Nearly 20 years ago, Laura and Bill Eveleigh brought a new genre of art to Fort Collins: the art of rock and roll. The new genre now sits in the title of their gallery —– Walnut Street Gallery: The Art of Rock and Roll, and the new gallery serves as their livelihood.
“We opened because of our backgrounds in the art world; we both loved art, we were both collectors and we opened with no thought involved. About a month after opening, we represented internationally and nationally known contemporary artists,” Laura said.
“We created it for the music, not really expecting it to get to the level it has today.”
The Eveleighs opened the gallery as a contemporary tribute to unique art inspired by and based off of music, hoping to feature national and international artists, not only local artists.
At the beginning, they often toured with bands, toting music-related art to display at shows and the band’s hotels.
But because many of the bands they toured with have quit touring, the Eveleighs have quit touring as well.
“Laura and Bill would take trailers full of art and follow bands around the country on their tours,” said art consultant Anne Kozil.
“They’d rent out hotel ballrooms and, one time when touring with the Grateful Dead, they’d have Deadheads surrounding them — basically throwing money at them because they’re selling art associated with the band.”
Initially, the Eveleigh’s went through regular trade channels to promote the gallery, letting information about the gallery pass by word of mouth until musicians started contacting the gallery themselves.
“I contacted an old friend at the beginning, Baron Wolman, the first photographer for ‘Rolling Stones,'” Laura said.”
“I asked for his negatives, we were going to open a show with him and Ronnie Wood of ‘The Rolling Stones.”
“Baron was skeptical, saying no one was interested in that stuff, but the first show was an unexpected success.”
Getting the goods
The paintings, sculptures and photographs displayed in the gallery are mostly done by musicians turned artist, artists associated with the band and others who produce music related or abstract art, Laura said.
Musicians who have contributed their art to the gallery include Carlos Santana, Tico Torres–Bon Jovi’s drummer–and Jerry Garcia and Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead.
“There are musicians who are also artists that sell their work, like Bon Jovi,” Kozil said.
“Then there are secondary artists who do music related artwork, like album covers, and photographers who are inspired by music.”
There is always the same “stable of artists” that have art in the gallery and do regular showings, with some outside artists also contributing, Laura said.
“We contacted Tico Torres, the drummer for Bon Jovi, and picked the time frame for his showing during the time when Bon Jovi was playing in Denver.
“That way he could come up and attend the showing because he was already in town,” Laura said.
“We hosted, and do host, exhibits in the towns where certain musicians are performing. We’ll do a traveling show, where we have a photo exhibit of the actual show, as well as setting up booths where we sell the musician’s artwork.”
Also scattered along the walls and shelves are original art pieces, sculptures and prints from international artists.
“The current showing of artist Baroness Waltraud Von Schwarzbek was all painted at the places; Italy, Germany. She used to live in Bavaria so that house was right down the road,” Laura said, indicating a nearby painting.
Von Schwarzbek paints landscapes, portraying the crystal clear water and intricate castle-like architecture she grew up around.
Such paintings are a rarity in the gallery because the Eveleighs usually stick to music related art.
While the gallery receives art from many artists, not all pieces make it into the gallery.
“Artists will bring in their work and it’s our [the art consultant’s] job to sort through it and give our recommendations to Laura,” said Darleen Tappenden, an art consultant.
“If we don’t decide to carry their work we’ll send them to another gallery where their work would fit better.
“Exclusive galleries carry different artists; we won’t carry art that is in other galleries in the area.”
The Eveleighs have opened gateways for many collectors, setting up artist visits and even individual meetings with artists admired by certain clientele.
When artists send in new work, invitation-only shows are set up for previous clients and known collectors of the artist’s work.
“Half of our clients I’ve never met face to face because it’s always over the phone or by e-mail,” Tappenden said.
“But we will invite collectors we know love a certain artist’s work and set up a private showing with them, catered, champagne and everything.”
Choosing content for gallery shows and displays works both ways, with artists offering their art, or having their art requested as an addition to the gallery.
Every year artists who regularly contribute are contacted and their work is displayed.
“Every year I do a Dr. Seuss showing, his illustrated book art, statues and a lot more,” Laura said.
“The representatives of Dr. Seuss want to sell his art. There’s nothing really magical about running a gallery, it is a business.”
The Dr. Seuss show, will consist of prints and copies of his original artwork.
His wife keeps all of his original artwork, but releases never before seen artwork on occasion, Kozil said.
“It’s completely up to the artist whether they sell the original art or not,” Tappenden said.
“The prints in the Von Schwarzbek are all original, but other artists will only send in prints because the originals are either being kept or sold at other galleries.”
The prints of art are only made in certain numbers — 850 prints are being made of one of Dr. Seuss’s pictures, Kozil said.
“Not every original is up for prints, it’s a case by case depending on the artist,” she said.
“There’s no way you can say, ‘The original is too expensive, make a print, and I’ll buy that.'”
Over the past 20 years, the gallery has become the contact between the art suppliers and the art collector’s of the unique genre.
Many of the clients return after developing a loyalty to the gallery and a devotion to the art, Laura said.
“It [the gallery] had a huge impact because it brought a new genre of art to the community,” she said.
“It was something never seen before and many of our clients are now friends. They’re a very loyal group.”
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.