THE STORY OF VALA
VALA GALLERY 2008-2014 (Brick & Mortar)
Penny Thieme has provided a unique and much needed space for the Kansas City Art Scene. VALA Gallery is a venue of love and dedication bestowed by an artist, entrepreneur, and humanitarian, to other artists of all mediums. Her tireless commitment and enthusiasm for art, artists, and charitable causes is a testament to her desire to make the Kansas City metropolitan area a place of civil discourse, peace, and culture. ~Larry Thomas, Professor of Fine Art & Department Chair, Johnson County Community College
VALA emerged as my response to support artists and build a thriving art presence in the community I love. A call to create a nurturing, loving space where artists could explore and discover their artistic voices in a multi-generational, non competitive environment, open to diverse disciplines, views and expressions.
For several years, I used my studios to create a place of belonging and community through connection, creation, and collaboration. I organized exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings, performances and classes. I partnered with numerous non-profit organizations including Safe Home, The Brain Injury Association of Kansas City, KC Friends of Jung, The Midwest Transplant Network and Lyric of Life.
I did not do it alone. It was the countless artists, volunteers, models, mentors, businesses and organizations who believed in my vision that made it a reality.
We shared the work of over 900 Visual, Audial and Literary Artists (VALA), curated public exhibitions throughout the Kansas City Metro area, completed three series of large paintings, mixed media and sculpture and presented Communion & Conversations in collaboration with renowned author Richard Bach in the Hudson Auditorium at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.
"Penny is just a house afire! She is so enthusiastic, she so believes in what she is doing that she changes the world around her. "~Richard Bach Communion and Conversations/May 2012
We organized artists for the first season of the Mission Art Walk and mentored women and children healing from the trauma of domestic violence.
"At 13, I was blessed by an angel, brought to me by unfortunate circumstances. Penny met me with an open heart, arms and smile, at a Crime Victims Exhibition where I submitted artwork at her gallery. She invited me into her home, her VALA Gallery, where I spent every Sunday morning growing under her sunlight and love.
Penny taught me to be fearless, bold, and brave. Always be brave. She taught me about so much more than art, which is so closely connected to my life. She taught me about myself and what exactly I was made of. Penny planted and fostered my dream of attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I was recently accepted.
As for everything I learned from her in a short version; be strong. Be unforgiving of who you are and what you stand for, but remember to love, forgive and forget, and remember there is beauty in the storm. If I could recommend a life and art teacher to any young person it would be one of my greatest friends and mentors, Penny Thieme.~Aurora Davis"
VALA organized art exhibitions for victims' of violent crimes in partnership with the Victims' Assistant Unit of Johnson County to raise awareness and give victims a voice. I received an award from the Johnson County Victim’s Assistant Unit in 2014. We put work in public spaces for disabled and aging artists and provided an online presence for artists grappling with contemporary marketing and social media.
I never set out to be a for profit business or non-for profit organization but when we came to the juncture of becoming a non-profit or closing we waged a campaign to form a 501c3. But ongoing construction on Johnson Drive forced me to close the space.
I was also losing my vision which turned out to be a cataract that was originally misdiagnosed, leading me to believe I would lose my sight permanently. I wavered between teaching myself to paint blind and planning my suicide.
Thankfully, my sight was restored through the generous gift of from a doctor and staff at the St. Louis Eye and Lasik Surgery Center http://www.stl2020.com who voluntarily provide surgeries once a year for people who do not have insurance through Mission Cataract U.S.A. Organization. https://missioncataractusa.org/
VALA Programs & Community Impact
"As a local artist, I have witnessed Penny Thieme's generosity and devotion towards fellow artists and worthy causes first hand. She is a proud supporter of all vehicles for artistic expression and is a charitable champion for many under funded organizations. She has made remarkable progress in turning previously unused storefronts into working spaces and galleries for other like-minded individuals. She has the indomitable passion and spirit of an artist with the heart of a mother. Never one to boast about her accomplishments, she continues to look for ways to give others the creative voice she believes they deserve. I'm honored to know her and utilize VALA gallery in my own artistic pursuits." Rick Wright/Artist
"Penny Thieme has provided a unique and much needed space for the Kansas City Art Scene. VALA Gallery is a venue of love and dedication bestowed by an artist, entrepreneur, and humanitarian, to other artists of all mediums. Her tireless commitment and enthusiasm for art, artists, and charitable causes is a testament to her desire to make the Kansas City metropolitan area a place of civil discourse, peace, and culture."
~Larry Thomas, Professor of Fine Art & Department Chair, Johnson County Community College
Mission Art Walk
"Penny and VALA Gallery were instrumental in launching the first Mission ArtWalk season in 2011. Her influence in the arts community brought out artists willing to take a chance on the ArtWalk which was successful beyond everyone's expectations." ~ Marty Hugo