Earlier this year, St. Germain Street in Downtown St. Cloud became home to the Whit Gallery. Heidi Jeub, the owner, has experienced life downtown and sees its bright potential. And when she opened the gallery in April, she began helping others see it, too.
“I spent my middle and high school years in Sartell and was “raised” by life in downtown St. Cloud. I have left the area and come back over the past 25 years, and really love the history and culture of downtown St. Cloud. In a way, it was my original art history lessons that fed my interest in architecture and art.”
“We opened in April 2021, with the purpose to host fine artists, musicians, and craftspeople from the region. We have hosted artists from around the world, featured artwork about social issues, and hosted some pretty amazing events. We believe in being intentional with all our decisions, from how the art is displayed, the food that is served, and the music that is played. We believe in radical hospitality, so when you come to our space, you can help yourself to beverages, snacks, or just to hang out and talk. The gallery has its parties, but it also has its quiet time, for folks to reflect on the art.” Heidi partners with Songbird Kitchens, Krewe, Jules’ Bistro, Sweet Stop, and other organizations and nonprofits.
As an artist herself, Heidi knew how important access to sharing and displaying your work through exhibits is to both the artist and those experiencing it. “I started the gallery because artists in their 2nd decade of experience do not often have places to exhibit their work in completion in the region. There are more visual artists in Minnesota than any other discipline, yet, visual arts venues make up less than 10% of the arts venues in the state. I saw this gap as an opportunity to provide more experiences for visual artists and other art forms to come together. Yet, the reason for opening the gallery has presented itself after I got the keys. I have found that the space is special, and people feel really welcome here. The shape of the space makes it different, as well as the architectural details, therefore people need to consider the space for new ways of coming together. This is especially relevant since the pandemic. We need to be flexible in our approach to everything, and this space forces us not to fall into old, stagnant habits. I realized this space is also for “Cultural Omnivores”, meaning people who are willing to experience any discipline or genre, be it jazz one night, or hip-hop the next. They are here to celebrate expression, regardless of the type. It’s pretty rad, and really can’t be missed.”
“It’s exciting to see who comes into this space and falls instantly in love with it. The diversity of art appreciators that step in the door is pretty incredible… all walks of life. Since I wasn’t raised with galleries in my life, I want to make sure that people feel welcome here. While it breaks my heart when people are intimidated, I completely understand. It’s because of a long history of art being for the elite. In the end, however, this space is meant to preserve art in a good climate, with good lighting, and room to see the work.”
“People can support the gallery by purchasing art. Each purchase supports the artist and the space directly. We have an online store, but not all the work is on there. Come to the receptions, or visit at least once a month to become familiar with local art history in action. So many artists are doing relevant work, and the work doesn’t translate as well online. Seeing it in person, learning their methods, and holding (some) it in your hands makes a huge difference in your appreciation of the talent in your own backyard. Another way people can support this gallery is to host parties and events in the gallery. As a community space, you can bring in any caterer you’d like, hire musicians, and rethink how you host people. A gallery has a different feel and ignites people’s imagination, so you are bound to make waves with friends, family, and clients. Put tips in the tip jars when you come to free events. That money sometimes goes to event expenses or to the artists themselves. We want to keep the party going, and every little bit helps. We are also looking for sponsors of visual arts and music events … See art as essential. Allow yourself to experience and support original and new art. Also, see art, and everything that it impacts, as a legit business and important in how we live life.”
“The Whit Gallery exists because I see the true potential of downtown. With every negative thing said about the state of Downton, there could be 3 positives mentioned. Let’s talk about the positives and potential of this beautiful and historic downtown. I have lived here long enough to know that downtown is an incubator for dreams and big ideas. Don’t forget that. This is why the Whit Gallery is here… I see the beauty in the people and buildings that I walk by every day.”