“Jill of All Trades,” Cassandra Buck ’08, is an artist, educator, and arts advocate in the city of Rochester, Minnesota.
Upon graduating from WSU with a bachelor’s degree in art education, Buck began teaching art at Kasson Mantorville Middle School in 2009. During her seven years at the school, she worked in tandem to further develop her own art practice and became increasingly involved in the Rochester arts community. In 2016, when her teaching position was eliminated due to budget cuts, she decided to take the opportunity to focus on her artistic career fulltime.
Buck is now fully entrenched in the Rochester arts scene. She is involved in two grassroots organizations: The Rochester Arts and Cultural Collaborative and C4 (Concerned Citizens for a Creative Community), with the latter being the reason she became involved in her arts community in the first place. “C4 was the catalyst for my career as an artist,” Buck says, as it allowed her to meet local artists and art advocates, as well as provided inspiration to do the work she’s done thus far.
Part of that work is Gallery 24, which Buck founded in 2015. As Rochester’s first contemporary artist collaborative, the nonprofit is comprised of 21 artists. Its purpose is to create community amongst artistic professionals in Southeastern Minnesota, helping their vision and practice evolve through opportunities for professional development, exhibition, and the exchange of ideas.
“I started Gallery 24 because I felt there was a need for resources for artists, as well as a need for connectivity with each other and the public,” Buck says. “I wanted to create a home for artists.”
That home, for the time being, is within the walls of Forager Brewery, as well as another temporary space downtown Rochester. And while the collaboration with Forager has allowed Gallery 24 to bring art to a wider audience and connect positively with the public, their hope is to find a permanent home that provides space for classroom, studio, exhibit and retail areas. They have worked to raise funds through a “Help Gallery 24 Go Home” GoFundMe page, and are holding a fundraising event at the end of July 2018.
But that’s not all Buck is involved in. She works as the Arts Programmer for Forager Brewery, organizes classes taught by local creatives, pop-up markets where emerging creative entrepreneurs can sell their items at a low cost, and is an active advocate for women in the arts, apparent through much of the work she does.
La mesa delle Donne is an annual women’s exhibit Buck started in 2013 after seeing a need for advocacy and connectivity for women creatives in Rochester. She wanted to help her fellow creative women find their voice and share their work with others. In 2016, she opened the exhibit up to the entire state of Minnesota, and in 2017, it was juried and held at the Rochester Art Center.
In her own art, Buck says that she has always focused on two things: expression and the feminine. Currently reclaiming her feminine artistic voice without shame, she hopes that her art communicates something to the viewer about what strength is. “I strive to challenge current societal constructs,” Buck says, “on what is visually deemed as weak and helpless (feminine) versus what is deemed to be visually strong and independent (masculine). I want to challenge our tendency as a society to dismiss the feminine.”
As a result of all she has accomplished, Buck was recognized in 2016 with the Rochester Mayor’s Medal of Honor for Artistic/Cultural Achievement. As for her future plans, Buck says she will “keep making art, keep pursuing my passion, and keep pushing to make my community better for my children.”