Artists Guild: Year-round Source for Creativity

With many of my favorite Door County galleries closing their doors for the season, and seasonal theater having closed up shop, one might think that Door County’s artsy crowd goes on hiatus for the winter. Not so, Michelangelo! In fact, with dozens of artists in the county who are kept busy in the summer running their galleries, the quiet months of November through April are prime time for creativity. And that’s where the Artists Guild, Door County’s year-round, full service art supply store comes into the picture.

Who doesn't love colorful art supplies?

I’ve known Sarah and Jeff Bradley for years, ever since I started visiting their store to buy art supplies like sculpi clay and bead kits for my own little budding artists. Since then, I’ve watched their business grow from a modest storefront to a full-size, full-service art supplier, framer, and center for art classes and community. I stopped by the Artist’s Guild on Third Avenue in Sturgeon Bay this week to find out more about how this warm and wonderful place came to be.

Colorful results of Bottle and Brush

DCACI: You’re really putting emphasis on the Artists Guild as a center for community and for learning. Why?

Sarah: I originally thought I was going to go into art education, but I couldn’t do the traditional classroom. This gives me a chance to educate in a different kind of setting. And we have many other artists, such as Craig Blietz, who teach classes here as well. What’s great about the store is that we know many of the artists who come in, but they also know each other. They can run into each other here and talk about what they’re involved in, or their latest show. Any day of the week, you can find someone who comes in here for a critique, for framing or just to talk about art. That’s so important, because often as artists can end up feeling isolated.

DCACI: The Artists Guild is also my go-to place for framing. That’s a big part of your business?

Jeff: Not only framing- four of our staff members are certified as Art Material Professionals, and Jeanine recently received her Certified Picture Framer credentials. That’s unheard of to have so many folks on a small staff with that kind of training. We take a great deal of pride in that, and in the level of service we provide.

Sarah: Here’s a fun fact. Since this building used to be a bank, we have seven vaults in the basement. Any work of art that is brought in for framing is put in that vault and locked up every night, and it’s waterproof and fireproof. We’re the only place in Door County that can secure people’s artwork to that degree.

Sign designed by Sarah and Jeff's artist son, Will

DCACI: Wow, you two are inspiring. Did you have any idea your business would evolve this way?

Jeff: One thing we’ve done is helped to create the Third Avenue Business Association. It’s given a great boost to the visibility of the wonderful shops and restaurants here on our historic street.

Sarah: If you had asked me in 2005 what my plan was, I would have said, “What plan?” We’re happy to be meeting the needs of the community. Best of all, every day we get up and love coming to here. We’re with each other 24/7, and it works.

To learn more about the Artists Guild, follow them on Facebook or Twitter, visit their website, or subscribe to their e-newsletter.And don’t forget to visit my Facebook page and tell me what your favorite art supply is!