Janesville24.9°

Community banks double as galleries

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Carla McCann
January 16, 2008

Finding galleries to display their works has always been a challenge for local artists.


Cynthia “Cyn” Lentz had her paintings for sale at a business in her community, she wasn’t comfortable with the arrangement.


The Elkhorn artist wanted a more secure environment. She was concerned that her paintings could be stolen.


This month, the Elkhorn woman found just the place she was looking for.


Lentz’s paintings are on display at the Peoples Bank, 837 N. Wisconsin St., Elkhorn.


It is one of many community banks that support local artists.


“Our role is to enrich the lives of our community and give back to the city of Elkhorn,” said Jessica Berge, marketing coordinator at the Peoples Bank. “We are so appreciative of the people who bank with us, we want them to know it. One way to do that is to provide services that enrich their lives.”


It’s difficult for art galleries to make ends meet in smaller communities, said Alicia Reid owner Raven’s Wish framing studio in Janesville.


“You almost have to have something else to go with the gallery,” Reid said.


When she bought the studio, one of her goals was to include space for the creations of community artists, she said.


But at Raven’s Wish, it is the framing business that pays the bills, she said.


The Janesville Performing Arts Center and Leuca Guild in Milton have galleries, but Lentz said community banks also deserve credit for supporting the arts.


When the First Citizens State Bank built an addition at its downtown Whitewater facility, the design included an area to be used as an art gallery.


“We thought it would add to the aesthetics of the bank as well as provide an opportunity for local artists to display their works in the community,” said Ken Knuteson, senior vice president of First Citizens State Bank.


Until the Whitewater Cultural Arts Center opened last year, local artists had few options to show their creations, Knuteson said.


“There simply were no public venues (in the city),” he said.


In Lake Geneva, M&I Bank, 410 Broad St., is featuring the works of Dawn Kist, a painter and photographer.


The current show at the Whitewater First Citizens bank features the works of aero photographer Chris Wawro, who owns Aero-Fotografik in East Troy.


The bank’s gallery has become an incentive for Wawro to do more gallery shows, he said.


“The people at the bank have responded positively to the display,” Wawro said. “They enjoyed it. I’ve got a pretty good variety of stuff there that will appeal to a lot of people.”



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