Seems like just last week we wrote about North Ferrisburgh artist Rod MacIver (pictured right) opening Heron Dance Wild Nature Art Gallery in a capacious, light-filled space next to the Winooski Welcome Center. In fact, it was February 27. And already, the gallery is closing.
It wasn't MacIver's choice, and he's none too pleased about it.
When he moved in, MacIver anticipated giving his successful web-based enterprise — selling his Tao-accented watercolors, cards, prints and calendars — a bricks-and-mortar presence. He also looked forward to having the space to accommodate much bigger paintings and, MacIver told Seven Days in February, planned to invite a sculptor to show large-scale, freestanding works, as well.
The Winooski venue, with its 24-foot-high ceiling and proximity to the broader art market of Chittenden County, seemed perfect. Plus, the rent was low.
So what happened?
MacIver had inked a six-month sublease with Jodi Harrington, who holds the lease for his space and an adjacent one, and runs the Welcome Center. Harrington has been the HallKeen-owned building's biggest cheerleader; she's hosted (with Ric Kasini Kadour of Kasini House) pop-up galleries and holiday markets in the spaces. And, she says, her vision for the long-empty storefronts facing the traffic circle was something generally arty and high quality.
The idea with Heron Dance was that, at the end of six months, MacIver would commit to a longer-term lease and higher rent, assuming he wanted to stay.
He did, but what he didn't know was that HallKeen's local real estate agents, Donahue & Associates, was concurrently looking for another anchor tenant. As MacIver put it in an email:
As a courtesy it would have been nice for them to let me know what they were doing — I didn't find out that there was a new tenant or even that they were marketing the space until contractors were in my space measuring for improvements for the new tenant — but I do understand that I was underpaying even for that poorly designed space and the situation was sooner or later going to need to change.
And it did. Harrington recently returned from a trip to learn that a new tenant — as of this writing she says she doesn't know who it is — was very interested in moving in. Next month.
Harrington insists, though, that "everybody's been very aboveboard, not wanting to step on toes." Still, she says, "When I was approached by the realtor, they gave us an offer we couldn't turn down." Harrington admits she has spent much of her money trying to keep the spaces open and active, and "wasn't in a good negotiating place.
"The good news," she says, "is there's actually demand." And she's looking forward to re-establishing her part of the space as a sort of Winooski booster venue, with souvenirs and locally made products.
For his part, MacIver has accepted the outcome as gracefully as anyone could. "I thought I'd try it out but wasn't willing to make a longer-term lease," he concedes. "It was an experiment, and it didn't work."
Heron Dance was doing fine before the gallery and will continue on without it, he adds. With a book project in the works, MacIver concludes, "New creative adventures await, and I'm both chastened by the experience and excited about what comes next."
File photo of Rod MacIver by Matthew Thorsen.