Melinda Janssen has been obsessed with art for the duration of her life. The 27-year-old recently started a venture that allows her a place to showcase art from local people as well as have a space to create.
Welkin Art Gallery & Studio, 100 Water St., officially opened Aug. 28 in conjunction with the local Art Walk sponsored by the Arts Alliance of Greater Lake Mills. Janssen and her partner Devin Maupin, who both live in the community, were asked if the gallery wanted to participate event and determined it would be the perfect day to open.
“It was a great event to have a grand opening on because everyone was out looking at art,” she said.
Currently, there are approximately 14 artists with work displayed at the store, plus a couple pieces by Janssen and Maupin. There are a variety of mediums from sculpture and photography to paintings and wood carving.
A call for artists was posted on the Welkin Art Gallery & Studio Facebook page and the response has been amazing, the gallery owner said.
“Lake Mills has an incredible art community as does the surrounding communities and small towns rarely get the representation that they should for the art that comes out of them,” Janssen said. “We have absolutely incredible artists showing.”
She said some of the artists may not get as much exposure if they didn’t have a place like Welkin to display and sell their artwork.
“As much as it is a gallery, it’s also a store. We want to help artists gain visibility and money,” Janssen said.
Welkin Art Gallery & Studio is not only meant to be an accessible location for artists to sell their work, but it provides the opportunity for shoppers to find amazing pieces at affordable prices.
“I know that especially in galleries, art is not an accessible commodity to a lot of people to buy,” she said.
All of the artists are on consignment; the gallery is given a commission for each sale with the creator receiving the rest of the money.
Having her own business is something Janssen has found appealing since her time in college, but she never had a specific direction for the type of business she would operate.
“I had a few different ideas. I do a lot of hand lettering and calligraphy and hand-painted signs and thought maybe one day I’ll have a shop for that. It was a lot of ‘maybe one day’ situations,” she said.
Now that ‘maybe one day’ has arrived in the form of a gallery store, Janssen is already looking at what the future at Welkin could encompass such as hosting art classes led by herself, Maupin or another local artist.
“The pandemic has been so interesting because as much as there are struggles that have gone along with it, getting this space wouldn’t have been possible without us being home all the time,” she said.
Artist in residence
The gallery doubles as an office and creative space for Janssen, who is employed as a graphic designer for a company located in Brookfield.
Janssen and Maupin acquired the space about a year ago. Their current apartment landlord owns the Water Street property and was aware the couple had been looking for a studio space.
“Almost everything you see was in our apartment before it came here,” she said, gesturing to the studio and office portion of the room. “With both of us being freelance artists we were constantly looking for studio space for ourselves.”
Janssen, from Cross Plains, attended Middleton High School and said the school had an incredible art program that explored multiple mediums. She later attended UW-Stout where she earned a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design.
“I put my hands in as much as I possibly can learn. I love hand lettering and calligraphy… it’s developed into a whole passion for me. I’m also working on a few oil paintings right now; I dabble in watercolor every now and then. Pottery, printmaking, I might get into slipcast ceramics soon,” she said.
The artist recalls loving learning since childhood, particularly things that can be done by hand.
And as much as Janssen enjoys having a career in graphic design, it cannot compare to the process of physically creating art by hand.
“I just love being able to make art using my hands,” she said.