In downtown Madison, there are many places to see art from around the world — the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chazen are popular local spots to view and appreciate the works of a diverse range of artists.
However, alternative art from Madison-based artists can also be found nearby in a less formal setting — a local hair salon.
In 2012, Muse Independent Styling, created by stylist and owner Jason Heussner, reopened on the corner of University and Gilman with the purpose to showcase creativity in all its forms.
Since then, Muse has displayed new art from a local artist every three months.
“I designed my salon around showing art,” Heussner said. “That was the whole intention around it.”
Heussner knew that he wanted a space where artists could show their work, especially displaying locals. In his seven years displaying artwork, all of it has been from Madison-based artists.
“It’s a community, you know? Just a space for people to show art,” he said. “It’s pretty simple.”
Heussner’s curator, Lydia Roussos, appreciates the nature of curating and preparing art for an alternative space such as the Muse.
“It’s super fun actually,” they remarked. “[It] is really refreshing to come into Muse and not worry about lighting or calculating hang height, and just hang things as we see fit.”
Roussos believes that informal spaces — like Muse — offer a unique way to appreciate art.
“People have a lot of baggage concerning art. It’s so white supremacist, it’s so masculine, it’s so capitalist, it’s so elevated, and there’s such an elite vibe,” Roussos explained. “It doesn’t have to be that way. Art is for everyone ... and having that in a space that feels informal, and is informal, is more approachable.”
Earlier in January, Muse Independent Styling hosted the opening of an art show by local queer artist Elyse Clouthier. Their works, including “Nature is Gay” and “My Friends Help Me Heal,” center on themes of community, identity, boundaries and friendship.
Clouthier also chose to use the showing of their series “HUGS!” as an opportunity to sell their work and donate part of the proceeds. A fundraiser was held on the night of the show’s opening, with fifty percent of art sales going directly to housing black trans women.
“I come from lots of DIY spaces, so it didn’t surprise me that a hair salon would be showing art and I just thought it was cool,” Clouthier said. “It’s cool that people are going to come get their hair done and they are going to look at my art. and it’s cool a business in the community is down to just give their space, for free, to let artists show their work. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
As for the customers at Muse, many seem to appreciate the new and constantly alternating art.
“Everybody seems to have an opinion,” Heussner added. “Most people enjoy the change. They enjoy seeing the change in the art every time they come.”
Elyse Clouthier’s new works will be on display at Muse Independent Styling until March 13.