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Fourteen and Counting

It was cold and windy when Judith Hooks arrived at my home for dinner. The occasion was to celebrate her promotion as the person in charge of rentals at the Charles Allis and Villa Terrace Museums–a full-time position and a nice reward for part-timing these past few years. We wolfed down chicken breasts and green beans while toasting her rise with a 2003 Macon-Charnay. Beer didn’t seem quite right that night. Over the years I’ve hoisted a few with Judith Hooks during openings and events at Gallery 218, a co-operative venue launched in 1990. Back then I was sure the gallery would crash in a nano-second, especially since it was in a no-man’s land between the Third Ward and Walker’s Point. But last it did at 218 S. 2nd St., and along the way, became known for: The Elvis Show, poetry readings, educational seminars, and group exhibits and solo shows for those who signed on as members. The cooperative sold tee-shirts, coffee mugs with the gallery logo, and assorted items from a glass case. Now and then, a piece of art, maybe a painting, sculpture or photograph would go home with a buyer.The bulletin board was stocked with up-to-date info, and in a modest adjacent office, an assortment of smaller art works were for sale. For a few years the spunky members mounted art exhibits in the adjacent parking lot to the south of the property. And oh yeah, Gallery 218 had some fun musical events. Who among us will ever forget the Big Blue Shirt Show, an anti-art spoof addressing the demise of the Blue Shirt sculpture, shot down before it ever made it to Mitchell International. Fourteen plus years is a long haul in the gallery business, particularly without the help of inherited money, a big divorce settlement, a rich aunt, grants, or lottery winnings. Bad news arrived during the summer when occupants of the S. 2nd street gallery were asked to vacate. The good news arrived when they re-located to a perfect spot on floor two of the Marshall Building, cornered at Water Street & Buffalo. The rent isn’t cheap, but the building is directly on the fast-track during Gallery Night & Day, and Luckystar, a neighbor on floor two, makes it easy for visitors to kill two birds with one stone without breaking a sweat. That aside, the thought of keeping things together while laboring full-time at another job is mind-boggling. Judith doesn’t own a car for hauling food and art and all the other stuff in her busy life. She rides the bus (look for her, she’s often dressed in black) though sometimes a gallery member with a van comes to the rescue. When she can’t be at Gallery 218, members sit with the art (a requirement for membership), waiting for customers to stroll in. As if the-lady-in-black doesn’t have enough to do, in this now-past nasty political season, she was out and about beating the bushes (no pun intended) for Ralph Nader. In fact she and others who admire RN, breakfasted with him when he was in town to speak at UWM. Apparently he ate lots of yogurt and was nice, not nasty. On December 3-4, Gallery 218 celebrates their “Annual Holiday Fine Art Sale” wherein local artists sell a variety of items. The bonus is that it takes place during Christmas in the Ward. “Heavy Metal Christmas” bangs heads December 3-21, so expect objects to be made of metal and/or designed in metallic colors or reflective materials. In conjunction with all this glitter-rama, “The Metallic Party” on Saturday December 4 (6-10pm), will give you a chance to shine while listening to music and nibbling goodies. While all of this will be a blast, the biggest problem currently facing Gallery 218 is pumping membership. If you’d like to join and show your stuff in a brand new 1,460 square-foot facility, all the info you’ll ever need is on-line at www.gallery218.com.