Galleries come and galleries go, most often blossoming in good times and fading when the economy sours or the founders burn out.
Not Circa. For the past 25 years it has shown contemporary, mostly abstract, art in downtown Minneapolis. It has moved around a bit; staffers have come and gone, but over the years Circa has stayed true to its roots in beautifully crafted, thoughtfully conceived original paintings and sculpture.
About two years ago, Teresa Engeltjes (pronounced Engle-chez) stepped in as gallery director. A veteran of New Mexico’s Santa Fe art scene, where she worked for five years, Engeltjes has maintained Circa’s polished style while keeping an eye out for expansion opportunities.
Furniture is one of her most appealing additions. Rather than add to the gallery’s roster of about 25 mostly Midwestern artists, she invites Twin Cities furniture designers and galleries to share Circa’s display space from time to time. Both Omforme, which specializes in rebuilding and reimagining castoff classics, and the Forage Modern Workshop, which highlights local designers and rehabs vintage modern, have shown at Circa where their offbeat styles complement the gallery’s sensitive wall works.
Engeltjes nurtured her collaborative instincts in the Southwest.
“It goes back to this community sense,” she said. “Of course you had competition in Santa Fe, but because it is so small, if you couldn’t help the clients, you sent them to someone who could, because we want to help the clients and the artists, too.”
While growing up in the northwest Iowa town of Archer, pop. 131 (up from 126 in 2000), Engeltjes first planned to be an artist. “But then I discovered there were more talented people, so I got into journalism.” After graduating from Iowa State University in Ames, she ran a photography gallery for a time and then headed for Santa Fe.
Family and friends drew her back to the Twin Cities.
“I like the art scene here,” she said. “This is very much a town where artists work and sell out of their studios, so I’m very encouraged to see more commercial galleries coming onto the scene.”
For its 25th anniversary, Circa is planning a monthlong juried show open to every Minnesota artist in any medium. Juror Chris Atkins, now a curator at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul, will pick just 25 pieces that will be on view Nov. 7 through Dec. 5.
But first there’s the “River to Lake Gallery Crawl,” another new venture in which a dozen Minneapolis galleries — located between the Mississippi River and Lake Street — are coordinating openings Oct. 1.
“It’s about getting new people into the galleries,” Engeltjes said. “We want people to come in just to look. That’s the only way people learn. Come on in; the door is open.”