It has been said that all good things come to an end – and that those things typically are sped along to their demise by lawyers and insurance companies.
Such is the case for the popular Gallery@Spencer Lofts – one of the City’s first residential art galleries that came about during the resurgence of the local arts community over the last decade. The Gallery will officially close in its current form on Dec. 11, following the end of a show by Chelsea artist X Bonnie Woods. Supporters of the Gallery will hold a farewell party at that time from 6-9 p.m., they said.
Darlene DeVita – a photographer who owns a unit in Spencer Lofts – said she was the first person to purchase a unit in 2004 and that decision was heavily influenced by the gallery within the development. She said she worked carefully with one of the developers, Paul Cohen, who had a vision of building and maintaining a gallery there. Over the years, it’s had it’s ups and downs, DeVita said, but she believed it was now on the upswing in part due to its inclusion in the annual Chelsea ArtWalk event.
“People are very disappointed,” DeVita said. “This has been a very central space to the arts community in Chelsea and has been supported by so many people. Now we’re losing it. It was built as a gallery and was always supposed to be a gallery. The idea was that we would get people over the Bridge and get more artists over to Chelsea. We did that in a lot of ways. Now we’re taking away this valuable space. It’s a huge loss.”
She said it is particularly hard to stomach due to the fact that 2014 was looking to be a very busy year for the space.
“We had just updated our mailing list and things were really staring to move forward and we were getting calls from artists who wanted shows in 2014,” she said. “We thought it was really going to be a positive year and a year where we could move the space forward. We had also had such positive feedback during the ArtWalk. It seemed everything was getting better and then this. It’s just not what we needed.”
What essentially happened was that new insurance requirements were imposed on the condo association, causing the Board to take a second look at how the gallery was operating. Also, one board member said, others in the association wanted to use the space for events that were non-art related. Because it is a common space, that had to be considered.
However, Board Member Keith Brooks said all is not lost, and that the gallery will likely still be used for art shows, but just not all the time in a dedicated fashion.
“We have some insurance requirements we have to meet and we are trying to make the space more Spencer Lofts focused,” Brooks said. “We also have an obligation to the ownership, as this is a multi-use common area according to our condo docs, to make it more available for their individual use. Going forward we will develop a plan to have guest artists but it will be up to an owner to sponsor them and take responsibility for the show. The Board has also begun plans for next year’s Art Walk to showcase the artists who live here at Spencer. We think it will be very exciting.”
Though the gallery is in a private condo development, it had really become a public resource according to many in the community. Artists from Chelsea – such as Woods – frequently showed their work there, making it a nice resource to quickly get work out into the public eye. Also, openings for artist shows were frequently well attended by non-residents of the Lofts, including public officials like City Manager Jay Ash (a big supporter of the gallery) and members of other Chelsea organizations.
Margaret Carsley and her husband, Bob Boulrice, are both heavily involved in the community gardeners and also in the local art scene. Carsley said she loved the gallery as a resource and was sorry to see it be retired in its present form.
“I’m very sad to see the Lofts Gallery go,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful thing to see all the artists come through Chelsea – to meet artists from out of town and local artists as well – and see their works. We’ve only really got the Chelsea City Cafe and the Pearl Street Gallery now…It’s sad for all of us in Chelsea. We’re losing something that’s enriching and I think we’d all like to see more art in Chelsea.”
DeVita said she is sad because of all the hard work that was put into getting the gallery up and running in the beginning, as well as all the hard work in coordinating shows over the years.
“We really don’t know how the gallery is going to proceed until we all have a serious talk,” she said. “I would love to see it remain a gallery of some sort, even if it’s not what it is right now. I feel it’s valuable to the owners and to Chelsea.”