She didn’t know what she was doing. Claire Marlow will be the first person to say that when she bought Goedickes Custom Framing and Art Supply in 2014, she had no idea of the “plan”.
“I moved here from Seattle in 2012 and worked as a project manager at a local company and just wasn’t that excited about the job,” Marlow said. “I couldn’t find a job matching my skills with which I moved here. I was just randomly looking for businesses to sell, not even to buy one, just to see what was going on in the business world, and then there was a listing for an art supply store in Wyoming.
Luckily (or God, or the universe, or whoever it was) would have liked, this art supply store was located in Casper, where Marlow lived. She met the owner at the time and he showed her around the store and its adjoining space which was used more for storage than anything else at the time. If it was a movie, the actress who played Marlow (likely Bryce Dallas Howard or Jessica Chastain type) would almost immediately imagine what this shop / gallery could be like. But life isn’t a movie and the reality was the place needed a lot of work and Marlow didn’t even know where to start.
“I met the owner and walked in and it was old and dirty and messy and disorganized…” She paused, mid-sentence, to let the memory wash over her. Then she closed her eyes, smiled, continued, “… and it had so much potential. “
It was this potential that sealed the deal for Marlow. She didn’t have a plan. She had no insurance. Or even insurance, to be honest. She had no idea how much work it would take to turn this messy old building into what it is today. She had none of that. What she had was potential.
It was all she needed.
Marlow could have rented the extra space next to Goedickes, she supposed. She could have focused only on the art supply and framing store, but she knew this big empty and amazing space could be more, could do more, could offer more.
“I didn’t know I was going to create an art gallery when we started the renovation; I just wanted to clean up this space, ”Marlow confessed. “I think I kind of evolved into it. I wanted it to be taken seriously, but I also knew I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to create a space for the art to be shown to Casper.
She knew she didn’t know what she was doing. It was this attitude, this layer of humility that kept Marlow down to earth. She didn’t make any grandiose promises about what her space might be. She just wanted to offer what it was, and she hoped the community would be receptive.
Marlow bought Goedickes in early 2014, and by October of that year she was ready to open Scarlow’s Gallery.
“My opening night, for sure, was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” said Marlow. “We had a huge turnout. It wasn’t the Art Walk. It was just an opening. Everyone came to support me. I had over 20 artists who barely knew me, and they decided to share and showcase their work. It was really good to have the community and I got a thumbs up from some locals who know what is going on [in the art scene]. “
When Marlow opened Scarlow’s Gallery in October 2014, she wanted it to be a space where artists could show their work. That’s all. She didn’t have a grand vision of transforming the art scene in Casper. She had no intention of making downtown Casper a destination. She had no intention of changing the city.
This part came later.
While Marlow and Co. (big band name, PS) was busy with her gallery, Holly Turner was also at work. She was turning her own vision, ART 321, into reality. Like Marlow, Turner saw so much potential in downtown Casper, and if no one else was going to realize that potential, she would.
Turner heard what Marlow was doing with Goedickes and approached her one day without a plan, but with a dream.
According to Claire (excellent book title, PS), as Turner built what ART 321 was to become, she was also eager to begin an “art walk.”
“We kept talking about it and talking about it,” Marlow said. “We attracted some great artists to town and brought in a designer. I think there were about five of us at that first meeting and none of them believed it. They said ‘No, that will never work.’ So we said, ‘Alright, you got out.’ “
Turner and Marlow were only interested in people who believed in them, believed in this city, and believed in art. Anything less than that was unacceptable.
Luckily, they found two people just as excited about any dreams that might arise regarding downtown Casper. These two people were Tony and Amy Elmore, two ART 321 employees who had the same vision as Turner and Marlow. The four collaborated to create the very first Art Walk in downtown Casper and it was truly an example of guerrilla marketing.
“The first year was the four of us,” said Marlow. “We didn’t know what to expect. I knocked on every door in downtown with information on what we were trying to do. Some people didn’t get it, but it went well.
