Shifting Places in Burlington's Soda Plant | Live Culture

Shifting Places in Burlington's Soda Plant


The entrance to S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in the Soda Plant - PAMELA POLSTON
  • Pamela Polston
  • The entrance to S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in the Soda Plant
Last week, Seven Days learned that the owner of Brickwork Art Studios evicted its tenant artists at 266 South Champlain Street in Burlington's South End Arts District.  This week, more movement is afoot with studio spaces: Backspace Gallery, a part of S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in the Soda Plant, is going to be reclaimed by property owner Steve Conant beginning June 5, according to studio manager Christy Mitchell. Backspace houses six artists as well as a gallery and event space. Conant is the founder of Conant Metal & Light, a fabrication shop also located in the building.

Five of the six artists currently occupying Backspace will move their studios into S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, joining the nine artists already occupying studios there. The only artist not moving with the group is seeking short-term accommodations elsewhere with Mitchell's assistance.
Christy Mitchell in front of a painting by Blake Larsen - CHRISTY MITCHELL
  • Christy Mitchell
  • Christy Mitchell in front of a painting by Blake Larsen

Mitchell founded S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in 2009 and the Backspace Gallery in 2010. She has been presenting solo and group art shows every month since. In November, she'll mount her 100th show — a solo exhibition of her own work. Mitchell said the move will not affect the continued activities of the gallery, and that she'll continue to offer local art for public consumption.

"The[S.P.A.C.E.] gallery will stay open," Mitchell affirmed. "We've been having stellar, record-breaking art sales for the last three months."

With the eviction of artists from Brickwork, which Mitchell designed and managed in its infancy, the changes at S.P.A.C.E. might seem ominous. But Mitchell noted that Conant is opening new studios in the Soda Plant.

She also pointed out that James Unsworth is breaking ground in September on a property behind the intersection of Pine and Howard streets  that will include space reserved for artists. Unsworth said that 5,000 square feet of the new building will be set aside for that purpose.

Asked about the changes in the Soda Plant, Conant explained that the former Backspace Gallery is needed for a production facility for Conant Metal & Light. "We have a huge contract looming for a project in Boston that requires a bigger space, everything from custom doorways to large lighting installations," he said. "We've been occupying a lot of small spaces [in the Soda Plant], but they aren't great for this sort of work. So, our moving out of those small spaces makes them available to be other people's [studios]."

The spaces opening up range from 100 to 300 square feet. Conant said they could be rented to artists, small businesses or a studio collective. He added that prices will range from $100 for an individual space to $1,200 for a few combined spaces.

Any transitions in the South End seem to evoke dismay on the part of artists. But Mitchell had this to say: "I don't think [artists] are being pushed out. I think things are changing. It's evolving. This is what we were hoping for [in the South End], and there's so much more work to do."

As for her own business, Mitchell said, "This change, it's really an opportunity for me to buckle down and say, 'How do I support artists in the South End?'" She hinted that it might include a renewal of the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery's membership program, which gives artists access to feedback from Mitchell, advice on pricing and framing, open critique nights, and opportunities to exhibit in the gallery.

"The arts are strong here," she added. "My M.O. is, roll with it."

June 2 will be the last First Friday reception in the Backspace Gallery. Alex Costantino, a current tenant, will be holding a solo exhibition. Another Backspace artist, Peter Richards, will have a solo show in the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery. After the opening, Mitchell hopes to throw a "Seven Year Itch" party to celebrate seven years of art.

Stay tuned for details on a large art-supply sale taking place in the space around that time.

Correction, May 7, 2017: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of artists in the Backspace and S.P.A.C.E. Galleries. The locations of solo shows by both Peter Richards and Alex Costantino has also been updated.

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