10 minutes with Joel Sager


Joel Sager, new owner of PS:Gallery spends a few minutes answering questions.

Congratulations on reaching your campaign goal! It must be exciting to know how much support you have from the community. Care to comment?

Thank you.  We not only reached our goal, but also surpassed it.  We’re overwhelmingly pleased with the outcome.  The staff worked endlessly, and we are so thankful to this community for validating our hard work.  It’s a testament to how much people care about not only the gallery, but also the vibrant visual arts of Columbia.  

There must have been a great turnout for the celebration on July 13th.

Yes, great turnout!  I think everyone felt invested in the success of the campaign and was there to share in that celebration.  Also, having some custom Sparky’s ice cream flavors, Pizza tree, Sycamore, and lots of wine doesn’t hurt attendance.  It was a great evening.  The great thing about our opening receptions in general is that they’re not snooty, highbrow events.  In addition to emphasizing great new artwork, they are a great social event to boot.  

Upon entering the gallery, one quickly notices the salon-style hanging of your work. Where did the idea come from? As far as gallery layout, are you making any other changes?

One of my favorite museums is the Barnes Foundation in PA, particularly when it was in the original estate which I had the opportunity to visit on a couple of occasions. It not only exhibits the majority of its collection in the salon style, but also incorporates important furniture design pieces in conjunction.  The result is a much more hospitable experience that makes you realize you are in a home that just happens to also be a museum.  I wanted a similar experience for this exhibit given the community’s hand in keeping the gallery’s doors open.  It’s no easy task to hang salon-style.  Work can become too cluttered and over-stimulating, not to mention the fact that it takes a particular style of framing presentation and subject matter.  This just seemed to fit and make sense.  And the homey yet artful feel was the perfect homage to Barnes.

Any other plans for the gallery? For example, in your Indiegogo video, you state that you want to bring in challenging works. Could you elaborate?

Absolutely.  One of the challenges of owning a commercial gallery (as opposed to a nonprofit) is that it is ultimately a retail business, but at the same time you want to bring in work that challenges the perceptions of what art is, and can be. I don’t think these are mutually exclusive.  No one wants to see boring artwork.  It’s like many things: there is more reward when you’re intellectually challenged and consequently a deeper connection with that art is established.  I just plan to continue to explore this relationship between viewer and art, and think it is the most satisfying.

Joel Sager, the gallery owner, how will wearing this new hat affect your painting? 

Ideally, not at all.  I’m an early riser, so I devote my mornings to painting.  I am working on various projects and plan to have new bodies of work regularly on exhibit.  I knew taking ownership of the gallery would be time consuming, but I wouldn’t have done it if it meant giving up my first true love: painting.   


Will you preserve the name? 

We are working closely with Woodruff-Sweitzer on a rebranding campaign.  They are absolutely brilliant and fantastic and, along with the public, have given tons of good ideas with regard to name.  That said, the unveiling of our new logo and identity will be announced in the coming weeks.  We’re trying to spread out the excitement so our heads don’t explode.

I presume that the gallery books artists months in advance. How much say did you have in this show?

Yes, typically we’re booked out about a year in advance.  Consequently, this exhibit still has Jennifer Perlow’s curatorial influence.  So, it was nice to feel like we still had that part of her with us, considering she couldn’t be here in person.  The forthcoming exhibits will be more and more exclusively my curatorship ultimately, although we will most definitely maintain the relationships we’ve established with artists who’ve exhibited in the past.  My goal is to build on those fantastic artists who have defined us, and introduce new artists to further our distinction.

I like the artists you have included into this exhibit but it seems like there are less than usual…

We actually have the same amount of work.  I conscientiously hung fewer pieces on the gallery floor (I tend to like plenty of breathing room between artwork) and have the remaining works readily available on our beautiful customized movable wall system.  More negative space between the artwork allows the viewer to appreciate an individual piece without any other conflicting visual information. Through a broader lens, I have actually increased the number of exhibits we’ll have per annum from 4 to 6.  So, what this means is we’ll be exhibiting more work from more artists than before, and keeping fresh work up on the walls for our friends and patrons who are in on a regular basis.

Thank you!


the returns of art

by Ben Chlapek

by Ben Chlapek

Art, what art thou? For a while now, we have been wondering about the importance of art. You may be surprised that we ponder such questions but, truth be told, we wouldn’t be an art gallery if we were not asking those questions. They are refreshers. They are reminders. They are rejuvenators.

