ArtPlace closes but aims to stay in the picture
Published 6:35 pm, Thursday, October 20, 2011
The title of the current exhibit at ArtPlace is borrowed from the 1971 Academy Award-winning film, "The Last Picture Show," and it is the last show for the non-profit art organization in its artist-run gallery at 11 Unquowa Road.
The downtown space served as home to ArtPlace for the last couple of years, but the economic downturn has made it difficult to afford the lease. ArtPlace will vacate its current location Sunday at the conclusion of its closing reception, an Artist Walk and Talk, set for 3 to p.m. The exhibit features artwork by all 27 members of the cooperative gallery.
"It's a wonderful gallery. Unfortunately we're leaving. With the economy sales of art are declining and it just became too expensive for us," said Mary Louise Long of Stamford, an artist and ArtPlace member. Long said she is sad to leave what she called "such a beautiful space," but "we're moving on and remaining positive."
The loss of the gallery space does not spell the end for ArtPlace, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2012, according to Florence Zolan, a founding member and president.
"We've been looking (for a new home), but haven't come up with anything yet," said Zolan, a former Fairfielder who now lives in Bridgeport. "We are excited about new ventures and new challenges," said Zolan, who works in mixed media, combining collage, print-making and pastels.
Zolan is grateful that a local interior designer, who is prominent in the Fairfield art scene, has invited ArtPlace to share her office space. Ellen Hyde Phillips, owner of Fairfield Interiors at 25 Lindbergh St., is providing the group with interim office and exhibit space until members can find another place of their own. Unlike the current space, gallery hours at Fairfield Interiors will be by appointment only, Long said.
This is not the first time ArtPlace has found itself homeless. The gallery had a home in the westbound terminal building of the Southport Railroad Station for 27 years until it was destroyed by fire in January 2008.
"We had no choice but to leave. The space was no longer habitable," said David Pressler, a member artist and former long-time Fairfield resident, now residing in Shelton. Pressler's work includes photography, print-making, etchings and mixed media.
Zolan said they became "wandering minstrels, so to speak," accepting offers to exhibit work at the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, Carriage Barn Art Center at Waveny Park in New Canaan, Bendheim Gallery in Greenwich and the Pequot Library in Fairfield until they landed the Unquowa Road gallery.
While some of the artist members are disappointed about the loss of the current space, others see it as a means of reinventing themselves and their organization, which includes members from Fairfield, New Haven and Westchester counties.
Pressler said it will allow the group to reformat its marketing strategy and perhaps reach a broader audience. Just as the loss of the Southport gallery forced the group to rethink its relationship with the public, so will this allow members to "bring our creative expression to stimulate the public in new ways," he said.
"I think we were surprised at how quickly we had to leave, however, I think it's going to be a good opportunity," said ArtPlace Co-President Diane Pollack of Fairfield. Regardless of where the organization is housed, Pollack said the public will follow. "ArtPlace has always been a destination," said Pollack, who makes monotypes.
Until ArtPlace can find a gallery space of its own, Pressler said the group will continue to exhibit throughout the region. The group has permanent exhibit space at Watermark at 3030 Park Ave. in Bridgeport and other exhibits are in the works. ArtPlace will also continue offering lectures and workshops.
Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. ArtPlace will retain its website and telephone number. For more information, visit www.artplace.org or call 203-292-8328.