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Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005 02:58 pm

Giving fellow artists a boost

Rob and Michele DeLong open a new downtown gallery

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“The Watercolor” by Michele DeLong
When Rob and Michele DeLong ventured downtown for the celebrated Old Capitol Art Fair, they saw something that sparked their interest: a “For Lease” sign. After some thinking, the married photographers decided to take down the sign and replace it with their own, advertising the RMD Gallery. The 2,000-square-foot art space and framing studio on the bustling 200 block of South Sixth Street opened for business in July, displaying both Rob’s and Michele’s works on the canary-yellow walls of the gallery. In October, they decided to expand from only showing their own work to displaying local artists’ collections in an “artist of the month” display. The decision stemmed from the couple’s aspiration to help other local artists get exposure in the community, Rob says. Right now the works of Robert Johnson, a watercolor artist who lives in Taylorville, are displayed in a large area at the gallery. The DeLongs don’t take a percentage from sales of local artists’ work, nor do they charge to display it. Excitement about the opportunity to exhibit in Springfield’s newest gallery has caught on. “The response has been phenomenal, “ Rob says. “Artists come in on a daily basis wanting to be featured.”
Next month the DeLongs plan to host an opening reception in honor of chalk artist David Cooper, the subject of their next featured exhibition, and the couple, both members of the Professional Picture Framers Association, also say that they hope to host framing classes. The ideas don’t stop there, though. “We are thinking about doing art contests with area schools,” says Michele, a District 186 music teacher. “We would like to give opportunities for some of the kids to get out and display their work.”
Rob, a Springfield native, says that he and Michele enjoy being part of the area and working with other downtown merchants who share their interest in making downtown what it used to be. “This is becoming an art community,” Rob says. “All of us have come together at the right time.”

RMD Gallery, located at 210 S. Sixth St. (217-525-4006), is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon., Tue., Thu., and Fri.; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Wed.; and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.
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