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Arts & Culture

New Art Gallery Opens

Melody and Jacob Sloat

Even though the pandemic has forced many businesses to close, a new art gallery will open this weekend in Cambridge, Illinois.

Self-employed artist Melody Sloat, and her husband Jacob, bought a former antique shop last May in Cambridge, (13013 N. 700 th Ave. (Route 19)), 40 minutes southeast of the Quad Cities. After a lot of clearing, repairs, and renovations to the historic building, she’s ready to run Excelsior Studio and Galleria. 

“I’ve worked retail for a very long time and I’ve always wanted to have my own shop. I have lots of friends that are artists and they’re kind of creating in their basements and didn’t have anywhere to go. I’ve always wanted my own space too, and we’ve outgrown the studio in our basement, and I needed my own space.
“We fell in love with this building and at first it was just going to be me and my husband, but when we started taking things apart, the space was really huge.”

Sloat and her husband moved from Moline five years ago; Jacob is native of Cambridge, and they have two sons, ages 22 and 19. Jacob works for Seither & Cherry in Davenport, an industrial construction company.
 She previously worked for Von Maur for 12 years at NorthPark and SouthPark malls in several departments, the last as a floor manager. Sloat is a self-taught artist, focusing on acrylics and oil paints, and also makes soap.

Credit Melody and Jacob Sloat
Melody Sloat

“I have always loved art, theater and music. It’s something I’ve always dabbled in. But my husband, he actually saw one of my doodles and encouraged me to do more of it. It brings me great joy.”

The 1,400-square-foot Cambridge building – which Sloat calls “an art oasis in the cornfields” – was last operated as an antique shop, but was vacant several years. The original building housed a 19 th century one-room school, called Excelsior. The back section came from a former one room school near Bishop HIll,and was added on in the 1940s.

Most recently she displayed her art at the Bishop Hill Creative Commons, where artists pay monthly rent, and the Commons charges an 8-percent commission on sales. At Excelsior, they will not charge artists a fee, but will take a 25-percent commission on sales.

Sloat will start showing work from 32 area artists, with a lot of variety. It includes stained glass, mosaics, ceramics, fiber arts, paintings, rocks, vinyl records, and books. Her husband will have a woodshop in the basement, and she’ll have her studio.

Sloat planned to open in early April, until the coronavirus outbreak intervened. Customers at the gallery will be required to wear a face mask.

“We’re taking precautions, we’ll only gonna let 10 to 15 people in at a time. We’ve got hand sanitizer and stuff to wipe things down. I think we’ll be OK.”

They will be open Fridays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 10-4, and Sundays 11-4, with weekday hours by appointment. For more information, check out Excelsior Studio and Galleria on Facebook.