Artists and members of Gallery Moab prepare for their grand opening. Left to right: Page Holland, Peggy Harty and Sunnie Sheff. [Pippa Thomas / Moab Sun News]

Long-time resident and artist Page Holland compiled a list of over 200 local artists in the early ’90s. Yet, their primary audience back then was each other, friends and family.

2014 presents a much different picture for them.

The grand opening of Gallery Moab, a co-op gallery of 20 local painters and 3-D artists, is a breakthrough for Moab artists who, by virtue of the town’s tourism, now get to connect with an audience that is worldwide.

“This is something I have imagined forever,” said Holland, who has been working to support the visual arts in Moab since the early ’80s, when an art show meant hanging something in the Post Office. Back then, she had to turn down a generous offer to set up a co-op gallery in the building that most recently housed the Slickrock Café for just the cost of utilities.

“We just couldn’t make it; it just couldn’t survive then,” Holland said.

As part of the Canyonlands Arts Council in the early ’90s, she and others, like Theresa King, who helped found the Moab Arts Festival, continued their efforts to establish arts in the town.

“We were trying to do anything and everything to just figure out how to bring more visual arts,” Holland said.

Slowly, but like the patient and persuasive flow of water, the visual arts began bubbling to Moab’s surface. Art walk, which began in 2009, brought attention to the galleries in town. The next year, Sandy Snead organized Plein Air Moab, and brought out the artists.

“The next year they involved the MARC and that’s just really taken off,” Holland said.

Momentum and interest continued to build into what Holland describes as a “major milestone for Moab.”

“This is the first time that a gallery is 100-percent Moab artists,” Holland said.

And like so many other local productions, it was accomplished with the efforts and generosity of many people.

“Sena Taylor Hauer needs kudos,” artist and gallery member Larry Thomas said.

The gallery is made be possible by Hauer, who owns the commercial space. When the shop became empty last fall, Hauer offered it to Plein Air as an additional exhibit area for overflow from the MARC. After Plein Air, Hauer invited Holland to hang art in the space while she continued looking for a new renter.

The board of Plein Air Moab reached out to local artists, who all kicked in money to cover utilities while their art hung in the space for the winter months.

“We had a schedule for people to just sit in the gallery,” Holland said. “And that had a certain amount of success, especially given that it was the off season. And everybody had a lot of fun with it.”

At that point, if anyone came into the space and wanted to buy a painting, the patron had to call and deal with the artist directly. But Holland, Snead, and the other members realized they liked having a place to display their work.

“We figured that even if we couldn’t exhibit in this space, if we formed an umbrella that was able to handle the sales tax and business licensing, then if another opportunity arose,” Holland said. “It would be nice to put prices on the wall.” The board created a formal business entity.

In the meantime, spring came and even an interested renter, but Hauer was pulled by the arts.

“ Sena decided she really liked the gallery there, so she said she’d work with us on the rent,” Holland said. “We scrambled and put everything together to do it more long-term.”

They put together a membership agreement, determined how much wall space each artist would get (roughly six feet) and went to work. Artists and appreciative community members donated wall-paint, cash, easels, hanging systems and hardware—even a cash register.

And they hung their art.

“There’s a good art community in Moab, but it’s all been kind of out of sight,” Thomas said. “So maybe this will bring it more into the open and more people will come here with that in mind.”

The Gallery Moab and member artists will be celebrating their grand opening Friday, April 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. with refreshments, music, and a wide variety of paintings and 3-D art.

“Finally, it’s been everything coalescing at the same time,” Holland said. “It’s crazy – the talent in this town. I’m so excited.”

Gallery Moab celebrates its grand opening

“We figured that even if we couldn’t exhibit in this space, if we formed an umbrella that was able to handle the sales tax and business licensing, then if another opportunity arose…It would be nice to put prices on the wall,”

Where: Gallery Moab, 87 N. Main St.

When: Friday, April 4, 6 to 9 p.m.

What: Grand Opening celebration with local artists, paintings and 3-D work, refreshments and music