DeKalb area artists struggle to start galleries

By Olivia Willoughby

DeKalb area artists and gallery owners say they struggle to start galleries and struggle keeping their doors open.

Dan Grych, owner of The Art Box, 308 E. Lincoln Highway, said the reason artists struggle deals with their lifestyle.

“Most artists will work a regular job so they can eat and pay their bills,” he said. “Whatever they can make by selling their art would be the cream. It is no different now than it was for decades, even centuries.”

Grych also said the economy’s health makes no difference to artists, as they are affected more by a populace’s knowledge of art.

“If people are educated in the arts, like many people in our country aren’t, then it would be easier for artists to sell their work,” Grych said. “Having an art gallery for about nine years, it surprised me how many people don’t know what they are looking at. I believe it is up to me to educate them if they are willing to listen.”

Another issue artists face is finding support.

“I think that people who are looking to go into their endeavors, they need to have a following of supporters,” Grych said.

After working at NIU for 21 years, Grych spent 12 years working for NIU Media Services and made photo slides for the art department. He said this work for the university helped him build support and enabled him to open The Art Box.

“People were already familiar with me and my high standard of quality,” Grych said. “When I opened the DeKalb Gallery, I had to offer picture framing. I knew that to have a business only to sell art would be like shooting myself in the foot.”

Adrienne Soroka, owner of the online gallery Soroka’s Fine Things,, said she agreed artists need a lot of support to begin a business.

“People need to know you,” she said. “I’m fairly new … and I represent artists from the New York area. Even though they’re famous there, it doesn’t mean much to people in the Midwest.”

David Galica, senior technician and developer at Snare Systems, 143 E. Lincoln Highway, said he unsuccessfully tried to open his own gallery.

“There was not enough start-up capital for employees and the building,” Galica said. “I worked with a man named Ben Meyer for Arterior Arts Collective. It ran for five months but now it’s gone under.”

Galica said his interest in opening a gallery stemmed from a desire to put artwork online.

“That would give Arterior a little more uniqueness,” he said. “It’d be like a virtual gallery.”

Galica said he expected opening the gallery would be tough, but it did not get off the ground.

“I expected we’d start off working five days a week and have people bring in their art,” Galica said. “We ended up letting it sit on the shelf. It’s disappointing. But I’m not going to stop because of one failure.”

Galica said if the opportunity ever returns, he will continue to pursue opening a gallery.

Despite these struggles, Grych and Galica both said having skills in art can be applied in several other professions.

“There are so many skills that can apply to different workplaces,” Grych said. “People have to make a commitment to themselves. If they have to work because of student loans or bills, there’s no shame in that.”