Different strokes

Former UW-Eau Claire staff display work and cultivate community at Volume One gallery


Barbara Shafer looks over husband Andy Shafer’s shoulder as he works on a new painting. © 2014 Katie Bast.

Story by Katie Bast, News Editor

Andy and Barbara Shafer have been active in the Eau Claire art scene for more than 40 years. For the first time the husband and wife are displaying their work together at the Volume One gallery.

“The work really looks nice together,” Barbara Shafer said. “It looks fine by itself, on its own, but it was kind of interesting to discover how well our work fit together.”

She said they approached Volume One about displaying their work.

Lindsey Quinnies, program associate at Volume One, said the gallery was happy to display them.

“We know their art’s really great and they’ve been established artists around town for a while,” Quinnies said.

Considering they share studio space in Banbury Place, it’s not surprising the art goes well together, she said. The couple said they gather inspiration from different places but help each other along the way.

“We’re starting someplace different and we’re going someplace different,” Barbara Shafer said. “In the middle there’s a little crossover.”

Barbara Shafer said conversations with each other help improve their art.

“We criticize each other’s work and discuss it,” Andy Shafer said.

Critiquing along the way helps shape the work, but Andy Shafer said they start in very different places.

“The core of our imagination is more individual,” he said. “My imagination is based on my own experiences and my memories. Childhood memories, fiction and history. Art should be about what’s on your mind.”

Barbara Shafer said she takes a more tangible approach.

“I’m a dancer, so I paint dancers,” she said. “I need something to work from.”

Andy Shafer was the Max Schoenfeld Distinguished Professor at UW-Eau Claire, where he taught for more than 40 years. Barbara Shafer taught part time at Eau Claire and UW-Stout before getting a full-time job running an organization helping disabled people.

The pair have been a part of the art community in Eau Claire for many years and said the various venues around town like the Volume One and Foster galleries bring in nice shows.

“There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye,” Andy Shafer said. “For a community our size, there’s a very good population of artists who are very professional. It’s not a
desert. You’d be surprised if you started looking around.”

Barbara Shafer said she thinks the art scene in Eau Claire is good at attracting young people to stay and work here by providing a welcoming community.

“(Eau Claire) is a good school that produces great artists,” she said.

Barbara Shafer said as artists who’ve been part of the community, they’re still receiving support from the community. Quinnies said artists like the Shafers are a big boost to the local art scene.

“I think that just having established artists in the community that are well-known and have supporters around town gives new artists and upcoming artists some motivation and inspiration to keep pursuing their art and keep putting it up around town and keep getting noticed,” she said.

The pair consistently participate in various events around town. Despite being local legends in a sea of younger artists, Barbara Shafer said they still feel very much a part of the art community.

“Art is art,” Barbara Shafer said. “It doesn’t matter what age you were when you made it.”