Bold Lifestyles: Meet Paul and Colleen Wagner

The owners of Gallery 104, Paul and Colleen Wagner, moved to Kirksville in 2013. Colleen is one of the founders of the Missouri and Southern Iowa Art Guild and served on the Kirksville Arts Association Board of Directors for three years. She is also a juried member of the Best of Missouri Hands in the area of two-dimensional multimedia and is an active member of the Columbia Art League. Paul was in business for 42 years, had his own construction company and was the architect and builder.

Why open an art gallery in Kirksville?

Paul: We were looking for a smaller town with a university in it and Kirksville fit the bill for that, but we lucked out with the fact that there was also a medical and dental school here.

Colleen: We feel [Kirksville] didn’t have exposure to as much art as I felt I would like to have. I realized there was a tremendous amount of art talent in this area, and we started talking about it and we said, “You know, all the artists in Kirksville are really good artists, but they don’t have any place to show or display or sell their work.”

Paul: We’re just hoping right now to survive and that the community accepts it. It is a stretch, there’s no doubt about it. People have said a number of times, kind of sarcastically, “Good luck!” But we’ve said it to ourselves — this is a hobby for us. This is something we love. Some people buy motorhomes and travel around the country, we decided to open up an art gallery.

How does someone get their art featured in Gallery 104?

Colleen: They have to be juried in. What you need to do is bring your work in and we’ll sit down and talk and see if you’re a fit. Number one, we want to have a variety of work here and the highest quality we can. We want to make sure the artwork presented is family-friendly — this is Kirksville, and it is conservative, and we want to make sure that it won’t offend anyone, but we can still have beautiful art, and we do. We have beautiful art in all sorts of styles — we have plein aire, photography, extreme realism, abstract multimedia, [and] water colors.

Does Truman State have artwork featured?

Colleen: I was talking with [Art Department Chair] Aaron Fine about the fact that we were opening this gallery. We asked him if Truman would like to have a presence in this gallery, and he was very interested. In fact, he’s arranged that Truman has a panel, and he will get either professors’ or students’ artwork to be hung on the Truman panel. In meeting Danielle Yakle, who is our first artist, she told us about the dragon that was in The Quad. So, we volunteered to give it a home. We are wanting to encourage Truman to feel this is their gallery also. This is a community gallery and Truman is part of the community.

What other services are offered?

Paul: We have a great variety of art supplies here, too. We’ve also told students that have come in here if we don’t have what they want we are more than happy to order it for them. We have a very good quality here — Colleen has used the products, so she knows what a good product is and how it works. I’ve always said that if you want to be a professional, you have to have professional equipment.

Colleen: I wanted to have an opportunity for people to take art classes locally. I’ve got a watercolor class starting and then I’ve got an acrylic landscape class that will start Sept. 27. People want to create art. I want to help them learn and maybe grow as an artist.

When/why did you become interested in showcasing art?

Colleen: Well, because I’m an artist. And we saw a need for an art gallery. It’s been an evolution too. We started out with the art guild, we had a couple of shows a year, and we decided there needed to be something more.

Paul: We go to all of the shows that Truman has when Truman has an art show to support the arts there. I remember one time Fine stood up and said, ‘You know what we really need in this town? We need an art gallery.’ And Colleen told him, ‘You know this art gallery thing, you’re the inspiration behind it.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I did? I’m sorry.’

What is your goal in opening Gallery 104?

Colleen: Our goal is to make art accessible to the community. One of the things we’re also wanting to do is to increase the art presence in downtown Kirksville. Last [Thursday] we had a featured artist reception and we’ll have a new featured artist each month. We’re encouraging them to have a reception so that each month there will be something happening in the arts in downtown Kirksville. We want the students to feel comfortable coming in here and seeing what the community is doing in art as well as their professors and fellow students.


This appeared in the Sept. 8 Index.