218 Co-op Gallery: when art imitates agriculture

218 Co-op Gallery Member Artists are Margaret Adie, Peter Arcidiacono, Jolea Arcidiacono, Ruby Dale Austin, Margaret Falletta, Michael Furrh, Bridget Hauser, Kevin Huffaker, Carol Schwartz and Christine Terrell. PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER PAUL CARDOZA

218 Co-op Gallery officially opened its doors during a packed Grand Opening event in May 2017 and has been busy since creating an ever-evolving space filled with work ranging from photography, paintings and ceramics to sculpture and jewelry.

Housed in an historic building originally built as a photographic portrait studio, the 12 member-artists looked to history for both creative and economic inspiration. Worker-owned agricultural cooperatives played a large role in creating a vibrant San Marcos economy throughout the last century. 218 Cooperative members were inspired to revive the tradition, so have been working behind the scenes to incorporate as an official Texas Cooperative Association. Though many people use the term, a true cooperative is a corporation organized legally for the purpose of providing economic services, without gain to itself, to members who own and control it. The folks at 218 are proud to now be the first artist cooperative in San Marcos.

In Texas, co-ops are mostly associated with the agricultural industry, but the structure of democratic ownership and control also happens to work particularly well for independent artists and makers. For studio artists, creating is just one aspect of the process. Equally, if not more important, is the ability to show the work, engage with people, and develop patrons.

“I’m a working mom, so almost all of my time is already split between making jewelry and taking care of the kids and home," Member Artist Christine Terrell said. "There’s no way I could fit in starting my own retail space on top of that.” The co-op model allows each artist to focus more time on their individual art-making while sharing the work and costs involved in the showing and selling side of the process.

Member-artists have quickly become tight-knit and enjoy having a shared venue showing a broad range of art. Walking in to 218 you see beautiful macro nature photographs by Margaret Adie on one wall, an eclectic collection of ceramic sculpture from JoLea Archidiacono, Carol Schwartz and Margaret Falletta on pedestals, as well as wooden sculptures by Michael Furhh and Peter Archidiacono interspersed throughout. You’ll also find smaller things like greeting cards, houseware items and eclectic, upcycled jewelry. The mix is broad, but the gallery’s “Space” team has managed to make everything work together perfectly.

Part of the co-op’s mission is to grow patronage that not only supports and sustains the gallery, but also contributes to a Community Enrichment Fund. This fund will be used to inspire and educate people about a variety of art topics. Access to quality arts programming is a perpetual problem in smaller towns and cities. Working with patrons, member artists, Texas State students and professors as well as other artists in the community, the members at 218 hope to be a go-to resource for exhibits and a range of arts programming that draws both residents and visitors to the historic downtown.

The 218 Co-op Gallery is located at 218 N. Guadalupe and regular hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The gallery is also open until 9 p.m. every third Thursday for the Downtown Walkabout, at 10 a.m. each second Saturday for their community Coffee Mates gatherings and can be made available by appointment at contact@218coopgallery.com.

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666