As curator and member artist, I am happy to have the OFF MAIN GALLERY opening for our second season. Starting a new gallery last year was daunting and full of surprises…and learning new skills--becoming more of a business man (something not taught in art school), understanding the need for legal papers, sign permits, IRS requirements, keeping the books, etc.
The best part, of course was selecting artists to exhibit their work, curating and hanging work, organizing artists’ talks before receptions, seeing friends and new art appreciators attend receptions throughout the summer. There was a steady stream of people all summer coming through the gallery—looking, buying, schmoozing. This part of gallery work is my favorite. Meeting new people, talking to young artists, looking at artists’ websites. How many artworks did I look at on phones? There were many fascinating discussions about art, living in Wellfleet; and in August a woman walked in and she looked familiar. After pinning down our New York City youths-she the Bronx, me Brooklyn, we realized that we had gone to City College together and hadn’t seen each other since 1970(!!), you can do the math.
The barn that houses the gallery is supposedly oldest in Wellfleet. Dated from 1835, the building still retains many of its original features, beautiful gray barn-wood floor and walls; a hay loft that is accessible by a very steep ladder, which was endlessly fascinating for so many young children who came in. There is also a tombstone in the back yard that we’ve heard many stories about; the best (and most believable) is that the stone mason contracted to carve information about the person who was to be buried underneath made so many obvious typos that he gave the farmer the ornate headstone because there was no remedy to all the errors. I need to go to the few Wellfleet cemeteries to find the (correct) headstone that replaced this one—I assume the stone mason finally got it right. I will post the backyard headstone and the one that replaced it, if I find it.
So many people came in with childhood stories about summers long ago when the barn was the Fox’s Den (Mary Fox still owns the barn and the ice cream store on Main Street); others remembered, I Used to Be a Tree, a store that sold all things wooden. All summer women came in disoriented, and we had to direct people across Main Street to the new Frances Francis clothing store, that was in the barn for 18 years. Talking about the ice cream store just in front of us, so many people included a trip to see art while eating their ice cream. Our chairs and benches in front of the gallery are a perfect place to enjoy ice cream. I was happy that art and ice cream mixes so well and that we helped so many young people have an art experience. I loved listening to very young ones tell what a painting or print was about, what they saw; many children said they wanted to be an artist when they grew up—so I’ll wait to have their art hanging sometime in the future. We hope the art demonstrations we had for children and adults last summer will be offered again. We are thinking about more and longer workshops for children this season. As part of this community outreach we are also finding ways to create community events—poetry readings, musical events, to promote the arts in the community.
Location, location, location; we are the very happy neighbors of Preservation Hall—we also share a parking lot. Having two places that are devoted to art and the community makes our part of Main Street a small arts district. We hope to create possibilities for collaboration with Pres Hall. The Wellfleet Public Library isn’t as close in distance, but it is another institution that we wish to collaborate with; as member of the Library Art Committee, I help with art exhibits there (and find artists who might be interested in the gallery).
This year Off Main Gallery has become a membership gallery that is more cooperative. Our ten members will each have a solo exhibit and reception—and artist talks. The process of finding artists and choosing work has been instructive and joyful. Take a look at the artists’ page on this site. I’m blown away by the well-made and dazzling artwork and boundless talents represented in so many media and genres. Also, we will have visiting artists showing work throughout the summer. In having these two levels of participation, we hope that Off Main Gallery can provide a way for artists at any point in their careers to get exposure. Because our gallery is based on membership and community, artists who may not have enough experience, or who are still developing can show in the gallery as visiting artists, when they might not find representation in other commercial galleries.
We have a vast array of talent…come see the work, have some food and wine at our receptions and help build community through the arts!