Don’t diss the galleries
While I agree with much of what editor Chris Busby has to say about the Oak Street project and how such a development will be a benefit to the area [The Bollard’s View, March 2010], I do have to disagree with the opinion he expressed about art galleries.
While the First Friday Art Walk itself is indeed only a few hours a month, it fuels what has become the busiest night of the month for area restaurants and bars. Just try to get into Pom’s Thai Taste, Empire Dine and Dance, or Otto (or even a parking spot) on a First Friday and you’ll know this. A vibrant art and music scene is a huge draw for many people to come to Portland throughout the year.
Galleries may not bring the same amount of foot traffic as some other retail spaces or coffee shops, but instead of decrying their value because of this we should be working to increase interest and activity in what is unarguably an art scene to be proud of!
As you may have gathered, I do have a vested interest in this issue, being a founding member of the Sylvia Kania Gallery (SKG) at 148 High St. SKG has recognized the need for more art galleries to become centers of activity (both economic and cultural) and we have been working for the past 18+ months to provide a unique gallery experience in Portland by hosting art parties, community mixers, local musicians, art sales, fundraisers, and occasional drawing groups, all the while showcasing contemporary art made by local artists, with prices to fit every budget.
— Jen Joaquin
Art and the absurd
I find your last editorial, “Ugliness in the Arts District,” out of touch. You state, “housing isn’t hurting business in the Arts District: art galleries are.” Really? As an artist and an art gallery owner, I find this remark to be absurd.
There is a reason there is an Arts District in Portland, amazing art galleries and an art college. Maine College of Art transformed the downtown area into a lively scene followed by merchants and galleries taking up residence. Downtown was a barren wasteland that nobody wanted to visit and it has become a hub of activity. Art turns communities around. There is such a diverse market in the area now.
You go on to claim that galleries don’t create any foot traffic other than a couple hours each month during the First Friday Art Walk. I also see plenty of other businesses that don’t generate a lot of traffic but are a viable part of our community. In your eyes, they are hurting Portland as well. As for First Friday, besides the Old Port bars, there are no other retailers in this city that generate as much buzz and excitement. First Friday creates so much money trickling into restaurants and other retailers, every month.
My gallery, as well as many others in this city, also support the artists living in the area by exhibiting their work. I’m wondering if you ever even visit galleries in this town? I know your ad reps visit me. Although we have not been opened long, we’ve had affordable art shows and are in the process of holding events that will showcase artists in between exhibitions. And while these non-traditional spaces you mentioned are great places to exhibit your work, it is also not their business’ bread and butter. You recently hired Chris Thompson to be an art reviewer for the paper. There is an excellent reason for doing that: to review art in galleries.
I feel like you strayed from who the opponents of this project were.
— Mike Marks
co-owner, Fore River Gallery