The Art Walk has since become a real highlight of the summer in downtown Casper, and all because one, then two, then four people saw the potential of what could be. Marlow has taken on more of an advisory role in recent years, and she said the Elmores really took the proverbial ball and followed it.
“The second year people knew that a bit and it got a bit bigger,” Marlow said. “It was a ton of work the first 2 years. By the third year I had a kid and I didn’t have that much time to work on it, and Tony and Amy really stepped in and that’s when they made the website and then there a few years ago, they pretty much took over. the management of it.
The four did not necessarily have experience creating a community event. They just had a passion, a work ethic and a belief that art is an important aspect for any community.
“I think the artistic culture of any place is extremely necessary to have a well-balanced city or state,” said Marlow. “I think that’s what brings the community together. You can really kind of have a safe place with art that allows anyone, whether they know it or not, to appreciate something in life and then inspire something. It triggers something in your brain. Art is so important only for the development of the brain in general. It’s just a happy space and it’s just creative.
And really, that’s all Marlow wanted when she opened Scarlow’s Gallery, a cheerful space that inspires creativity.
There are events almost every week in downtown Casper and beyond, but when Claire Marlow decided to take her chances and buy Goedickes, there was very little activity downtown.
“When I bought Goedickes it was still quiet here,” recalls Marlow. “Not much was going on, but I was talking to everyone. I was talking to artists, I was talking to people who buy artwork and have it framed, I was talking to people who sell art supplies, but none of those people were talking to each other.
“I kinda thought I knew all these people; what can I do to connect them? And so the Art Walk was part of that vision.
That vision took a few years to come true and it’s still not quite where Marlow, Turner and the Elmores want it. But it’s close.
“My vision for the gallery is to have phenomenal artists because we’re a tiny piece of the world,” said Marlow. “Nobody thinks Casper can have this.”
If there’s one thing you should never do, it’s say ‘no’ or ‘you can’t’ or ‘it won’t work’ to Claire Marlow. Yes, she can and she will. Scarlow’s Gallery, Art, & Coffee, as well as Goedickes Art Supply and Framing and Art Walk are proof of this. Whether it was luck, timing, or something even bigger, downtown Casper was about to do something big, and Marlow knew it.
“I think the time is right,” agreed Marlow. “I think there is a younger population in Casper; they are educated, some have money, they want things a little more trendy, they want a little more culture. The older generation is fantastic, and they made it possible for us to be here and to do that, but I think the younger blood, like in any city, craves a little more culture. I think people wanted it. Once the ball started rolling people could see we could do it here. “
The Art Walk has given way to a plethora of community events downtown and transformed the downtown area into something everyone can be proud of.
But that was never Marlow’s plan. She never had a plan. She still doesn’t, not really. When asked what prompted her to start Scarlow’s Gallery and what currently drives her to pursue it, she simply shrugged.
“My goal is to bring something to Casper that is not yet here, in the world of culture and art.”
She did it. More than one time. And she will continue to do so, although she does not have a plan. She just keeps rolling with the metaphorical punches.
“I’m constantly trying to figure out what I can add, what I can take away to keep these doors open,” said Marlow. “They’ve been open for 65 years – I don’t want the doors to close under my watch.”
It probably won’t happen. As well as providing a gallery for artists, Scarlow’s also offers delicious coffee and baked goods that are just as artistic as the murals.
If the future is the result of the present and the past, then Marlow shouldn’t have to worry about keeping the doors open. Scarlow’s continued to provide artists with a canvas on which to paint their history. The Art Walk continued to be Casper’s premier event each summer month. Marlow will continue to innovate, inspire and dare to dream. Seven years ago, she began to dream. This dream has turned into a dazzling art gallery and cafe. She gives artists a support and she gives Casper a place to be enchanted.
And, even if it wasn’t his; Maybe that was the plan from the start.
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