When I think of the hotbeds of artistic talent, my mind often drifts to either coast or beyond, sailing to Europe or Asia….really, any place but the humble, earthy Midwest. We’re a practical people; it’s part of the fabric of our being, and art–well, art is inherently impractical. It exists only to be beautiful. It is never useful, never functional. And it definitely should never be used to hold, say, soup. Taking issue with that idea is Grand Hand Gallery owner Ann Ruhr Pifer, whose gallery prominently features Upper Midwestern artists, fine arts and also fine crafts. “We try not to get hung up on traditional definitions,” she explains. “Even if it’s a potter that makes functional things, there’s no way you could do that without an aesthetic sense of what you’re doing.”
While The Grand Hand Gallery does carry paintings, it also devotes much of its space to ceramics, which Pifer feels are the area’s specialties. Functional ceramics make wonderful gifts, and they’re also a gateway to developing an appreciation, and finding one’s own individual taste in art. Pifer begins, “A mug–that’s often the first thing that they’ll buy, and then they’ll say, ‘I never realized how different it was to have something hand-made. That’s the mug that I want my coffee in.’” She continues, “It’s really different, and it makes you happy, and it makes your life better to have these beautiful, hand-made things that you can use in your daily life.”
As one of the area’s only fine craft galleries, it was also important to Pifer to have a broad price range. Certainly there are paintings and ceramics done by nationally and even internationally-renowned artists, and those are priced accordingly. But if you’re looking just to spruce up your home on a budget, it’s still possible to find something unique to take home, like hand-made glass earrings for $15, or an inlaid wooden bookmark for $7. The Grand Hand Gallery’s jewelry artists also have made beautiful commitment rings for GLBT couples, and its selection of both fine arts and fine crafts is constantly changing. Although the gallery does feature the work of some of their core local artists throughout their careers, it also rotates in pieces from artists across the country to keep things fresh and engaging for collectors.
The Grand Hand Gallery is located at 619 Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Local artists who are interested in opportunities with the gallery may submit materials by mail or online to firstname.lastname@example.org. New artwork is considered twice a year, each March and September.
Name of Company: The Grand Hand Gallery
Year Founded: 2004
President/CEO: Ann Ruhr Pifer
Number of Employees: 7
Phone and website: 651-312-1122; www.thegrandhand.com