Art Love Collective aims to promote Lawrence creatives through an ‘inclusive environment with communal support’

Share this post or save for later

Art Love Collective co-founders Hollie Blakeney and Morgan Long felt the Lawrence arts community was lacking something, and they opened Lawrence’s newest gallery with the intention of filling that void. 

The collective opened its doors at 646 Vermont St. in mid-March. Blakeney — who based the business model on an arts co-op she founded in Michigan — refers to Art Love as a “hub” where people can gather not only to purchase and create art, but also to host events and attend artist-led classes.

“Our goal is to provide a safe space for artists from all communities, and to be able to help them sell and promote their work,” Blakeney said. “We really want to help artists grow in an inclusive environment with communal support.” 

The collective’s business model aims to make art accessible for artists of all backgrounds. Of the 35 members and 13 commissioned artists, Blakeney said about half are people of color or queer. 

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Art Love Collective co-founders Morgan Long, left, and Hollie Blakeney created Art Love Collective with one goal in mind: to provide every artist with a safe, affordable and supportive space.

Local artist and co-chair and community coordinator for the Indigenous Community Center Moniqué Mercurio, of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation, said that before Art Love opened, she didn’t have any luck with local galleries.

“As an Indigenous artist, I’ve tried very hard to get into shops locally,” Mercurio said. “I wasn’t met in any capacity of support whatsoever … I work with the community in a very large capacity, so, you know, I’m getting a very good feel of genuine people versus performative people.”

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times In addition to being the co-chair and community coordinator for the Indigenous Community Center, Moniqué Mercurio creates Native American beadwork masterpieces for sale in-store and on Instagram.

Sam Azzaro, who joined the collective as soon as it opened in March, said they enjoy having space to make their art without censorship. Azzaro has worked in a variety of mediums, including photography, drawing, sculpture and metal work. They received a bachelor’s in fine arts from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater before pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration at the University of Kansas.

Some of Azzaro’s most recent work deals with the complexities of growing up transgender, and they say the collective allows them to create and show their work unapologetically. 

“It’s a space where I don’t have to apologize for who I am,” Azzaro said. “Growing up, it really felt like I had to be closeted and hide that part of myself away. Or I had to tiptoe around varying people in my life. I don’t have to do that anymore. I am here to take up as much space as I want and as I need.” 

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times One of Azzaro’s current projects is painting pictures of the home they grew up in and setting it on fire with flames of paint. “What better way is there to process childhood trauma than by burning it all down?”

Blakeney and Long aim to keep money in the artists’ pockets by charging creatives a monthly membership fee and taking a 10% commission. According to Blakeney, traditional galleries charge commissions as high as 70% and prohibit artists from selling their work anywhere else, forcing the creative to raise their prices and cater to a wealthier clientele. 

Membership plans at the collective range from $100 to $200 per month and come with access to Art Love’s gallery and 24-hour studios. Additionally, the more expensive options give artists discounts on classroom and event space rentals and online exposure through the collective’s digital art market. There’s also a guest artist option that doesn’t require a membership but takes a 40% commission on sales. 

“The main point of this space is just to keep everything in the artists’ pockets — we aren’t here to make money off of them,” Long said. Laughing a bit, she added: “We really just want to pay rent. That’s it.” 

By providing an inclusive home base for artists, musicians and writers, Blakeney and Long aim to simultaneously make original artwork accessible and encourage an entire generation of underrepresented artists. 

“It’s so empowering for me to see them also take up that space that they need,” Azzaro said. “Being able to support Black artists, Indigenous artists and queer artists in any sort of capacity is something that I really enjoy and love.”

The collective’s Final Friday exhibition, set for 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 28, will feature Indigenous artists. On Sunday, it will host the kickoff for Actions for Justice Week, a week dedicated to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit and Trans (MMIWG2ST) people. Read more about that at this link.

Art Love Collective is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Learn more on their website,

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Hollie Blakeney (left) and Morgan Long have years of combined artistic experience. Blakeney works in a variety of mediums, including jewelry, glassmaking, painting and collage. Long, a photographer by trade, also creates large-scale commissions for commercial and residential clients.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Azzaro works in the shared artist space at 646 Vermont St. Just a couple of doors down at 616 Vermont, the collective offers both shared and individual workspaces.

If community coverage like this matters to you, please support The Lawrence Times.
Click here to subscribe.

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Azzaro’s bright, trippy artwork shares a wall with Fred Pawlicki’s nature photographs.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times A gallery of artwork for International Women’s Day is on display.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Azzaro’s mannequin expresses their frustration with the confines of gender. Although Azzaro likes Lawrence, they said their decision to stay will depend upon decisions Kansas Republican legislators make regarding trans folks in the upcoming years.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Art Love Collective opened in March 2023 with the goal of providing artists an inclusive space to showcase and sell their art.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times In addition to selling local artwork at affordable prices, Art Love offers handmade beauty products and household items.
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Local artist Brandt Minden specializes in vibrant rainbow pieces.
If our local journalism matters to you, please help us keep doing this work.
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Chloe Anderson (she/her) contributed to The Lawrence Times from August 2022 through May 2023. She is also published in Climbing magazine, Kansas Reflector and Sharp End Publishing. As a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, Chloe plans to continue her career in photography, rock climbing and writing somewhere out West.

You can view her portfolio, articles and commissioned work here. Check out more of her work for the Times here.

Latest Lawrence news:


Previous Article

Kansas lawmakers adopt property tax break for restaurant, child care and fitness club businesses

Next Article

Muslim advocacy group asks Kansas senator for equal representation after offer to convert