We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Weygand and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Amanda, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Open Space Gallery has created a home for all creatives in our community. The gallery space features a new artist every month, giving artists a chance to curate, hang, and show their work in a professional setting. We have an artisan shop where local makers can sell their smaller pieces, and we have a studio space where we have local artists teaching their talents to our community! The space in inclusive and inspiring. We have worked very hard to help our community grow in so many ways. One of our event, Third Friday, is a art market including all of our downtown. We have artists fill-in Madison Street, music, restaurants serving artisan cocktails, small businesses stay open late. It had really brought our entire community together! We have also helped our city decorate parks for the holidays, as well as help organize other events in the community like the Kites in Flight Festival. I bring my kids create tent to a lot of the towns events too, where we offer a free craft for children. Bringing our community together through the arts is one of my biggest drives, I am always looking for ways to keep growing our tribe and helping in anyway I can.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have always wanted to be an artist or involved in the arts in some way. When I was in high school I became interested in photography mostly, so when it came time for college I decided to focus on that and see where it took me. I had only taken photos with disposable cameras before starting at Columbia College in Chicago, so stepping into the darkroom there was a pretty overwhelming feeling, but it felt right. I fell in love instantly. I loved the hands on approach, the tactility of the chemicals, watching my photos emerge, and experimenting with the process. Unfortunately, my time at Columbia was cut short and I dropped out and moved back to my rural town of Ottawa. Some time passed and I had my first son in 2008. When he turned 5 I decided I wanted to go back to school and finish my degree. This time, I chose Illinois State University, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. The classes were small, the professors were amazing, and the students were so accepting and became family. While there I started to develop my own style. I combined two art forms I loved and started making sculptures from photos. I spent a lot of time in the darkroom and came out with a 3-d house made from photographs. It is probably one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever made. I created the hose from collaged photographs, so after it was finished I dove deeper into collage. I began experimenting with different techniques in the darkroom. I was really starting to find myself as an artist. My junior year at ISU I found out I was pregnant with my youngest son. It was a bit of a surprise, and my doctor advised me not to use the darkroom chemicals while pregnant so I had a pretty large hurdle to overcome. I was in a painting class at the time, just starting out. I never really enjoyed drawing or painting in high school because all of my projects were realistic, but at ISU I began painting more abstractly, focusing on little moments instead of the whole picture. I learned how to use a pallet knife, and that was a game changer. When I couldn’t get the tactility from the darkroom anymore, I started to play around with painting on my photographs. I tried different papers and textures and started feeling the same way I did when I was in the darkroom. I developed a style combining the two mediums and it is a style I continue to work in today. After I had my son and could go back around the chemicals of the darkroom, I thought I would get right back in and work with film again but I decided I wanted to see where this new mixed media style was going to take me. I continued to experiment with and fine tune my process. My senior year of college I had a solo exhibition to complete my BFA. I decided to create the mixed media pieces instead of sculptural darkroom images. The BFA program at ISU was such a safe space for me as an artist. I was able to have my own studio, there were other artists with studios next to mine that talked me through my ideas, they became my tribe. Then I hit another hurdle about 3 months before graduation and my solo exhibition. My house was hit by a tornado. It was the scariest moment of my life. I was at school when it happened just finishing up a great critique in my sculpture class. I went up to the studio after class and checked my phone only to see a million calls and texts from all of my family. I had no idea it had happened, but I quickly found out that everyone was safe. Our house had a lot of damage but it was still there. I took a week away from school but when I came back I had a lot of guilt. I felt like there were so many bigger things I needed to be doing instead of working on my art. I felt selfish. My family encouraged me to finish, I was a few months away from graduation. So I took all that emotion and put it into my artwork. I made one of my favorite series of work that year. I’m so thankful I had the support I did. I needed to create that work to mentally get through all the curveballs life was handing me. While I was working in the BFA studios and thinking about graduation and leaving my friends, I began to worry about what I would do to continue my practices when school was over. My friend, Justine and I talked about creating a makers space and we developed a business plan. We looked at a few buildings and nothing seemed right at the time. Then in 2018 I had a few career changes. I walked past a building that was for rent and it was completely gutted. The landlord was willing to build to suit. I walked through and at first thought the space was too small for my ideas but knew I had to start somewhere. I let them know I was interested but there were others ahead of me so I didn’t think anything would come of it. A few months later I got the call that the building was mine if I wanted it. It was quite a thrill, I don’t think I was ready for it at the time but when are you ever ready for something like that? I jumped in feet first and opened Open Space Art Gallery and Studios. A makers Space where we show work, host workshops, give artists a place to create and offer our community a home for creativity. Growing with the gallery has been the best experience and being able to give artists (and myself) the inclusion and community that I longed for is the most rewarding and amazing feeling. The gallery has really served the community in many ways through its 3 and a half years of being open. We have started a Third Friday Downtown Market that has grown every year. We fill Madison Street with artists and music and the local businesses stay open late too! Its a fun event for the whole family! Everything I have worked to create at Open Space has always been guided by inclusion, acceptance, and growth. I want all the artists of any age or skill level in our area to have the opportunity to feel seen. To give our community a space to have fun and to express our ideas.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would definitely start with my favorite hike at Matthiessen Lake to the Dells area. It’s a great hike with multiple waterfalls, canyons, and caves. Then we would go through Utica and grab some coffee and breakfast at Nonnies Bakery, they have the best breakfast around. After that we would walk through the shops in Utica, there are so many cute boutiques. For Lunch we would go to Lodi Taphouse for some great food and the best craft beer selection. Then we would spend the next day in Ottawa. Hiking at Dayton Bluffs and then shopping downtown. There’s a beautiful Indie Bookstore, Prairie Fox Books, an amazing thrift shop Ottawa Community Thrift, and the best coffee at the Ottawa Bakery!

