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Art co-op thrives in Crosslake

The Cross Lake Co-op Art Gallery in the Crosslake Town Square has been in existence for seven years. The store showcases the work of about 14 artists. Submitted photo

The Crosslake Co-op Art Gallery in the Crosslake Town Square has been in existence for seven years and is going strong—in the summer months.

Mary Wolke of Crosslake started the art co-op store when she saw a need for a gallery/store in the lakes area tourist city. The co-op features locally made artwork from about 14 artists.

Wolke said the artists create their artwork right at the store and then have it displayed. Each artist volunteers to staff their store, as it is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day through the end of August. The artists volunteer a few days per month and are responsible for all sales in the gallery.

Many of the artists demonstrate their techniques during the day. The products offered include pottery, jewelry, watercolor paintings, acrylic paintings, oil paintings, cards, quilts, purses, platters and sculptures. Woodworking is prevalent as well with benches, tables, plant stands, coffee tables, signs, carved bowls, intarsia (patterns using different colors), cribbage boards and other carvings and furniture.

"The art products are mostly one of a kind and are great for gifts, souvenirs or for the home," Wolke said. "Many of these artists have been creating artwork for many years, so the products are high quality but yet very affordable."

Wolke said her family owned a cabin in Crosslake for 35 years. When she retired from teaching art at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, she moved to Crosslake. She summers in Crosslake and winters in Arizona. She also teaches painting classes part-time in Crosslake and in Arizona.

Wolke said traveling between the states allows her to visit many cities and enjoy art galleries.

"I believe local artists reflect the nature of their community and felt there was a need for a gallery in Crosslake," she said. "Art galleries are closing every year and there is always a demand for artists to show their work."

When Wolke moved to Crosslake she found a perfect vacant spot for the co-op store. The store opened and has grown every year.

"I wouldn't survive in the winter," Wolke said on having the store be open year-round. "My best months are July and August."

Wolke said when she first opened she was open during the weekdays in September, but realized soon there was not enough foot traffic to keep the store open.

Wolke said, due to space, she accepts a limited number of new juried artists each year.

"During the summer there is a new artist who walks into the store every week," Wolke said of artists who want to be part of the co-op.

She critiques their work, and if there is a spot open in the store, they are allowed to display their work.

"All of the artists find it rewarding to show and sell our work to the public. No one here makes a living off their artwork. Prices are not high—we just want to sell our work so we can make more."

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