The Ol' Blue Gallery home was built in 1854. The exterior slats and the structure remains the same as the day it was built...some sanding, some painting and modifications were made to reinforce the home. Some necessary upgrades were made to breath life back into the space and to bring it into the new era, but all upgrades were done with a regard to it's history. Any salvageable wood from the interior walls was sanded and reused.
Resurrected by virtue of the Arts. Established & operated by renowned artist Tai Taeoalii & his wife Adrienne, the Ol' Blue Gallery was resurrected from a historic 1854 pre-Civil War home, left for dead in "America's Hometown" of Hannibal, Missouri, with the intent of exposing southern/midwestern small-town folk to modern artworks not otherwise available, via the surreal works of Tai and the visions of emerging & established guest artists from around the world.
The Ol' Blue Gallery was established and is operated by renowned artist Tai & his wife Adrienne, with intent of showcasing the works of Tai, but also bringing the visions of emerging & established artists from around the world to America's hometown and it's public.
The condition it was in after we first gutted it. Check out this great video
Greetings! It is with great pleasure, a ton of elbow grease, and oodles of patience, that we have finally opened Art By Tai’s Ol’ Blue Gallery and Guesthouse!
Here is a rundown of how it all happened:
Between 2013 and 2015 I was constantly irritated that Tai would use his saw to build frames inside of our home. The extra dust it would cause in house was unbearable. I understood why he did it inside, because it was:
Welcome 2016, the year we found an answer to my saw dust woes. As it would happen, our neighbors, who were on the brink of becoming great friends of ours, had bought the 3 houses next to our home in a grouped purchase. The middle one was condemned and was going to be demolished. The one closest to us (the one that is now the gallery) was also set to be demolished and the furthest house from ours, they intended to fix up and sell. The house we wanted to buy was hanging on by a thread and a real eyesore for our street. It was nasty and I often referred to it as a “lean-to” because it looked to be little-more-than a shack that would blow over in the next windstorm. However, we thought that shack next door would be a MUCH better place to make frames and create saw dust in. So we let our neighbor friends know we wanted to buy it. They accepted and were relieved to have an extra project off their hands.
The city also wanted us to demolish it because, like I said, it was an eyesore, but Tai and I dream big (him much bigger than I). We discovered the hovel we bought was the oldest wooden structure in the city, so instead of demolishing it, Tai went to a city council hearing and promised he’d fix it up and get it looking better. It was a huge undertaking. We started by gutting the interior and removing the faux brick asphalt shingles that were nailed to the exterior of the whole structure. They were ugly shingles, but they had actually preserved the wood slats underneath, revealing what could become a charming little house. Once those shingles were gone, we could really see that the exterior slats were worth saving. After it was fully gutted, we didn’t leave much more than the cute original exterior and the limestone foundation.
Years would pass as we slowly worked on bits and pieces of the building. We tore off the entire back portion of the home, poured in new concrete, reinforced existing floor joists, added thicker walls, hoisted up beams for a large vaulted ceiling, built a cinderblock wall for the workshop, and installed a new metal roof. We did all this through 2016 and 2019, while also working on our own home, creating loads of art work and traveling to art fairs across the country. With more passing years, new dreams of our little building's potential emerged. A workshop, an art studio and an office. A gallery, oh and a guest house...because, why not?
2020 was to be "The Year" we would complete the gallery and finally have a brick and mortar retail space for ourselves. Tai had some art exhibitions in France in February, then was to go from Utah to Missouri to finish the rest of construction in March. That plan was in motion, but when he got to Hannibal he got sick, really, really sick. Was it covid?...the OG strain maybe? Nobody knows. That was right at the time everything started to shut down in the U.S. and we were worried we’d end up being locked down in separate states, so when Tai had enough strength to, he drove back to Utah, because that’s where our kids and myself were. We waited in Utah for a couple weeks to see what was going to happen with the pandemic, but eventually got bored of feeling like sitting ducks and decided go to Hannibal to finish the gallery. Naively, we thought it would only take a month.
We spent every waking minute of every damn day laboring between April and November of 2020. Our days were spent hanging drywall, laying floor, plumbing, installing electrical, mudding, scraping the exterior paint, putting up trim, painting interior and exterior walls, installing toilets, insulating...oh the list was never ending. If not for our online "Drink and Draw" sessions, we wouldn’t have ever just sat down for a break. We were grateful to host the "Drink and Draws" for so many reasons but especially for the mental and physical break it provided. We didn’t realize the extent to what we'd gotten ourselves into, but the pandemic granted us the time we needed to finish all the major construction.
Ok, we did it. Jump to 2021. Building was pretty much done, Tai had moved into his new office and workshop and we thought, since art fairs were still cancelled, “let's open the gallery ASAP”. The heavens laughed and showed us that it wasn't in our cards. Our zoning was all wrong. So we tried to change it, after all, there are bars, a barbershop, a bank and a library all within a stones throw. It really should’t have been any problem to rezone, but after months and months and months of trying to change our zoning, we learned it wasn't going to happen.
We had all but given up when a new idea emerged from someone on the city council who wanted to see our gallery through. “Let’s change the law” and he put it into motion. More months of city council meetings and negotiations went by and toward the end of last year, at long last, I got an email that the new law had passed and we could open up the gallery! We were beside ourselves. Okay, next year will be "The Year”, we thought, but we'd just have to pass the building inspection. The true test of our (quite literal) blood, sweat and tears.
March 21, 2022, two years to the day that Tai drove back to Utah with Covid fears, which delayed our original construction plans, who arrives at the gallery door? Not one, but two building inspectors and the fire marshal. It was the moment of truth. Was it all for nothing? Would there be all sorts of things we needed to do over? Could it actually pass inspection? Would they be total jerks? No, they wouldn’t be. In fact they were delighted with the building and with Tai’s artwork. We passed! WE ACTUALLY PASSED! Finished some formal paper work, paid fees, hosted a huge Grand Opening party and now we're open for you to visit the gallery and rent the guesthouse.
We've finally, officially, opened our Ol’ Blue Gallery & Guesthouse and we’d like you to come for a visit.
Take a stroll down the river walk of the mighty Mississippi, visit Mark Twain’s boyhood home, gorge yourself at one of our many bars & restaurants, but even more importantly, come see all of our hard work we've put in on this nearly 7 year rehab project, which we poured our blood, sweat and tears into.