Well, today, it was not a question but a group of 20 students from the Missouri Scholars Academy who reminded us about the importance of art. The joy it brought onto their faces is magical and something to behold. As adults, we sometimes forget the little joys art brings us because it can have an unsettling effect. Those young high school students were elated at a title. They were amazed, as they approached, to see the Martincic bathing suit is made out of paper. They were “fooled” because they were open to being “fooled”. They allowed themselves to be taken. They met the object of art with the openness of one who discovers a land for the first time. No baggage! No fear! Only possibility!

This feeling is not restricted to young high school students. Art is democratic and its language is universal. It speaks to the dormant child in all of us. It wakes it up to reconnect it not only with the world but us as well. It is the dormant child who gives us back hope in the world. Art gives us hope because it appeals to man’s greatness. In a speech, Kevin Spacey reminded us of that. “Art and creativity are one of the most significant ways that humanity uses to fight back against and lift itself out of the muck, and the dirt, and the grime, and the horror, and the unfairness of political persecution, racist attack, hatred, intolerance, and downright cruelty.”

Art can only do its job if we let it, if we are open to its magic.  Art comes with the sweet melody of milk and honey. Art invades and conquers because it brings only blessings.

To the one who allows art to enter one’s world, it will elevate.

By bringing art to our community, we fulfill an important function for we are art’s humble servants. Our gallery provides a space where everyone, including our Missouri Scholars, can keep the child from being dormant.

That’s why we ask ourselves questions.


The Save PS:Gallery Campaign

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A little over $10,000 raised! How exciting! Our community is coming through for us and we are very confident that our goal of raising $40,000 will be successful. We worked really hard to set up this arm of our campaign, and we are working even harder for the next 30 days to continue to make it amazing. Check out our Indiegogo site, watch our great video, and see some of the great perks you get for contributing! We are sure you will find something, for there is something for everyone and everything comes with delicious ice cream.


As we continue our efforts, we are also working on the summer show. Slowly, the new art is arriving and soon, it’ll feel like Christmas at PS:Gallery. Great new works coming!

Don’t forget to join us in our effort to continue bringing great art to our community!


An Entrepreneurial Palette

The artist takes a break from his busy schedule.

The artist takes a break from his busy schedule.

In this informative Q&A, Harriet White interviews Joel Sager about his vision for the gallery.


As any artist envisions his next artwork, Painter and future PS: Gallery Owner, Joel Sager, reveals his vision to improve upon his good friends’ celebrated gallery and bring it into a new era.

There is often a misunderstanding that artists aren’t good business people. They are typically seen as romantics, who create artwork without consideration to the business of their craft. Yet, painter and PS: Gallery curator Joel Sager defies that stereotype. Having been a curator and permanent artist with the gallery since its inception, Sager is the natural successor. With this next step, Sager will use his artistic perspective and PS: experience to freshly build upon Jennifer Perlow and Chris Stevens’ foundation, living up to their celebrated legacy as arts advocates in Columbia.  In this Q&A, Sager discusses his past involvement with the gallery and his new business plans while demonstrating just how business savvy an artist can be. 

What has been your involvement with PS: Gallery?

Joel Sager: I first met Jennifer Perlow in 2003. Jennifer asked if I would be willing to have her represent me. I said sure. She sold three paintings in a week, and  asked me to keep bringing more work due to the positive response. I kept bringing more work, and it kept selling well. Over the years, we developed a close friendship and a great business relationship.

Within a short time, she discussed with me opening a gallery, and she wanted to know if I’d be willing to be the curator. I helped open Poppy Fine Art as the associate curator, and Jennifer was the owner. It was a side project to test the waters to see how the public would react, and they reacted positively.

Over the course of the next year, Jennifer decided to dissolve her partnership with the other owner of Poppy Fine Art, and she opened up independently Perlow-Stevens Gallery with her husband in 2006. I also helped found PS: Gallery and establish that branding and a new voice as a curator. We built relationships over the course of time with 100+ artists that have exhibited with us for the past eight years, and as a permanent artist at the gallery, I personally continue to create new work to be exhibited.

What was your role in branding PS: Gallery?

JS: Ultimately, everything came down to Jennifer. She was the owner. I respected her opinion, but she hired me because we balanced one another out well. She was more to the right on artwork, and I tended to be more to the left, so we balanced out  choosing work that was accessible but still cutting edge. Plus, we were just great friends. We didn’t always agree, but we respected each other, so it showed in how we curated exhibits. We flourished in the fact that we could have differentiating opinions, but at the end of the day come together for these artists on exhibition.

How did you decide to become owner eventually?

