CEDAR RAPIDS — Anne Stamats believes art has power.
She vividly recalls weeping when she saw Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” in person.
“I think you have to see art in person to truly appreciate it,” she said. “And I’ve said before that if art isn’t important, why does it have so much power?”
While Stamats doesn’t believe that art always has to make you cry, she does want to ensure that viewing art is a moving experience.
“I always try to engage the viewer. It’s active, not passive,” she said.
She hopes visitors to Black Earth Gallery, her contemporary art gallery located in the heart of Cedar Rapids’ NewBo District, will have a powerful experience.
“I have a somewhat old business model in that I only show original art, no reproductions,” Stamats said, noting the store does not have a gift-shop quality.
She represents artists from Chicago, Key West, Denver, and New York, as well as local and regional artists.
“They all started here or grew up here,” she said. “I choose the artists very carefully.”
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Stamats, who has worked in the art world for many years, opened her own gallery nearly seven years ago. Originally located in a second floor space in the Cherry Building, Stamats decided to move to her current location, behind Lu’s Deli on Third Street, about two years ago.
“I felt the need to be in a ground-floor space to get that walk-in traffic,” she said. “I love the Cherry Building, but I had outgrown my space there. I saw this space and I called up the owner and said, ‘I’ll take it.’”
At Black Earth Gallery, visitors will find traditional and contemporary landscapes, figurative work, abstracts, sculptures, video, pop art and urban art. That includes work by her husband, Bill.
“I like to give the unexpected,” Stamats said. “Our shows are always themed because I like to mix up the artists I represent to make you think about the art in a different way.”
Shows open every couple months, kicking off with an opening reception during the NewBo First Thursday events.
The sole employee, Stamats fills her days taking care of many tasks related to the gallery — from curating shows, to handling the marketing, advertising, social media.
“I don’t know what I don’t do,” she laughed. “I have someone do my taxes and my accounting because I am not good at those things.”
Her gallery dogs — nine-month-olds Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollock and 11-year-old Doug — keep her company.
Stamats also makes time to talk with high school and college students about the business of art, from how to price your work to how to market your work and everything in between.
Stamats acknowledges that, even with the street traffic, buying art can be a slow process.
“I know most people aren’t going to walk in off the street and buy a piece of art. It takes a while,” she said.
She curates a variety of shows at the gallery each year to draw in new faces.
Perhaps her favorite part of the work, Stamats said, is her art consultation.
“The physical gallery space is like my showroom,” she said. “I love curating spaces.
“ A lot goes into what you choose and why. Budget is huge, but luckily here in the Midwest things are pretty affordable. Art is often the last thing we think about in a space, but it’s the first thing people see.”
When she’s not doing gallery work, Stamats is heavily involved in the arts scene in the Cedar Rapids community. She currently serves as co-director of the NewBo Arts Festival and manages the 2x2xU public art project.
She worked to orchestrate the Overalls All Over project a few years ago and is in the planning stages of a new project involving sculpture on Third Street from the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex through NewBo.
The Stamats family was connected to Grant Wood, and Anne is related to Marvin Cone through marriage on her side of the family.
“I am an advocate for art in cities,” she said of her volunteer work. “And I have a long history with art and artists. Art is gushing through my family’s veins. So this work is a passion for me. It just has to be a part of my life.”
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At a glance
• Owner: Anne Stamats
• Company: Black Earth Gallery
• Address: 1010 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Phone: (319) 431-2669