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Downtown art gallery will be missed by community

Saturday, January 26, 2008 | 5:06 p.m. CST; updated 5:41 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008
The Spare Parts Gallery is known for items that are a little bit different. Its Web site notes that the gallery is a place "Where 'slightly strange' is a compliment." They showcase over 75 local artists, displaying not only stylized paintings, but independent crafts, household items, antiques and vintage furniture.

COLUMBIA — As people made their way around downtown during this week’s Artrageous Friday, many squeezed into the Spare Parts Gallery’s warm, intimate space. Bundled up in winter wear, those who came in were offered apple cider to sip as they took advantage of one of their last chances to browse the art gallery’s offbeat creations and nontraditional treasures.

The gallery, which first opened in April 2007, announced last week that it will close its doors in February. As one of its last events before then, Friday night’s “The Second to Last Hurrah” was an opportunity for members of the community to enjoy the gallery’s unique collection for a final time.

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“It really filled a niche,” Barbara McCormick, owner of downtown art gallery Poppy, said of Spare Parts. “There is nothing like them, and nothing to replace them.”

Owned by local artists Jessie Lawson, Douglas Freeman, Lisa Bartlett and Stephanie Foley, the gallery represented the eclectic works of more than 75 artists, according to its Web site, sparepartsgallery.com.

Calling it “the funky little people’s gallery,” Lawson said Spare Parts “has had a useful role in bringing together the works of students and well-known artists into one big cornucopia.”

“This is a different venue and opportunity for different artists,” said Kate Gray, a local artist who was at Spare Parts on Friday night.

Amidst the gallery’s burnt orange walls, customers were just as likely to find a tray of mismatched buttons classified as art as they were a watercolor painting.

Open to almost any type of art, Lawson said she and the other owners refrained from letting personal tastes dictate the type of art showcased. Instead, she said, they simply looked for anything authentic and unique.

Lawson said that although there was no central theme to the artwork featured at Spare Parts, the “unifying factor is the sense of community.”

“People who bring art here feel as though they have a participation in the community,” she said.

David Weir, a retired hospital administrator in Columbia, recently submitted small homemade Christmas villages to Spare Parts. Weir made the villages from old boxes he found in his basement and wanted to recycle rather than just throw away.

“I told them to sell them and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to charity,” he said.

While the gallery’s owners haven’t settled on exactly which day they will close the doors, they anticipate it will be sometime in mid-February, after Valentine’s Day. The gallery will host a smaller event, “Muck Sale,” featuring a variety of ceramic artists, on Feb. 1 and 2.

“I didn’t come here often enough,” said David Finke, a Columbia resident in the gallery Friday night. “It will leave a hole in our cultural life.”


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