GET OUT Contributor


Gilbert Visual Art League, the premier nonprofit community visual art group in the town, is thriving.

Members, both professional and amateur, credit it to the regular opportunities to exhibit their work and the monthly educational presentations by professional artists.

“I feel like the group is in a much better situation than it’s ever been,” said Jean Smith, vice president and one of the league’s long-standing members. “And it continues to grow.”

Current membership stands at nearly 60.

Being a member beats creating art in the solitary confines of a home studio. Critique is vital to improvement.

“I really enjoy the educational part of the meetings. We always have a presenter and we always have something to learn. The group is just like one big family. Everyone supports each other,” said Mary Opat, membership coordinator and a member for six years.

Opat and Smith each show three of their oil paintings during the league’s upcoming member art show that runs Saturday, Nov. 10, through Dec. 6 at HD South (formerly the Gilbert Historical Museum) in Downtown Gilbert. An opening reception is 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 10. The show is in Gallery 4, a space curated by Art Intersection of Gilbert.

Members will exhibit about 100 works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, mixed media and pastel, photography and 3-dimensional.

The juried fine-art show in the spring and the member show in the fall attract a huge following to HD South.

“For a community art group, their work is of very high quality,” said Kayla Kolar, president/CEO of HD South. “We do get visitors who come to HD South because they have heard about the show.  Everyone who sees the show raves about it. There is so little gallery space in Gilbert that this is a breath of fresh air.”

A few years ago, the league was challenged with finding spaces to exhibit and, at one point, was even meeting in Mesa. Then HD South stepped in.

The league pays a modest fee to hold its monthly meetings at the C.W. and Modene Neely Room in the museum center’s premises.

It also conducts the two annual art shows at Gallery 4, which previously was a space in the Heritage Court Building that Alan Fitzgerald of Art Intersection moved to HD South. Fitzgerald curates the space for most of the year except when the league has its shows.

“When we partnered with Alan Fitzgerald and Gallery 4, we were able to bring GVAL back home to Gilbert,” said Kolar, adding that the space has been modeled “to rival any gallery in the state.”

As a nonprofit, the league isn’t awash with cash. Annual membership dues are $40. The two shows pay about $2,000 in prizes and awards each year, including a fine-art award for Gilbert high school students. Sponsors, who may contribute in cash or kind are sought before each show.

“Financially, we bring in enough to cover our expenses but not much more,” Smith said. “We solicit prizes from a lot of the national art suppliers for our juried art show and have at least a dozen things donated for that each time. That helps us out financially.”

Involvement in the community always has been a part of GVAL’s mission.

“We are always looking for ways to increase our membership and visibility in the community,” said Judy Pechur, a member artist who paints in pastels and who volunteers to do public relations for the group.

Last November, it entered the Gilbert Days Parade, for which members created individual paintings that were made into a quilt to decorate the parade entry. Each spring, it participates in the Higley Unified School Districts Fine Arts Festival with art demonstrations and displays.

This month, the league participated in the Off the Street Festival in Downtown Gilbert with a booth to sell member work and offer demonstrations in portrait art.

In December, members are creating a large painted backdrop of a Christmas scene for the HD South Breakfast with Santa.

Members also exhibit and sell work at Mariposa Point of Gilbert assisted living facility.

They sell work at HD South gift shop, as well.