Some of my favorite shops are Iconic, Laurilea’s Unique Junk Boutique, City Folk Urban Decor, a Mess of Things, Heartland by Hand, and Lady’s and Gents. We’d of course have to stop in Open Space Art Gallery and take a class! My favorites are the Oil Painting Workshop or the Stained Glass Workshop. Afterwards we would go get dinner at BASH (Burger and Sushi House) Their Beet Salad is my new favorite. We would stop in CatsEye Wine bar for a few after dinner drinks and great music. The next day would be spent Kayaking! If you don’t have your own, you can rent one from Starved Rock Kayak. Our area is filled with amazing shops, great food, serene areas, and so many creative spaces!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many amazingly motivating people and organizations that have helped me to get to where I am today. First and foremost is my family. My mom has helped me every step of the way, she encourages me constantly and is always there for me when I need her. My Dad is the hardest working person I know and he has instilled a strong work ethic in me. Without that I probably would have given up long ago. My sister, who is always willing to listen to me when I need her. My fiancé, who supported my decision to open a gallery when we were not fully prepared to take that leap. And my children, who inspire me every single day to keep pushing and keep creating. I also owe a lot of my success to my professors at ISU. They were never intimidated by my ideas and always encouraged me to think bigger. My friends also deserve to be recognized for helping me every step of the way. They help me install artwork, buy tickets to classes, help me paint the studio, they have endless support for me and without each and every one of them I would not be where I am. Thank you Jocelyn, Chelsea, Chelsie, Chayna, Shanna, Lexi, Morgan, Cassie, Jessica, Lindsey, Sadie, Krystle, Aubrey, Karli, and everyone else who supports my dream.

Website: osartstudios.com

Instagram: instagram.com/openspaceartgallery

Facebook: facebook.com/openspaceartgallery

Yelp: http://yelp.to/81VYusK44pb

Youtube: https://youtube.com/channel/UC9IGKiXUvxpE9Y9DatDu7SQ

Image Credits
Lex Poulakos Photographer

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.