The Art Factory: New gallery adds to Dubuque arts scene

if you go

WHAT: The Art Factory opening night

WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 25

WHERE: 120 E. Ninth St.


Hieyler Talley is enamored with color.

One need look no further than her most recent creations to see it.

Vibrant pinks collide with bursts of orange, forming a perfect marriage between hues. Beside it, a deep blue washes over a canvas, pops of color emerge out of the darkness.

“I just love color,” Talley said, breaking into enthusiastic laughter. “When I was working on my art thesis, my teachers said, ‘OK. How about we try some black and white?’ I just don’t think I have it in me.”

The eight large-scale paintings that are part of a collection three years in the making adorn the interior of a new gallery space perched atop a building in Dubuque’s Millwork District.

The Art Factory, as Talley has christened it, will open its doors at 120 E. Ninth St. on Friday, March 25.

After falling in love with The Mandolin Inn on Loras Boulevard, Talley and her husband, Wendell, relocated to Dubuque a year ago, transforming the former bed-and-breakfast into their permanent residence.

“We had never heard of this place called Dubuque,” Talley said, laughing. “We’ve lived all over the United States but had never really visited this region. It’s so beautiful.”

But amid COVID-19, she found it challenging to find outlets for her work to be shown in a new community.

“It can be difficult to break into a new art market as a new or emerging artist,” said Talley, who previously has called California, Texas and Minneapolis home, among other locations. “I got to a point where I was tired of asking for permission.”

So, Talley decided to embark upon a longtime dream to open her own gallery. The space she stumbled upon features a unique curvature to its ceiling that crowns exposed brick walls, hardwood floors and a wall of windows that allows natural light to spill in.

Her vision for the content of the space is somewhat novel to the area. Along with her art, she intends to showcase the work of only one additional artist each month, something toward which she believes the intimate space will lend itself well.

“I could open it up and host many artists,” Talley said. “But I wanted to create a space that was accessible — where I could not only have my work seen but also the work of a local student or another local artist that might need that kind of an opportunity in order to grow their resume and gain exposure.”

Talley said those opportunities proved pivotal to her career as an artist.

Tapping into a creative spirit as early as elementary school, Talley said she dabbled in everything from jewelry making to her true love: printmaking.

“I just always wanted to make something,” she said. “But my mom didn’t want me to major in art. She wanted me to do something that made money. So, I studied psychology.”

However, mastering the inner workings of the mind didn’t hold Talley’s interest. She ultimately found her way back to art, pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting through the Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design.

“I was in my 40s,” she said. “It was time for me to pursue my passion.”

Painting professionally for the past 10 years, Talley said her work is drawn from a highly emotive experience that makes use of mixed media and aims to explore a place in abstraction for Black artists.

“I don’t sketch or plan anything in advance,” she said. “I just let it come as it comes.”

It’s an inspirational technique that Talley hopes to share with artists still on the cusp of honing their craft.

Plans for the site include education and outreach opportunities, with a variety of intimate workshops from April to August.

Talley’s husband called his wife’s efforts inspiring, adding that he hopes it is something the community gets behind.

“Watching Hieyler over the last few years finish her master’s degree while schooling and raising three daughters has been inspiring to our entire family,” he said. “Hieyler is happiest when she is creating and sharing her love of beauty and color. I know she has plans to make The Art Factory a vibrant place in Dubuque, and she usually achieves what she sets her mind to accomplishing. I hope the people of Dubuque support her.”

Talley said she is hopeful the new gallery will help promote engagement among local art patrons, perhaps introducing them to new work and new creators, opening the door to future growth of the city’s art scene.

“When I lived in Minneapolis, there were thousands of artists,” she said. “Art was such a part of the culture of the city, and the city did such an amazing job supporting it and making it part of everyone’s lives. I’m still getting acquainted with artists locally. But Dubuque definitely has the infrastructure in place and the potential to grow into a destination for art. I just hope to be a pin on that map.”