JS: I actually said no in the beginning. She offered it to me when she found out about Denver. I’ve seen how hard she works, and it seemed to be a daunting prospect. But I hit the ground running when she made the announcement. I got all my ducks in a row, so when she made it, I wanted to concentrate all of this sentiment like “What can we do to save the gallery?” The community was offering information and money. A week after that announcement, I thought: “This could work. It could not just work, but it could be hugely successful.”

It’s difficult to own a successful gallery. People are realizing what the city be without a commercial gallery.  It is cliché, but sometimes you don’t realize what you have till it’s gone. I think people are willing to do a lot to keep it around. I plan on taking all of that sentiment and improving on the foundation that Chris and Jennifer built. My goal is to make it hugely successful in honor of them and in honor of arts in Columbia.

Although you don’t have Jennifer’s business background, what would qualify you to be the owner?

JS: Every successful artist I know is an entrepreneur. You can’t just make beautiful artwork and exist in a vacuum and expect to make a living. You have to be a talented artist, but you also have to be business savvy and be able to utilize those skills to gain exposure and sales.

Essentially, I am running my own business as a painter. I literally have my own LLC, and it is a business to run. I have a business model for my painting, so it is more of how that larger idea of running that business translates into running a gallery. Clearly, there is cross-pollination in it being an arts related field, and I speak the language of artists with regard to various media and techniques. So acting as liaison, I have the strength to speak that arts language.

How is PS: Gallery a cornerstone of the arts community here?

JS: I think it is simply in the fact that it is one of few commercial galleries that exists representing local and regional artists in Columbia. I feel like we are a cornerstone in the sense that we are exposing the public to contemporary art and ideas. It’s not a membership where you pay and come show your artwork. It is not publicly funded. It is privately subsidized, which is difficult to do, but also is something we can offer the community and the cultural arts. It is free to anyone who wants to be exposed to broader ideas about contemporary art.

How do you plan to build upon the foundation of PS: Gallery?

JS: Our long term goal is to get more national recognition. We have been put into larger gallery guides, and I would like to continue to pursue being on the map as a national destination in the Midwest for the arts. We offer something fairly unique in the gallery setting, which is group exhibits of 4-to-6 artists for two or three months. We have a large enough space where we can show a body of work from that many artists. A lot of galleries can’t say that. That’s one of the things we plan to preserve and keep building upon.

I also plan to bring more attention to the gallery not just  nationally, but also to the city. Believe it or not, there are Columbians who say: “We have a gallery?  I’ve never been before. What’s it like?” All I can do is educate them on who we are and show them we want to make art accessible to everyone. It is free admissions, and if you see something you love, you can buy it. It doesn’t have to be anything cerebral, or art as an investment.

What fresh ideas will you bring to PS: ?

JS: We’re going to maintain the basic infrastructure and business model, but something new we’re going to introduce is sponsored exhibits. We’ll be working in partnership with different entities and corporations in Columbia, and each exhibit will be sponsored by one of these entities. It will help our national reach, as well as our local reach. It will also make things much more sustainable as a commercial gallery. Yet, it’s symbiotic because those corporations will be given artwork in exchange for their sponsorships. They’ll be able to host events at the gallery, and they’ll get a discount off artwork. There will be advantages going both ways. It is a complete change in the business, but it is a simple solution to helping sustain the gallery in a real and permanent way. 

What do you see as challenges in the future, and what are your strategies to meet them?

JS: The challenge frankly is having a commercial gallery. You have to sell artwork to pay the bills, but you have to push the envelope enough visually to have integrity. It’s a delicate balancing act. There are obviously ways to overcome that by boosting your sales, but ultimately, my thought for sponsorship was a way to address that. These big corporations get artwork, but they are saying we want to sponsor you, we believe in you, and we are willing to put money behind you. The association is a partnership, and we need them for sustainability.

How will you now acquire new artists?

JS: I’ll continue to do what we’ve already done. We accept submissions from artists, but we’re also continuously scouting for artists we love. Although Jennifer typically traveled west to scout, I tended to travel east. We were going different directions in the country and bringing back artists we were really excited about. We showed each other these artists and told each other why each artist would work well.  It’s a dialogue.  It’s one of the best parts of the job, and getting to tell an artist they’ll have a show is great.

How does the PS: team work together?

JS: The team – Antoine Matondo, Jonny Pez and Amy Meyer – has all become friends. We all have a say in what’s happening in hanging the shows and accepting artists into exhibits. We all temper one another, and I’m always open to consultation. I’ll use the strength of the staff to help me decide what is artwork that is going to still push the boundaries and make people think more broadly about concepts in contemporary art but also be accessible not just monetarily but also conceptually.

