Starting Fresh

Starting Fresh

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Sandra Rusnak (left) and Sue Bass (right) take a moment to unpack Cathy Strokowsky's Wood Anemone, at their new space in Chicago.

Chip Williams

Andora Gallery
77 West Huron Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
312-274-3747

In 2001 Sue Bass opened the Andora Gallery in Carefree, Arizona, a small town on the outskirts of Scottsdale. After operating there for six years, Bass, a midwesterner, decided to return to Chicago, the city she considers home. Upon her arrival she joined forces with Sandra Rusnak to bring Andora to Chicago. With her came many of the artists she'd worked with in the past, such as Christian Burchard, Mark Gardner, Jennifer Trask and Karen Pierce, while she also took advantage of the opportunity to represent fresh talent including Cathy Strokowsky, Tanya Lyons, Susan Collette and Deborah Horrell. American Craft spoke to Bass just before the inaugural exhibition, featuring both emerging and established artists, which opened at the end of February.

American Craft: How did you and Sandra decide to form a partnership?
Sue Bass: When I moved back to Chicago I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do. Sandy approached me and said she was interested in doing something so we did. We hired Hilary Gabel to be our gallery manager and Mary Bosco to coordinate our PR and advertising-to help us reestablish ourselves and broaden our base.

AC: Do you foresee any major changes with the gallery from the move?
SB: Before we decided to reopen, I sent e-mails to 16 of our artists asking them "If we did this would you be interested in representation?" And 15 out of 16 said absolutely-the 16th had just signed a contract with another gallery. We will probably have about 30 artists. The new gallery is located right in the heart of things, four blocks off Michigan Ave. It's close to the River North Arts District. As the city expands, that particular area is changing as well. There are a lot of high-end stores going in and new hotels being built. We're hoping to get traffic from people running around doing everyday errands and also from tourists.

AC: What are the differences and similarities between the craft scene in Scottsdale and its counterpart in Chicago?
SB: Chicago is a different kind of area than Scottsdale. There's a larger group of people to reach out to in Chicago. The population is a little younger. One of the things we want to do is bring in different buyers. In Chicago there's lots of opportunity to appeal to younger people. We've always wanted to show more works by emerging artists, which tends to be a price point that will appeal
to younger people.

AC: How are you reaching out to these different buyers?
SB: Believe it or not, we've actually been working a lot with Mary's eight-year-old daughter, Julia, on advertising. People laugh, but she really is a brilliant child. She'll look at images next to each other and say this one brings out the red more than that one. We really listen to her, and take into account what she says because she's seeing it through fresh eyes and so are the people we are reaching out to.