A new art gallery has opened in town, in a spot where you might not think to look. The Sower Gallery, filled with local art, is located inside Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church of Chaska’s public meeting space. You don’t have to attend a service to view the art, nor do you have to be an art connoisseur to appreciate what hangs on the walls. The gallery, which opened in October 2015, is an accessible communal space that reaches out to the surrounding arts community and beyond.
Susan Lince and her husband, John Hopkins, are the organizers and co-curators behind the gallery. They are both passionate artists who have been immersed in the art world for decades: Lince is an abstract painter with an art degree and a background in teaching art, and Hopkins is a realistic painter who has painted for 60 years in many different regions of the country. The duo teamed up with Rev. Dean J. Seal of Shepherd of the Hill Church to bring the gallery concept to life.
The gallery name and concept comes from the Bible—from the book of Matthew’s parable about sowing seeds into fertile ground. The Sower Gallery serves as fertile ground for artists and viewers alike. It provides an opportunity to start a conversation about art, inspiration and other ideas.
Seal’s expectations were exceeded by the first show. He was blown away by the impressive quality of work. He remembers four artists who had stopped painting because they had no community where they could share their work. Displaying their art in that first show inspired those artists to start painting again. “In my line of work, we call that a resurrection,” Seal says. “We resurrected their love of art.”
As co-curators and organizers, Lince and Hopkins are always thinking about what to curate next. With the exception of the biannual Spirit show, the gallery is not limited to spiritual themes and includes diverse subject matter. The first show featured 14 Chaska-area artists. Other offerings included a Minnesota-themed show, solo artist shows and a show that featured the artist’s work along with his or her story behind the creation.
The space is expanding beyond the visual arts, too. Recently, the gallery started hosting monthly authors’ gatherings where writers and poets come together to read, discuss and celebrate each other’s writing and published works.
“I think there’s time for people in that gallery to be able to contemplate, meditate and slow down,” Chaska artist Rick Kochenash says. Kochenash is a landscape painter who has been painting seriously since 1984. Over the years, he has shown in dozens of galleries, both locally and out of state. He has participated in two shows with the Sower Gallery, one of which was a solo show where he presented 50 of his oil paintings. Kochenash appreciates the Sower Gallery’s welcoming atmosphere. It is unlike other galleries that might intimidate or pressure people to buy something or know something about art, he adds.
“It definitely is the only gallery space that I’m familiar with that’s in a church,” says Reid Thorpe, a Chaska-based artist who has shown work in the Sower Gallery. Thorpe is primarily a landscape painter, who, after 12 years of teaching art, is going on his fourth year working as a full-time artist. He appreciates the gallery’s non-traditional setting: Because it is housed in a building whose main function is not art, the gallery draws in a wide range of people.
“We are new kids on the block, but we happened to come upon the art scene when it seems to be bubbling up,” Lince says. In a little over a year, word of the gallery has spread largely through word of mouth. The curators don’t have to search for artists; there’s no need to. Artists seek them out.
“Something is afoot in this region,” says Hopkins, who feels the energy in the local art scene stirring. Hopkins and Lince hope their gallery will contribute to that scene and make Chaska an art destination. “We see a bright tomorrow for the arts in the southwest metro,” Hopkins says.
The work of artist Scott Sample will be on display through December 30.
Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church
9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sundays–Thursdays