How do you see the community having a role in supporting the sustainability of PS: Gallery?

JS: The community response has already been overwhelming. The great thing about our online campaign is people can help on a small or large level.  We have a goal of $40,000 on Indiegogo, and we should be able to reach way beyond that in my opinion. This is a chance for people to help at all different amounts. Some people have limited means, but they appreciate the gallery, and that’s a way for them to say, “Here’s 25 bucks.” If everyone who came to one of our openings, enjoyed wine and  all the great conversation and artwork gave $25, we’d be golden.

Is this new ownership an opportunity to give a fresh perspective for PS: Gallery?

JS: It’s absolutely an opportunity. Jennifer and Chris are my good friends, and it isn’t pleasant to see them go, but I know they have amazing opportunities in Denver. But, I have an opportunity now as well. At first, I wanted to put my head in the sand when Jennifer first spoke to me about it.  Yet, I look at all the wisdom Jennifer imparted, and all that would be squandered had I declined. I have two sons, so you see your children, and you think about the large existential questions about life: “Who am I?” “Where have I been?” “What have I done?” I feel satisfied about what I’ve done as an artist, but now this is an opportunity to broaden what I am doing, and I see it as an extension of that role. I think being both an artist and gallery owner is going to be an amazingly complementary, two-pronged approach to my life.

How does it feel to take on someone else’s legacy?

JS: It feels like a natural transition. I am not a stranger buying up a gallery. Although I don’t have the sweat equity or the money Jennifer Perlow or Chris Stevens have invested, I was there since its birth, and Jennifer was frankly kind enough to consult me on many decisions. She made me feel like I was a part of it from the very inception. It feels like my own in a lot of ways, so that was a large impetus behind why I changed my mind and am making something happen. She always made me feel like PS: was my baby, too.


Harriet White is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism with an emphasis in magazine reporting. While a student, Harriet was published more than 30 times ranging from short artist profiles to a long-form narrative on refugees in mid-Missouri. With past internships at Procter & Gamble’s Government Relations department in Brussels and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Harriet is now pursuing a career in foreign affairs, as she will move to Washington D.C. in June 2013 to intern with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Communications department. For more information, please visit: www.harrietewhite.com


Driving forces…

Joel in his studio

Joel in his studio (May 2013)

The news of our beloved Jennifer Perlow’s departure has left many wondering what will happen to PS:Gallery, Columbia’s Mecca of the arts. As she settles in her new life in Denver, CO, the gallery will continue to represent the best of the best from our community and from outside. While we are all saddened by the void her absence will create, the gallery’s staff is assiduously working to keep the gallery open for the benefit of our community.

It is understandable to think of Jennifer Perlow as the face of the gallery but we would be mistaken to forget the wonderful and valuable staff of the gallery, personally trained by Jennifer.

Who is this staff? You have seen their faces but do you know their stories? You have chatted with them but what do they do? And if you have not, let me present them to you.

The staff’s eclectic expertise makes the gallery more than ready for the future. In addition to incorporating the business and artistic side of the arts, each contributes to the gallery in his or her own way.

The new face of the gallery, Joel Sager, is as much a part of PS as Jennifer. Undoubtedly, some people think the S in PS stands for Sager. A prolific artist, he has been the artist in residence since the first day providing more than 5 works at each new exhibit (that’s more than twenty a year). As one of the gallery’s curators, his duties include always looking for the strongest and best works from individual artists. When choosing artwork, he tries to establish a balance of aesthetic continuity between artists. In addition, he also facilitates consultation and acquisition of artwork. When he is able to find time, his side work includes design of all mail, advertisement, press, newsletter, and public relations marketing. As if that was not enough, he is currently leading all efforts to continue the work of his great mentor Jennifer Perlow.

Amy Meyer has always been around art. An accomplished artist herself (she was recently featured at the Columbia Art League), she has shared her love for the arts with many over the years as Education Director for the Columbia Art League and teacher. She started out as an intern at the gallery in 2006 and in 2011. Unwilling to do without with her talent, Jennifer hired her as the Associate Curator at PS:Gallery. Her duties range from choosing artists and hanging their artwork to the very important business side of running a gallery.

Jonny Pez is a visual artist. Since receiving his BFA in 2005, he has worked in interactive web design/programming, photo retouching, and post-production video. In addition to teaching college level courses and workshops, Jonny currently focuses on motion design, projection mapping, and interactive video installations. You may have seen one of his projects at the last TEDxCOMO. To the gallery, he is the ‘new media’ guy.

