For the past 12 years, OASIS Fine Art & Craft has been home to Harrisonburg’s first artist cooperative. Begun in 2000, OASIS stands for “Our Art Space in the Shenandoah Valley” and has served as just that for many artists over the years.
The cooperative was the brain child of Rockingham Fine Arts, now the Shenandoah Council for the Arts. The desire to create the co-op existed long before 2000, but RFA finally found its opportunity when the Sycamore Gallery closed its doors. With the help of generous donations from the owners and support from Harrisonburg City Council, OASIS was able to open within the year.
Located at 103 S. Main Street, OASIS strives to not only provide a venue for its members to display and sell their work, but also to fill a variety of other needs in the community. Throughout the year, OASIS offers an abundance of art classes – everything from wood carving to t-shirt art! – and holds concerts, poetry readings, and monthly featured exhibits.
I stopped in this week and luckily, the man behind the counter was Phil James – previously a JMU art history professor and one of the founding members of OASIS. He was able to tell me a little bit about the mission behind the co-op and how the gallery runs. James explained that because OASIS is a collective gallery, artisans pay a membership fee and work about 10 hours a month, roughly two afternoons. In return, the members get a wonderful space to display their art and a percentage of profits made. The co-op itself is a non-profit, so the remainder goes to keeping the gallery up and running.
At the moment, there are about 35 members, each with their own unique specialty, providing OASIS with almost every type of art and craft you can imagine. James typically works with ceramics, something he began to focus on after retiring from JMU. Also in the gallery that day was Melanie Schaefer, another OASIS member, who I caught working on her wire-wrapped sterling silver jewelry.
The current exhibit featured at OASIS is called “Turned and Altered” by Rudy Tucker and features a variety of the Bridgewater artist’s pottery. Tucker focuses on creating utilitarian wood-fired stoneware with an array of cultural influences, including Korean, Japanese, British Folk, and Early American. The pieces have an earthy quality about them, highlighted by the natural color palette and organic subject matter, like plants and animals. Stop by OASIS throughout the month of April to see more of Tucker’s work.
Starting Wednesday, April 2nd and continuing through the 27th, a second exhibit will be opening at the gallery – “Peace and Transformation” by David Kreider. The history and conflicts of his homeland of Israel-Palestine have heavily influenced the artist’s works. Kreider uses multiple mediums in his art, incorporating photography, stained glass, and even pyrography (also known as wood burning) into his pieces. The exhibit tells the story of the artist’s journey from his native home to now. Olive and earth tone portraits contrast with serene landscapes in vibrant colors, making the art work as diverse as the mediums Kreider uses to create them. On Friday, April 6th, the gallery will host an opening reception for the exhibit from 5 to 7 pm as part of First Fridays, with a talk by the artist at 6pm and music by Chatham Street.
Exhibits aren’t the only thing OASIS has coming up on the calendar; there’s music too! Phil James told me that it all began with members of the community coming to the gallery to “jam” on Friday evenings. These impromptu “jam sessions” have evolved into small concerts, usually featuring regional music and held on most Friday nights. This Friday, March 30th from 6 to 8 pm, OASIS will be hosting a free in-house concert by Steve Smith.
Stop in soon to see all OASIS has to offer or check out the gallery’s brand new blog for future events, exhibits, and classes!
Katina Stevenson is the Promotions Intern for Spring 2012. She is a senior Communication Studies major with a concentration in Public Relations at James Madison University.
All photos © 2012 Katina Stevenson.