By Naomi Thalenberg
In today’s frugal economy, it can be risky to open a new business, especially one which sells hand-crafted fine arts. Despite the risk of failure, Jill Divine, owner of Gallery 113 on Birch Street, said she believes providing the community with inspired artwork is an endeavor worth taking. What used to be the location of an antique store has recently transformed into a small gallery exhibiting different works of art such as ceramic vases, mugs, canvas paintings, photography and hand-made jewelry.
Divine said she has always had an eye for the arts, making the idea of opening a gallery one that was impossible to leave astray.
“It was probably in June when I started thinking ‘What am I doing creatively?’” Divine said. “I am teaching poetry, which I love, but not really doing anything else actively and creatively. I started feeling like I’m in the autumn of my life, so I thought I needed to do something new. I needed to have something vibrant happening.”
Divine finished her master’s degree in English with an emphasis in poetry from NAU in 1995 and has been teaching both subjects at Coconino Community College for the past 12 years. After selling her previous business, local downtown wine venue Vino Loco in 2005, Divine published her first book of poems, Game, and later received her life-coaching certificate in her continued search for a business to reflect her passions.
“My main tendency is to dive into things,” Divine said. “I’ve always said that I have never had a real job [because] I’ve always tried to get jobs that are flexible. My job is to be an appreciator. I appreciate things — things that are art, and I’ve always loved art.”
Gallery 113 now offers eight different artists’ contemporary works including ceramic pieces by Barry Carpenter, western photography by Neil Henderson and the gallery’s most recent addition, the textured collages of British artist Simon Kirk, whose art has been featured in Denmark, Germany and UK.
Unlike usual gallery norms where people cannot touch a thing and prices contain multiple zeros, Divine said she seeks to make her gallery affordable to the Flagstaff public.
“Functional art is wonderful, original and amazing beautiful art,” Divine said. “There is really fine artwork [that is] affordable so that people can put art in their homes. I want people to be able to come in and pick up and touch anything.”
NAU senior Emily Williams, an intern at the gallery, earns credit toward her Art and Cultural Management minor by working in the store. This is the first year NAU has offered this minor for students interested in learning about the sustainability and business aspect of art. Williams said she is elated to be a part of Divine’s new business and learn the ups and downs of owning a gallery.
“I’ve always liked creating artwork and when I got to school I didn’t necessarily think I could major in the fine arts,” Williams said. “I chose art history to learn about art but it wasn’t until I discovered my minor that I knew what I wanted to do.”
Williams was one of the first students to declare an Art and Cultural Management minor and said she hopes the subject can one day be popular enough to become a major.
“I love being here with a position to share art with people,” Williams said. “How far can art really go? It can take me wherever I want to go . . . Jill brings in artwork and in a sense it’s like making your own artwork — you have a canvas and you can fill it with what you think is visually appealing.”
Divine said she knows that not all the art she carries will sell due to the current low demand for art; however, she believes the pure manifestation of art in society is necessary even if it does not always bring her a profit.
“I don’t want to just have things in here that I think will sell,” Divine said pointing at a hand beaded pizza named “black olives on half” by Justina Coffey. “This [beaded pizza] is so weird, but the time to do that is such an artistic thing and a commitment; I want to keep it in here for people to look at and to see what she does.”
Divine said she plans on changing the artwork every two months, but most of the pieces she has in now she will carry through the holiday season.
“In this gallery, I’m going to show things that catch my eye and hope that it’s universal enough to appeal to a lot of people,” Divine said. “I’ll definitely keep a wide variety of art with photographs, jewelry, ceramics and paintings, but I look forward to find things that are attractive and [are] a little bit different.”
Gallery 113 is open Thurs. through Sat., from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.