It's always sad to see an art gallery close. Especially when it's a place with vision and a great track record for interesting shows. Vermont will lose two such galleries at the end of June: 215 College Gallery in Burlington and the Art House in Middlebury.
Sculptor and painter Catherine Hall planted the seed for the artist-run cooperative 215 College Gallery five years ago. The rent had gone up at the College Street space she had been using as her studio, and she was about to move out, when she had a change of heart. What if she and some of her artist friends pitched in to make it a gallery?
She enlisted her friend Charlotte Hastings, a sculptor and educator with a can-do spirit. Together they rounded up a dozen artists to split the rent and show their work on a rotating schedule. Hastings died of pancreatic cancer before the first show, but the 11 current artist members credit her enthusiasm and energy for getting the gallery off the ground.
"We are proud to have been able to realize the goal of Charlotte's efforts: an independent, successful, artist-run gallery," the members wrote in a press release at the time.
During its run, 215 College Gallery presented consistently engaging shows, such as Mary Zompetti Lowe's photographs, which are taken with a tilt-shift lens to transform familiar neighborhoods into toy towns; Kate Donnelly's "Yardage Project," in which she wove material out of discarded paper, plastic bags and cereal boxes; and captivating abstract paintings by New York-based Megan Lipke. The gallery will close on June 26, after the current show — photographs of New York City and Martha's Vineyard by Ilao Jackson — wraps up.
"The decision was not made lightly and reflects our desire as artists to pursue commitments to current and future projects," writes member artist Sumru Tekin in an email.
Over in Middlebury, Art House owner Mary Swanson says she'll close after the end of Addison artist T.J. Cunningham's show on June 25, but she doesn't say why. The San Francisco transplant was pretty optimistic in 2009 shortly after opening the gallery and performance space in the Marble Works. "There can be no failure in this endeavor," she told Seven Days.
Even so, Swanson writes in a newsletter that she was surprised the gallery reached the level of success it did. "It's been my pleasure to be part of the burgeoning art scene in Middlebury," she notes.
Here's hoping something equally arty takes these galleries' places!
Image at right, a portrait from T.J. Cunningham's