people she has met at Mrs. Parent's shop have opened up other avenues for her to exhibit her craft.
A mother of four, Ms. Baumker said any extra money she makes is nice, but cash flow isn't the only reason she signed up at D'Vine Designs.
"This just gives me a way to express myself," she said.