Editor’s Note: One day after this article was published, David DeBoldt passed away Friday, May 23. See his obit here.
Originals Gallery and Studio, 204 N. Main St. in Waupaca, closed its doors on Dec. 31, 2013, in anticipation of reopening with a fresh look in spring 2014.
However, unexpected health issues and a desire to retire have led to the permanent closing of the gallery.
In May 1999, David DeBolt and his wife Kristy opened the gallery for business by just unlocking the door with no initial advertising. At the time, DeBolt taught art classes in a room above Edgewood Arts and also coordinated exhibits at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
Consequently, he was aware of how many artists called the region home and saw the need for a local gallery featuring their work.
“We simply had too many artists in the area and not enough outlets,” DeBolt said. “Hanging work in restaurants and bars isn’t a bad thing, but lacks aesthetics. We guessed right. There were thousands of art buyers here.”
Twenty regional artists exhibited their work at Originals in the beginning. They were Sherry Anderson, Marie App, Karri Bestul, DeBolt, Harold DeWolfe, Theresa J.K. Drinka, Donna Hansen, Burt Hochradel, Corrine “Corky” Larsen, Russ Lowe, Marsha Mueller, Chris Nelson, Sharon Radley, Sharon Rotz, Renee Smith, Lisa Stearns, Doris Weed, Brenda Wenberg, Dotty Woody and Marge Writt.
Their media included acrylics, basketry, collage, fiber arts, home portraits, jewelry, murals, oils, pastels, photography, pottery, stained glass, 3-D mixed media, watercolors and wood carvings.
As the years went by, more artists were added and some left. At one point, over 40 regional artists were showing their work at the gallery.
A popular feature in the early years was artist appearances. In 1999, nearly all the exhibiting artists participated in appearances beginning with Wenberg in June. Over the years, Weed’s works were the top seller.
Regional art went to buyers from throughout the United States, Europe, and even China.
The sagging economy in the mid-2000s had a negative effect on art sales, but there were still many dedicated art patrons from the Waupaca area, including summer residents and visitors.
The gallery’s mailing list of repeat art buyers grew to over 300. Over the gallery’s 15 years in business, thousands of pieces of artwork found their places in homes throughout the region and nation.
“Once you get the art bug, it’s really got you,” said DeBolt. “We have people in the area with over 200 paintings in their personal collections.”
Over the years, DeBolt experienced a number of serious medical conditions but found working at the gallery therapeutic. Art has always been life-inspiring for him and the opportunity to meet so many interesting art patrons was an added incentive.
His latest diagnosis of liver cancer, however, has made it impossible to continue running the gallery. He hopes to continue teaching art classes at the Waupaca Senior Center on a limited basis.
In a 1999 Waupaca County Post article, DeBolt reflected on his lifetime as an artist. “I was 4 years old. It was 1945. My family was at Holbrook Lake in Colorado and I saw a woman painting a watercolor on the beach.
According to my mother, I stayed and watched her paint for three hours. Then, it was a matter of learning how.”
The DeBolts plan to open the gallery door one last time in late May early June to sell the remaining office and art supplies, easels, furniture and equipment that were used during its years in business.