We are excited to announce that in March of 2019 the gallery will be moving to a new location in Stoughton, WI.
Located immediately southwest of Madison, in historic Paoli, the gallery opened in 1987 as the Artisan Gallery under the direction of its original owner who converted the building, a former creamery, into a showplace for the work of 30 local artists. In 1998, Theresa Abel became the Art Director and helped continue the growth of the gallery, both in quality and in reputation. In 2004, she and artist Tim O'Neill took over ownership, broadening the focus of the gallery by exhibiting artists with national reputations along with work of well-known local artists. In 2017, in conjunction with the gallery’s 30-year celebration, they changed the name to the Abel Contemporary Gallery, as it became important for the gallery to have a unique name to differentiate itself from other “artisan” galleries and businesses. For Abel, a painter, and O’Neill, a woodworker and metalsmith, it is important to exhibit fine art and fine craft side by side. The gallery features notable artwork in many media, hosting three concurrent exhibits every six to seven weeks and maintains an alternative exhibit space, "the Cooler", which offers an opportunity for more evocative work such as installations and video art.
Earlier this year, Abel and O’Neill, were informed by their current landlord that the creamery building which houses the gallery, would be put up for sale. The property, situated along the picturesque Sugar River, was financially unattainable for the couple. Madison was the obvious market to investigate for a new location, but they soon found the price of commercial rentals equally prohibitive, a persistent problem for gallery owners and retailers seeking to rent or own in the capitol city.
The need to find an affordable building with unique characteristics brought the search back to the periphery of Madison, fortunately they stumbled upon a historic tobacco warehouse for sale in the city of Stoughton that had similar qualities found in the current space. It was important for them to be located a short distance from Madison with easy access for their customers and collectors, a large space to continue current programing while maintaining the large stable of artists, and an older distinct building which has always complemented the contemporary art and point of view of the gallery.
The building, located at 524 East Main street, was built in the late 1800’s and has a beautiful brick exterior, post and beam construction with soaring ceilings and original wood plank floors and walls. Realizing that two floors of this new building will more than accommodate the needs of the gallery, it was decided that a beneficial use of the lower level would be to offer reasonably priced artist studios for rent, artists in Madison and the surrounding area are underserved by the lack of available professional artist studios.
With a current lease through March 31st of 2019 the gallery will continue in the Paoli location through February of 2019. The new building needs renovation and upgrades which will take time. Once in the new setting, Abel Contemporary will continue to host three concurrent exhibitions: a solo or two-person show, a group show and an exhibit in a space akin to the current Cooler.
Moving will be difficult and costly but the decision was done with great consideration. We are excited about this opportunity to own the building that houses the gallery and believe the space offered by this historic building will be a perfect backdrop for contemporary art. Abel Contemporary will build upon its great history and our mission to support the arts and artists will persevere.