One of our favorite types of galleries to feature in Handmade Business are those that are also owned and operated by artists themselves. These creative endeavors are the epitome of artistic collaboration and the mentorship they provide to other aspiring artists is truly invaluable to today’s maker movement.
Once guests step inside Blue Pomegranate Gallery in Omaha, Nebraska, they instantly feel “at home” with an amazing assortment of American-made art and fine crafts. As the gallery’s owner and also an artist, Sondra Gerber, says: “It’s full of art that makes you smile.”
Blue Pomegranate Gallery features the work of over 100 artists in a variety of media including jewelry, clocks, metal, glass, wearables, paintings, and ceramics. The retail gallery also touts itself on offering a collection of pieces available to purchase that cost less than $50 each — proving there is something for every price point.
A mentality of mentorship
Gerber strongly believes in her Artist Mentorship Program, as well as facilitating a healthy, forward-thinking climate for gallery employees and artists. “In my gallery and workshop, I believe in providing an upbeat, secure, proactive working environment for my employees. I love to discover what each is especially good at and enthusiastic about so I can steer projects in their direction that will fit well with their skill set and job goals,” Gerber explains. “I feel honored to lead and mentor. I love to encourage each individual and watch him or her bloom!”
Gerber attributes this mentality to being awarded a strong support system her entire life. “I have been blessed to have a great support system of other creative and business-minded people that have come alongside me to encourage, educate, and mentor me. I feel strongly about paying it forward,” she says. “I often learn just as many new things through mentoring as I do being mentored.”
Artist at heart
Beneath Gerber’s effective business management style is a true artist-at-heart. Steeped in the creative world since childhood, she went on to earn a degree in fashion design. After college Gerber discovered metal. She enjoyed working with wire and solder and decided to enroll in a welding course. “This turned into what has become a lifelong career as a metal sculptor,” she attests. “I work in metal because I like taking something cold and lifeless and breathe beauty into it. I love the modern feel, the sheen, the physical nature of the medium. As a very petite girl, I like the ‘tough girl’ jobs.”
Gerber’s style of metalworking is likened to natural inspirations with a touch of whimsy. She designs each piece herself and then makes detailed laser cuts, grinds them by hand to create reflective patterns, and then manually bends and forms them. “The use of positive and negative shapes within the intricate cut of my designs cast alluring shadows that interact with the piece itself,” she explains. “Carefully planned out patterns and textures are ground into the surface to reflect light — creating the appearance of movement. This is the hallmark of my work.”
Gifts that keep giving
“I think it’s important to help and support others in our community that are in need, however I am able to do so, whether it is through monetary, emotional, or physical means,” Gerber says. “I also feel it’s necessary for my businesses to be involved by giving to organizations or individuals that we feel led to.”
Gerber has designed and facilitated interactive art installations for the Omaha Summer Arts Festival. “These installations are designed to capture the imagination and creative spirit of kids and adults alike, and encourage them to ignite their create spark,” Gerber says.
She also created a tribute to a very active philanthropic couple in the Omaha area who were killed in a car accident. “They were very formative in my youth and were collectors of my work. I wanted to create a tribute to them that would give back to the Hope Center, the institution they created for kids living in marginal circumstances,” Gerber explains. She designed and made an angel ornament with The Hope Center’s logo on her dress. The Hope Angel is sold year-round and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the center.
Gerber has also been active with American Craft Week (ACW) since 2014. “Every year we think of some new way to promote, teach, and bring ACW and its purpose to the public,” she says. “We also encourage other creative businesses and individuals to get involved.”
Beautifying her world
Gerber’s own philanthropic efforts go beyond her newest endeavors. In 2014-2015 she designed and fabricated several large-scale sculptures for newly built Habitat for Humanity neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area. The sculptures were used to identify donors’ names. “I personally installed these ‘Giving Trees’ in the community park of each neighborhood,” Gerber recalls.
The metal artist’s sculptures and garden was also featured in the Monroe Myer Garden Walk in 2013. This prestigious fundraising event generates money for those with special needs. For the past five years Gerber has also participated in the event’s vendor program.
In 2010-2011, Gerber and Blue Pomegranate Gallery created an event called “Dog Days of Summer,” where local animal-themed art was on display and for sale. A portion of the sales went to the Nebraska Humane Society. For three years (2006-2009) she worked as one of the original committee members that organized the Annual Holiday Art and Limo Tour, which offered limousine tours of local Omaha galleries during the holiday season as a fundraiser for local charities.
While Gerber’s curriculum vitae is quite extensive, she says she is excited to continue to grow her skills within her medium; she most recently has done so by collaborating with a local fused glass artist. She says she will continue to use Blue Pomegranate Gallery as a place to give other artists a space to show, sell their work, and grow their own careers. Gerber comments, “I am excited about finding new ways to mentor and help other artists and gallery owners on personal, creative, and business levels.”
Gerber says she loved seeing her ideas come to life and sharing them with others: “I love the challenge of coming up with new designs and am continually looking for ways to improve my work using innovative techniques.” She loves that she lives and works a flexible lifestyle. “I can work in the metal shop on sculptures, sketch out new designs in my office, work in my garden to meditate, or problem solve with staff either in the studio or in the gallery.”