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Greer Oaks Gallery

by Neal Delfeld

Walking into Calvin Greer’s spacious Victorian home, you encounter two of his most highly valued African Art pieces on exhibit: a Benin (Nigeria locale) Oba bronze and a Bamun (Cameroon) fertility figure. The restored Victorian dwelling at 2463 N. Palmer St. is more than a home for people. The Greer Oaks Art Gallery is home to artifacts from multiple art traditions. Calvin and Dorothy Greer initially purchased the house and gallery for his art and their collection but decided to expand it to fill the need for “a gallery that specializes in African American art.” Many of the rooms have been restored to their original condition and appearance; the narrow stairs wind past these restorations to the attic with 1000 square feet of open space and display cases for shows. The gallery first opened to the public in January 2003. A professional artist since 1990, Greer had previously owned a successful custom furniture workshop. While making furniture to others’ specifications, he realized “it’s a job again… I started feeling like I could have stayed at Chrysler if I wanted to do that.” His fascination with turning shapes (including bowls, vases, etc..) on the lathe led a friend to encourage him to bring his work to a show, and he sold all the pieces he brought. At the time he had no idea why anyone would want to buy something which wasn’t useful. But people kept coming to him for his work, which convinced him that a piece which looks good can also be useful. He began selling his work regularly at art shows and expanded his work into carved drums. His sedulous woodworking skills and creativity generated the financial freedom and garnered the community backing necessary to explore meaning beyond object utility — and the meaning itself now serves a purpose. He explores ancient, worldwide, cultural designs, with current interests in various African cultures. Carved and inlaid representations and repetitive motifs become a “psychological reclamation” of the original culture. He is concerned with the inner sense of a culture’s spirituality, legends and myths, and rhythms and color. Once he understands these things, he finds that improvisation, inventiveness and ‘ahse’ (the creative power to make things happen) appear. It is clear that this is how Greer pragmatically defines himself within culture; in turn, his creative craftsmanship not only reclaims but also establishes culture. It is clear that this is how Greer pragmatically defines himself within culture; in turn, his creative craftsmanship not only reclaims but also establishes culture. At A Glance What: Greer Oaks Art Gallery Where: 2463 N. Palmer St. Specialty: African American Art Hours:Fridays 10-6, Saturdays 10-6, Sundays 12-6 Upcoming shows include: April 25 (Gallery Night) — May 25 ABEA (African American Artists Beginning to Educate Americans about African American Art) artists. April 7 — April 30: “Social Justice — Get It In Your Head!” by the Hartford University School with Derrick Harriell. One of the stone heads and a line of the poem will be on display at his gallery. (Contact Lynne Shumow at 414/288.5915 for more information.) For information on other shows, please contact Calvin Greer at 264-2049 or visit the gallery during hours of operation. The gallery is also open during the week by appointment. School tours are also welcome by appointment. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 4 – April 2003
by Neal Delfeld