The booming local arts and culture scene will soon welcome Joseph Nease, a Kansas City, Mo., gallery owner, to its midst. His Joseph Nease Gallery (version 2.0) is a contemporary art gallery set to open Oct. 21 in the former Arthur’s Formal Wear building in downtown Duluth at 23 W. First St.

Nease previously owned a gallery in Kansas City with his wife Karen, who is a painter.

While Joe and Karen loved Kansas City, they were ready for a change and began camping and hiking in this area during 1994. The two decided to move to Duluth in 2013 and to try their hand at starting a new gallery with some of the same vibe and style as their Kansas City space.

One of the selling points of their final building choice was its exterior. According to Joe, “The exterior façade has art deco-style brick patterning accentuated by a floral motif of terra cotta. Adaptive re-use of the building is a driving concept in its renovation for both the interior and exterior.”

He has been supervising the renovation of the new Duluth gallery space for several months. While the vintage 1901 building was in good raw shape, new work includes a new roof, a new entrance, interior reconfiguration of walls, painting and track lighting.

The gallery “will have the look and feel of a New York-style gallery while incorporating the original industrial construction of local old-growth timbers and massive beams and columns forged with iron from the Iron Range,” he said. 

Nease noted it will feature exhibitions of painting, sculpture, installation and new media by artists both regional and national. He plans to use his Kansas City connections to bring the work from artists there to Duluth and the reverse.

Future exhibition plans include solo and group art showcasing the work of mid- and advanced-career artists and select emerging artists. Nease plans to provide educational and social opportunities to art lovers and collectors, as well as those visiting Lake Superior and the Northland.

Nease explained, “As part of our gallery, we are also starting the ‘Minnesota Art Wall’ on the side of our building that faces one-way West First Street. This will be a juried competition in future years and will feature the work of a selected artist on a 16 x 10 foot ‘sign’ and provide a modest stipend. We are doing this as a benefit to Minnesota and regional artists.”

Kirsten Aune will be the first mural artist. She is an artist and designer specializing in textiles who studied at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and now lives on the shores of Lake Superior.

Iowa-based Matthew Kluber, James Woodfill from Kansas City, and Duluthian Kathy McTavish are the featured artists in the gallery’s inaugural exhibition entitled “Three States.” According to Nease, “‘Three States’ reflects the different materials the artists use, the different physical states in which the work exists and the different locales where each of the artists resides.”

Matthew Kluber, a professor at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, said he explores “the intersection of painting and digital technology . . . where the physical world (traditional media) meets the virtual world (new media). Digital video is attached, by means of projection, to the fixed object of a painting, illuminating it with a new hybrid color space.”Kluber added, “I am a big fan of Duluth and love visiting here. I showed some of my work in the Kansas City gallery and am excited to have the chance to be one of the first artists to show work in the new gallery here.”

James Woodfill graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1980, and he began teaching there in 1998. Woodfill makes sculptures, installations and public art works that often include light, sound, video or kinetic elements.

“I have known Joe and Karen for a long time. I had wonderful experiences showing my work in the Kansas City gallery, and I hope my work will be an exciting addition to the city’s cultural repertoire with my work shown in the Duluth gallery,” Woodfill said.

McTavish describes herself as a “composer, coder and media artist who specializes in creating interactive, multi-channel video and sound environments that are in live performance, installation and online environments. I blend improvisational cello, found sound, text, data and abstract, layered, moving images.”

McTavish had met Karen a few months ago and was thrilled when Joe called and invited her to show her work in the new gallery.

“I am excited to see a bridge to a new ‘sister city,’ Kansas City, through the gallery. Joe has a strong and distinctive curator’s voice. His gallery will add another facet to the area’s art scene.”

It is Nease’s goal to be both successful as a gallery and to be supportive of artists. “Great artists need a great place to show their work,” he said.