Levee Contemporary co-owner Andrew Blanchard has a tape measure in one hand and coffee in another as he prepares for the work that needed to be done to transform the space into what it is now, top. The space is described by its owners as “clean and comforting, offering a concise interior free of clutter. submitted and Joe Schulz photos
by Joe Schulz
When Mississippi native Shane Foreman purchased a farm in Princeton, he never imagined that two years later he would be running a downtown art gallery with his brother-in-law.
Foreman was out to dinner with Horseradish Kitchen and Market owner Matt Trotter one night, when Trotter told him the property at 518 Water St. was for sale.
While he’s always liked art, Foreman hasn’t lived and breathed it for the last 20 years.
His brother-in-law Andrew Blanchard has.
In early 2019, the duo purchased the property and began renovations.
THE TRANSFORMATION INSIDE isn’t the only one Levee Contemporary underwent as it also remodeled the outside of the building as seen by these before, top, and after, bottom, photos. submitted photos
Blanchard, an associate professor of studio art at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, handled the selection of artwork for the inaugural show, while Foreman handled the renovation.
“Andrew and I were on parallel tracks, running as fast as we could to get [the gallery] open,” Foreman said.
He hired a contractor from Green Lake, who helped overhaul the interior and exterior of the building.
“We completely changed the look and the feel of the space,” Foreman said.
After months of renovations, Levee Contemporary hosted its first art show July 3.
The exhibition was titled “Weather Appropriate” and was designed as a celebration of summer, featuring the work of 14 artists from around the country.
“We wanted to have an overload of different aesthetics, styles and price points, and to offer a lot for our first exhibit,” Blanchard said.
The gallery is open Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“When you’re in this gallery, you could be in New York, you could be in Chicago, you can be in Rome, you can be in London,” Foreman said. “It was important to us for the community to have exposure to that type of gallery. We wanted this big city gallery for the local community.”
The gallery will hold three to five art shows a year, with artwork inside changing before the start of a new show.
Each piece of artwork inside the gallery is for sale, both in person and online.
“When a work sells, we split [the profit] with the artists,” Foreman said. “We’ve tried to be artist friendly, so we give them a higher percentage than is typical in the market and we make sure that we pay them quickly.”
While the work in the gallery is for sale, visitors do not have to pay a cover charge when browsing.
Blanchard noted the choice to not charge patrons was made to give everyone the opportunity to engage with visual art on a socially conscious and publicly engaging level.
Blanchard’s connections with artists nationwide have been instrumental in finding pieces to display in the gallery
“You want to expose people that you’ve had good rapport with in the past and bring them to a different market,” he said.
He seeks work that reflect the Green Lake area, looking for commonalities between art pieces from across the country.
“I think wildlife is a big commonality so a lot of works deal with the animal kingdom and nature,” Blanchard said.
Foreman noted since the gallery opened, the reception from the community has been positive.
“We had well over 100 people for our opening,” he said. “I think people have enjoyed having something a little different in the local community.”
A group of patrons gathers for Levee Contemporary’s first art exhibit in early July. submitted photo
Artwork in the current exhibit will be taken down after Aug. 25, with a new display set for the end of the month.
“Parental Advisory” will premier Friday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. and will explore the narrative behind the human experience.
Blanchard is responsible for selecting the theme for each exhibit and chose to focus on the human experience because he’s been surrounded by people in various stages of life.
“There’s lots of apathy in the air right now and we want to replace that with a little more empathy,” Blanchard said. “I’m very interested in exhibiting aging in a thoughtful manner.”
He noted “Parental Advisory” will feature more negative space between pieces of art than the inaugural exhibit did.
The gallery aims to show a range of art from around the country, displaying a variety of conceptual themes, materials and processes.
“Visual art can be a reflection of the natural world and the social world we live in,” Blanchard said. “I think you can process a lot by looking at art.”
Leading up to the 2020 presidential election, the gallery will feature a politically themed exhibit next summer.
Blanchard hopes the exhibit can breed common understanding between both sides of the political spectrum in a tactful way.
“I think every effort made for folks to talk and reflect, instead of argue and be aggressive, is for the better,” he said.
Beyond being a place for civil discussion, Foreman hopes the gallery can contribute to the revitalization of Princeton’s downtown.
“There are people that have been here a long time before us that were pioneers in making the Princeton downtown what it is,” he said. “We’re contributing by making a beautiful building and hopefully starting a viable business that people can come, visit and enjoy.”