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Gallery celebrates decade of creative expression

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ARLEE — Arlee’s central location for all things creative turns 10 years old with a celebration as diverse as the place itself, including featured artists sharing their talents with the public. 

Donna Mollica, owner of the Hangin Art Gallery, rushed around preparing food, printing out scripts and finding locations to dry created works to ensure the five days of festivities went smoothly. Mollica said she and co-owner Denny Nault have kept things going at the gallery —  even through financial difficulties — “for the community.”

“The best way to lift up a community and bring them together is through the arts. It helps people find common ground,” she said. “Art helps us understand ourselves. People say you’re impoverished or you’re this or you’re that, but through art, we ignore that because we know ourselves better through art. Art helps us to understand our capacity for joy and beauty. It connects us to ourselves, to each other and to the larger world.”

Bill Brown and his 5-year-old son Jayson developed a face on a clay tile at one of the events led by Kathryn Yelsa.

“A lot of the world’s problems come from a lack of creativity,” Yelsa said as she worked the dark clay into a square tile. 

“People need to be able to express themselves. Creativity is a way of human life. We need more of it. Not everyone is going to be a football player but anyone can become an artist.”

Bonnie Tarses demonstrated one of the oldest art forms during the celebration.

“Weaving started at the dawn of civilization,” she said. “It’s the opposite of everything that is wrong with the world. It’s about creation, and war is about destruction.”

Victor Charlo explained his passion for words before reading from his book of poetry “Put Sey” during the Native Writer’s Celebration.

“Why did I learn how to write? I love the etymology of words,” Charlo said.

Playwright William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. assembled a small group of actors to perform short scenes from his works previously performed in venues like The Public Theater in New York.

“I write about humanity,” he said. “I write about what we are willing to accept.” 

Yellow Robe also read from his short story collection.

“In my Spam Rants—yes, that is the meat – I talk about how so much information comes at people and they believe it. We often don’t stop to think about the information we are being fed like Spam; is it a food or a furniture polish?” 

Celebrating a decade of creative expression inspired Mollica to reflect on the gallery’s next 10 years. She contemplated the possibility of involving more people to keep the place going. She said it’s time to ask, “is this valuable to the community?”

“As we enter into the next phase, it’s time to think about sustainability. Will we keep the party going to be sustained as a place for the community? Those are questions we have to ask,” Mollica said.

“This is not a museum but a community gallery with neighbors and relatives displaying their art. It makes creative work visible. In what ways will that continue?”

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