As for the humble writer of this blog, my education has always provided me with theoretical side of the arts. Working at the gallery has allowed me to put my ideas in practice and focus on other equally important facets of the arts. Since the very first exhibit, I have taken up a larger role within the gallery and my duties have ranged from running day-to-day operations, selling works, hanging shows, promoting the gallery, providing input on upcoming events…

The gallery and its staff have humbly served the community, its other driving force, for many years and hopes to continue to do so for many more years. Join us in our efforts to continue bringing some of the most amazing artists from Columbia, Missouri and the rest of the United States!

Written by Antoine M.


When opportunity knocks…


Today, art is everywhere and some would say –wrongly, I might add- that its presence is overwhelming and daunting. The transformative power of art is an expression of the artist to see the world s/he inhabits differently. Through the lenses of the artist, the familiar appears unfamiliar; objects seem to take on new shapes. Had Dorothy seen Kansas through Chris Dahlquist’s photography, she probably would have never left. Joel Sager’s faceless faces, inspired by 19th century photos, come alive and tell the viewer a vibrant and complex story. There is a certain lightness that contradicts the Victorian heaviness of that period. And in the hands of Jo Stealey, paper is no longer just paper but seems to have a history. Art is an awakening for it forces the viewer to evaluate and reevaluate at the same time. And for s/he who is touched, the art is very giving. Its gift is an unveiling of its secrets and an opportunity for a fresh outlook. Art allows for renewal of the self through sensual liberation.

As spring slowly makes its way into our environment and the fashion world unveils its colorful collections, PS Gallery readies itself to hang the 2013 Spring Exhibit. This spring, the gallery will host 6 artists whose art is another opportunity for renewal and rebirth. These artists, our guides, continue art’s tradition of fresh new outlooks without severing themselves from art’s long history.

Daniel Marks’ colorful acrylic will remind the viewer of Van Gogh and/or Munch. His fluid buildings, wavy and elastic, embark the viewer on a dream birthed in reality. Bede Clarke’s earthenware is playful and joyful. Upon viewing his bowls, the viewer will be reminded of happy couples making faces in a photo booth. His other works, more serious with their geometrical lines, balance the totality of his work. Art is playful but serious too.

Elizabeth Fox’s works borders that of surrealism with a touch of pop art. Her women are strong and complex. They are not afraid of staring back as the one in “Mystery Train” who returns the male gaze. In “Memory of a Sensation”, the iconic Fawcett poster grins self-assuredly as a man enters the sacred room. The complexity of her characters reflects that of her work.

Joseph Pintz’s earthenware takes ordinary kitchen objects and gives them a touch of antiquity with fresh colors.

Freshness. Coolness. Playfulness. Seriousness. Rebirth. Modern.

Beginning April 2nd, these artists will give us all an opportunity. As winter slowly withers away, our 6 artists will fulfill spring’s promise for renewal.

Pitcher, 8x4x10, earthenware

Joe Pintz

Cornfield, 40x30, acrylic paint on canvas

Daniel Marks


Bede Clark


Blog written by Antoine M.


A study in gratitude

It has become my tradition to take a moment before the Thanksgiving chaos to give thanks.

I am, as always, far behind so I will keep it brief this year.

I am thankful for the people who keep us going.  Several months ago I was catching up on thank you notes and was struck by how many people were repeat customer.  I was humbled by the number of people who came in each exhibit and found something fabulous to add to their personal collection.  I am even more awed by how many people stop and thank me.  I received the sweetest note from clients who are always present, always complementary, and always finding ways to support the gallery.  They thanked me (us – PS:Gallery) for bringing them great art that they could take home and treasure.

I am thankful to have a great staff whom I trust fully.  I recently left on a much needed vacation.  For six full days, I did not read email, I did not receive texts, and I did not answer my phone.  I know many small business owner for whom this would be impossible.  I have such a competent staff that I could disconnect and know that whatever came up, they could handle it.  I could not do this without them.

I am thankful to all the people in this community that help hold the arts together and make them grow.  I won’t name names but you know who you are.  There is an amazing amount of time and energy that goes into the arts and it wouldn’t be what it is without you!

I am most thankful for my family.  I am not ashamed to say that I am in LOVE with the new manager for the Office of Cultural Affairs for the City of Columbia.  Chris started his new job after Thanksgiving last year and is doing a great job in leading the city in all things arty.  I am thankful for Charlie who now can actually help at the gallery.  She is fully capable of opening the gallery and is more than willing to jump in and show jewelry when I’m busy.  It makes me happy that she and her friends want to come help at the openings.  They dress in their best and spend the evening helping put out food and pick up trash.

Happy Thanksgiving!