Celebrating a quarter-century

Leslie Silverman
Sarah Rogers has been showing her art at Warrior’s Work & Ben West Gallery since the beginning of the gallery’s  25 year existence. And while most people would think a quarter century relationship would be fraught with ups and downs, Rogers claims “we haven’t had any downs.” 
Rogers, like every artist celebrating the gallery’s 25 year history, describes the owners, Randy Berger and Janna Emmel, as wonderful people.
“They take such good care of me. It’s been an amazing 25 years,” she said.
Berger and Emmel are described as “real people” by artist Jim Green, who creates bronzed birds.
“There aren’t many galleries around anymore,” said Green, who describes Warrior’s Work Gallery as  one of the best he’s ever been in. “Randy and Janna are down to Earth people. They take care of their customers. And they know their artists. It’s a very supportive gallery.” 
Tim Peterson, a fixture in  the Hill City arts scene, agrees.
“The staff is so special. They seem to be interested in you as people,” he said.
Peterson describes the space itself as amazing. 
“It’s not static,” he said.
In fact the space, which has been coveted for everything from celebrations of life to weddings, was designed by Berger himself. A former master carpenter, Berger envisioned a large space with spinning walls. With the help of a local welder he constructed walls that move and a space that has the ability to be ever- changing.
Kevin Pourier, a world- renowned artist who has pieces in the Smithsonian American Art Museum and  the National Museum of  the American Indian rates Warrior’s Work & Ben West Gallery as one of the most beautiful galleries in the world.
“I’ve been in galleries in New York, Santa Fe and Scottsdale. It rates right up there. It’s really well done,” he said. 
Berger and Emmel find artists from all over the world. Word of mouth, magazines, local artists or even ones that drop by may end up on the floor of their gallery. The large horse that patrons  notice was one such walk-in artist.
“We had to move him (the horse) down the sidewalk on little wheels and try to get him through the front door. The guys had to slice off his wheels in broad daylight during the rally,” said Emmel.
Berger and Emmel had their first gallery space behind what is now Granite Sports. Berger had been selling his leather frames at art shows and thought a permanent space would be easier than traveling.
In 2001 the couple bought the site the gallery currently exists on and tore down the building that was once there. In creating a permanent space they understood the importance of creating an art community.
In their mission to create an art town, the two helped to revitalize the Hill City Arts Council and promote the arts in town.
“It’s not just about us,”  said Emmel. “It’s about Hill City. We’ve been thrilled when other galleries open. We love the other galleries.”
Emmel adds that she wants people to say, “‘Hill City, that’s the arts town.’”
The couple describes the anniversary as more of a reunion where previous employees came to help celebrate the milestone.
“We have wonderful staff,” Emmel said.
As for what the next 25 years hold for Berger and Emmel, that remains to be seen.
“We’re not ready to let it go,” says Emmel. “Part of it is just dedication to the arts. We know all of the artists here that we show. And we love them.”  

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