Local artists have new outlet in Ruston

December 19, 2007

by Jennifer Eddington

By the Alley, an art and gift shop, had its grand opening last Saturday in Downtown Ruston, displaying well-known prints and hand-made gifts as well as showcasing local artists who previously had limited options.

“There aren’t many places to display art in a gallery setting,” Joshua Chambers, a graduate student of studio art and one of the three Tech students displaying art in the store, said. “It is a fantastic opportunity.”

Chambers was approached about By the Alley during Ruston’s Holiday Artist Studio Tour, where Ruston establishments show pieces from local artists. Chambers said there is much to be gained from art displays outside of dining establishments in Ruston.

“I think Ruston is one of those little towns that could easily be a stopping place for the arts,” Chambers said. “There are a wealth of local artists, also in conjunction with [Tech].”

Owner Jackie Cochran said she had this in mind when she decided to open the gallery after 16 years of working as an accountant. Cochran said she is aiming to give Tech students, as well as other local artists, an outlet for their work.

“[Art] seems to help develop minds and creativity,” Cochran said. “The arts are being cut out of schools. I feel like society is losing an outlet for their emotions.”

Cochran said after realizing she had an affinity for art, she made the decision to convert the building she had previously been employed in as an accountant.

“I took a test at the psychology place at Tech to try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life; everything pointed to art,” Cochran said.

In addition to exhibiting local artists, Cochran said she would love to encourage the art scene in downtown Ruston. While she currently features some famous prints, Cochran said her hope for the future is to display only local art.

“There are people you just don’t know are artists,” Cochran said. “They don’t have a place to display it. For instance, my neighbors make wooden bowls.”

Jana Dukes, a junior photography major, said students in the art program could greatly benefit from a gallery.

“There is a studio tour, but a lot of people don’t get to participate, it is mostly grad students,” Dukes said. “There are just so many people that have great art in the art department. They don’t get enough recognition.”

Cochran said she encourages all Tech students to contact her about showing art, and charges a 25 percent commission on art sold.