New gallery Works of Elkader native going on display

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“Golden Fields” is one of many works by American artist Gene Sharp to be featured in a new gallery opening this weekend in Elkader. Sharp was raised in Elkader but later lived and worked in Chicago.
“Golden Fields” is one of many works by American artist Gene Sharp to be featured in a new gallery opening this weekend in Elkader. Sharp was raised in Elkader but later lived and worked in Chicago.
Lucy Sharp and her son, Alan Szech, have renovated a space in downtown Elkader into a gallery for the works of Gene Sharp, Lucy’s father and Alan’s grandfather.
Lucy Sharp and her son, Alan Szech, have renovated a space in downtown Elkader into a gallery for the works of Gene Sharp, Lucy’s father and Alan’s grandfather.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

The works of an artist with ties to Clayton County have found a home here.

Gene Sharp, who was raised in Elkader and later lived and worked in Chicago, was a prolific artist who created an impressive body of work, especially watercolors. His works hang in Central State Bank, the Carter House Museum, and the Elkader Opera House.

Many of Gene’s pieces have been in storage since his death at age 79 in 2002. His daughter, Lucy, and grandson, Alan Szech, felt it was time to share Gene’s talent with others and have chosen to do so with a new gallery in downtown Elkader.

“This is really my mom’s passion,” Alan explained. “I just lit the fire and pushed it into her yard.”

The catalyzing event was Alan’s discovery in August 2018 of two watercolors sitting in his mother’s basement where they were getting damaged.

“That’s when I decided to float the idea of moving to Elkader and opening a gallery here,” Alan continued. “Mom had been dreaming about it for years. So I did some research and we decided the timing was right.”

Sharp Art Gallery will have its grand opening Friday, May 24, through Sunday, May 26 (more information at the end of this article). The gallery is located in a freshly renovated space that once housed the “gift room” of Clayton Pharmacy. The emphasis of the gallery will be Gene Sharp’s work but future plans call for displaying works by other artists. In addition, Lucy and Alan plan to offer art classes in the back of the gallery space.

“As we’ve gone through the process (of getting ready for the gallery), we’ve uncovered a large number of works that haven’t been seen before,” Alan said. “I drove here with 60 or 70 works in frames—more than enough for a new Sharp show every month.”

The original works will not be sold but prints will be available. The gallery also plans to sell merchandise and art supplies.

Gene Sharp, whose father was an attorney who served in both the Iowa House of Representatives and State Senate, earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa. He majored in journalism and minored in art. He worked for two years at Meredith Publishing in Des Moines before moving to Chicago where he worked for several ad agencies. His wife, Zadonna Hall, was also from Elkader. Zadonna’s father, Harold Hall, opened Elkader’s first movie theater in the 1920s. In addition to Alan, Lucy has a daughter, Laura, who recently completed her doctoral degree in education at UI and will be moving to North Carolina.

“We had two sets of great-grandparents here—the Sharps and the Halls—so we visited often,” Alan said. “I have more memories of eating doughnuts at Pedretti’s than any bakery in Chicago—and we have some of the best bakeries in the world!”

Alan has relocated here to get the gallery going. He most recently lived in Seattle but spent the winter traveling through Guatemala. Lucy has recently retired and has moved here permanently, becoming the first Sharp to reside in Elkader in decades.

Sharp Art Gallery is located at 129 N. Main Street, Elkader. The grand opening dates are: Friday, May 24, at 11 a.m.; Saturday, May 25, 9 a.m.; and Sunday, May 26, 12 noon.

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