Art gallery moves into new space

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- JoAnn Eiswirth,  president of the River Region Art Association, left, is pictured with, from right, Betty Marks, Donna Redmann and Kathy Bourgeois in the RRAA's new gallery space on La. 30 in Gonzales.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- JoAnn Eiswirth, president of the River Region Art Association, left, is pictured with, from right, Betty Marks, Donna Redmann and Kathy Bourgeois in the RRAA's new gallery space on La. 30 in Gonzales.

A city-owned, early 1900s railroad depot has been transformed into the parish’s newest art gallery.

Volunteers with River Region Art Association opened the Depot Gallery on La. 30 on Aug. 1, after closing the nonprofit group’s Gonzales Art Center across town.

“It’s the perfect spot for art,” association President JoAnn Eiswirth said.

The old gallery, Eiswirth said, was small and hard to find.

Eiswirth worked with the city of Gonzales, which owns the building next to the Ascension Chamber of Commerce office, to obtain a lease.

“We were so lucky the timing worked out,” she said.

The new location already is paying off for the group, as several pieces of art have been sold since the opening.

Three sales were made Friday, Eiswirth said.

She said the depot, which was built in 1906 by the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company and named after railroad builder William Edenborn, provides high-ceiling spaces to hang art.

More than 200 pieces of original art from 25 members are on display in the new gallery.

Association members painted walls, moved in cabinets and set up display areas in preparation for the opening.

A fresh coat of purple paint spruced up the gallery’s front door and the trim is painted a shade of blue “to represent the river flowing,” she said.

The gallery’s front room is filled with jewelry, three-dimensional art and paintings from members, and a display of work created by volunteers working each day.

On Friday, jewelry maker Emily Bowers was busy working on a sterling silver piece.

Bowers uses natural stones in many of her pieces. She purchases some of the stones from a lapidary school in Georgia, where she also takes classes on how to wrap the stones.

Inside the main gallery, Eiswirth explained her mixed-media, collage-style art is part of her current “loosening-up phase.”

Eiswirth, who lives on Francois Bayou in Gonzales, takes much of her inspiration from the birds she watches in her yard.

Eiswirth and first vice president Betty Marks said they are excited about the gallery’s new classroom, which they said will start hosting classes in September.

Marks, a retired librarian, said the classroom will be filled with resource materials, art supplies and spaces for instruction.

Starting Sept. 9, RRAA, which was formed in 1993 to bring artists and arts advocates together to improve public awareness of all art forms, is partnering with River Parishes Community College to offer noncredit classes.

The age levels of the classes range from adult to youth, ages 10 and above.

“This partnership between River Region Art Association and River Parishes Community College will bring opportunities for children and adults in the area who are seeking avenues to engage in the arts,” said Chrystal Lee, dean of academic studies at RPCC.

The classes will be held in two locations: at the gallery, 1008 La. 30, Gonzales; and at the community college campus, 7384 John LeBlanc Blvd., Sorrento.

Fees are $75 for association members and $85 for nonmembers. Supplies are not included.

RRAA’s new gallery will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday and a reception at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 5.

The public is invited to both events.

“This is an exciting time for us and we’re looking forward to the public getting to see the works of our great artists,” Eiswirth said.