Jo Anderson adores Midlands art, and she loves showcasing the talent of those who create it.
Anderson is founder and owner of Anderson O’Brien Fine Art, an upscale art dealer and gallery that has been a fixture of Countryside Village at 87th and Pacific streets for more than three decades. Two years ago, she opened a second location in Omaha’s Old Market.
“I always had my eye on it,” Anderson says of the space at 1108 Jackson St., which housed Jackson Artworks for nearly 18 years. “Wouldn’t it be great to have a gallery downtown and have a broader audience?”
When the owners of Jackson Artworks announced they were closing, Anderson stepped in and took over the space in summer 2010. It’s since become one of downtown’s leading galleries.
The gallery in the Old Market has a different energy, audience, and atmosphere than the one in Countryside Village, says Anderson. Housed in a former warehouse, the downtown space is sleek and contemporary with white walls, exposed ductwork, concrete floors, and an open, airy feel. It’s also larger, so viewers have more room to get further back from the work and admire each piece fully, whether it’s an oil painting or sculpture.
Anderson’s gallery represents about 60 artists from Nebraska and surrounding states. Many are professional artists and art educators from area universities and colleges. Anderson says she prefers to represent established artists rather than up-and-coming talent.
“We have a consistency of work that is solid,” she says.
“Every day is different. It’s very rewarding. It’s just a great life.”
Keeping the number at a manageable 60 allows Anderson and her staff to give artists the time, attention, and resources they need. She takes great joy from being around art all day. “You’re dealing in beauty,” she says.
Anderson’s love of art goes back to childhood. She often accompanied her physician father to Indian reservations, where he treated patients. The visits sparked an interest in ethnographic art. Years later, Anderson opened the Plains Gallery at 78th and West Dodge Road, which she operated for more than a decade before selling it.
She then opened a poster gallery/frame shop near 76th and Pacific streets with business partner Sharon O’Brien. They didn’t have enough money to invest in original art, so they sold poster art.
In the early 1980s, the duo launched Anderson O’Brien Gallery in Countryside Village. They started out slow by representing a few artists, building clients, and upgrading their art collection. By the early ‘90s, O’Brien had gone on to pursue other ventures, leaving Anderson as sole owner.
As gallery owner, she has a variety of responsibilities. She meets with artists to discuss details of current and future exhibits, including determining how many pieces to feature and choosing an image for the event invitation. Other duties include handling bookwork, waiting on customers, and scheduling delivery and pick-up of artwork.
The gallery sells artwork to a mix of customers, from businesses to private collectors. It offers shipping, framing, hanging, appraisals, and other services. Anderson also works with interior designers and architects to place art in homes, offices, and other spaces.
“Every day is different,” she says. “It’s very rewarding. It’s just a great life.”
For more information on the gallery, its artists, and upcoming shows, visit aobfineart.com.