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Circa Gallery in Minneapolis has been more than just a place for scores of contemporary local, regional and national artists to feature their paintings, graphics and mixed-media works. It was a place where gallery founder Wanda Flechsig welcomed them all by name, befriended them and went the extra mile to ensure they succeeded.

"She wanted everyone to have the best art life they could have," said artist Rebecca Crowell, who specializes in abstract paintings. "She was so personal and so supportive. I was at a low point in my career, and she just kept telling me to be patient and not give up on my work because she knew things would get better. That's the kind of person Wanda was."

Flechsig, 52, died of ovarian cancer on June 4 at home in Richfield. Shows will continue at the gallery she founded in 1990.

Born in Watkins, Minn., Flechsig developed an interest in art while attending Eden Valley-Watkins High School and Alexandria Technical College in the 1970s. She earned a degree from the University of Minnesota, Morris, where she majored in studio arts and art history, said her husband of 28 years, Marc, of Richfield.

After college, Flechsig was an artist who displayed her lithographs, ceramics, paintings and other works at galleries and juried shows in the Twin Cities. She also worked in a retail poster gallery in Southdale and in various other Twin Cities galleries until she opened her own.

"She just saw an opportunity to promote regional and local art," her husband said. "She was extremely proud of what she and the artists did."

For the past 18 years at locations near Target Center, near Loring Park and now in the Warehouse District, Flechsig exhibited "impeccable business ethics" and put the needs of the artists showing in her gallery before her own, said Sally Johnson, owner of the Groveland Gallery.

"She was a fabulous matchmaker who would watch as a customer would fall in love with a piece of art, then make it possible to for them to take it home," Johnson said. "Her goal was to make them [the artists] a success. She went to bat to bat for them every time she could. Her pride was developing clientele for her artists, and she thrived on that."

Painter David Boggs of Moorhead, Minn., said he appreciated Flechsig's extensive knowledge of painting and the personal interest she took in his work.

"She never pushed me in a given direction, and that is what artists dream about," Boggs said. "She was so supportive, gracious and sincere She was a remarkable and amazing person."

In recent years, she expanded the gallery's reach by featuring artists from cities such as Chicago, Seattle and New York, while helping Minnesota artists gain exposure elsewhere.

"She was a gem in our business," said Thom Barry, who runs Thomas Barry fine arts. "She always had a great sense of confidence and worked as hard for her artists as any dealer I've ever known."

Flechsig's artistic talents extended to her garden, where she grew hostas that have been featured on horticultural tours, her husband said. She also enjoyed canoeing on the St. Croix River and read extensively about spiritual issues.

In addition to her husband, Flechsig is survived by her mother, Evelyn Schackmann of Sartell, Minn.; four sisters, Lorie Schackmann of Marine on St. Croix, LaVonne Schackmann of Hastings, Diane Evans of Randall, Minn., and Juanita Schackmann of Cincinnati, and a brother, Richard Schackmann of St. Cloud.

A memorial service will be held July 18 at Circa Gallery, 210 N. 1st St., Minneapolis.