The Ground Floor: Art and life converge for Cedar Rapids artist, gallery owner

Art space part of up-and-coming NewBo District

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For Bill and Anne Stamats, it doesn’t really matter whether art imitates life or vice versa. It all blends together for the Cedar Rapids couple.

“I sometimes dream of the titles" for her husband's paintings, Anne Stamats said, remembering the first one she named — an acrylic painting on Japanese paper called, “She Knew Why She Dreamed of Them.”

Other Bill Stamats paintings with inspired names include, “Her Long Arms Could Reach Them All,” showing an octopus waiving its tentacles, and “The Moon Was his Flame,” portraying a butterfly at night.

Anne said her husband has been an artist his whole life. But, with his job at a local marketing and branding firm consuming his days, she found herself alone many evenings.

“I’m an art widow,” she said, “because he makes art in all his free time.”

So, with 13 years of marketing and communication skills under her belt, Anne decided to get involved with her husband’s passion and become his agent. While still displaying his work in the Wiederspan Gallery, and formerly at the  Corner House Gallery, both in Cedar Rapids, Anne launched a website last year to garner her husband an audience beyond Eastern Iowa.

Then, on Sept. 1, she opened her own gallery designed to feature a handful of artists in addition to Bill. Black Earth Gallery fills a second floor studio in the NewBo District's Cherry Building.

“It’s awesome to be down there,” Anne said about the up-and-coming area ravaged in the 2008 flood. “Everyone is super friendly and supportive …. People have been waiting for something like this to happen in their town.”

People want a cultural center close to home, she said, and Black Earth Gallery aims to help fulfill that mission by providing original work from four local artists and an independent jewelry designer.

Along with her husband, Anne represents Eric Anfinson, Grant William Thye, Shane McCallister and Yvette Craddock through her gallery.

Because gallery purchases can’t always sustain an artist, Anne Stamats also works as a corporate art consultant to promote her clients. Using her knack for decor in business environments, she advises new companies wanting to decorate with artwork from her collection.

“I’ve been doing proposals for businesses and corporations,” she said, adding that her local connections have helped her. “Since I grew up here, I’m not limited only to my gallery.”

She plans to host special shows for visiting talent, and she’ll take her artists on the road — setting up “Black Earth shows” in cities such as Des Moines or Minneapolis.

The gallery is open every afternoon, Tuesday through Friday, but Anne said she also shows art by appointment.

“So far we’ve been pretty busy,” she said, adding that much of her business has come through appointments or business clients. “We don’t get a lot of foot traffic yet because the NewBo area is up and coming, and the City Market isn’t open yet.”

But, she said, business is expected to increase as the district springs to life. Someday, Anne Stamats said, she might even consider adding to the showroom and taking on new artists.

“But right now, to get off the ground, I want to do just these,” she said.

Owner: Anne Stamats

Company: Black Earth Gallery

Address: 329 10th Ave. SE, Studio 231, Cedar Rapids.

Phone: (319) 431-2669


Hours: Noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, with occasional shows and events in the evening, and by appointment.

Favorite piece of art in your studio? “She Knew Why She Dreamed of Them,” an acrylic painting on Japanese paper, imbedded with jewels on clay board, by her husband, Bill Stamats.

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