On September 17th, Cambridgeport’s Gallery 263 reopened for the first time, in order to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the Artist Membership Program. This is the first time the space has opened its doors since the shutdown due to COVID-19 in March. I asked the gallery’s communications director, Allison Gray, as well as several of their member artists, what the space means to them, and how they see the gallery evolving into the post-pandemic world.
Boston Hassle: How has the Artist Membership Program grown/changed in its nine years?
Allison Gray: Since its inception, our Artist Membership Program has grown with the addition of new members who are excited by the mission of the gallery, the opportunity to expand their networks, and a way to advance their art careers. In addition to displaying work in our annual exhibition for artist members, many of our members have been selected for solo shows at the gallery and have shown their work in our regional and national shows. Artist members continue to benefit from waived application fees, no commission on sales, a presence on our website, and more.
BH: Despite the mix of artists’ subjects and styles, what do you hope viewers, both in-person and online, take away from this exhibition as a whole?
AG: We hope viewers appreciate and are inspired by the talent of these emerging and mid-career artists. After being closed to the public for in-person visits since March, we hope visitors enjoy, value, and find solace in the experience of being able to see art in Cambridgeport again. We are thankful for the opportunity to show the work of these skillful artists and serve as a resource and space for our community.
Additionally, many of these artists––like Henrietta Davis, the former mayor of Cambridge––had other careers before pursuing art. The show is very inspiring in that sense that it’s never too late to pursue something new!
BH: How do you see Gallery 263 moving forward in the future/post-pandemic world? Both in the kinds of art you represent/feature and in policies.
AG: In the post-pandemic world, we plan to continue to support emerging and mid-career artists who live and work in the region. With the loss of many exhibition venues in the area, we feel the mission of our nonprofit gallery is more important than ever. When we can resume socializing again, we look forward to seeing more of our community in person at exhibition receptions and larger gatherings, in-person yoga classes, life drawing classes, and more. For now, we hope you will visit the gallery to see our exhibitions and join us for virtual yoga via Zoom.
BH: For the artists–What initially drew you to Gallery 263, and how has the gallery been helpful in relation to your creative process?
Carolyn Sirois: “I was attracted to the intimate scale of Gallery 263 and its mission to be a multi-use space. From the first time I visited the gallery in 2015, I knew I had found an art community that suited me! I’ve been a member ever since. I’ve served on the board of directors for one year, been part of many exhibits, was one of the summer residents in 2018, helped with annual fundraiser banquets, and have enjoyed the camaraderie of artist members and board members all along. My connection to Gallery 263 was a return to a more sustained art practice, after a period of less time for art. I found a supportive environment for all of us pursuing art in our lives. In June 2019 I received my MFA in Visual Arts from Lesley University. Gallery 263 has played an important role in my creative trajectory these past five years.”
Susan Greer Emerson: “I think I first found out about Gallery 263 when I was considering applying for the residency program. I visited the gallery several times and loved the intimate space and the quirky kind of art they exhibited. I have participated in several shows and attended a couple of gallery dinners and continue to find something new and interesting in every show and event. This has helped my creative process by acquainting me with new artists, giving me enthusiastic support, and a new venue to show my work.”
Elizabeth Zeldin: “I first visited Gallery 263 initially and enjoyed its space and energy. It has been a catalyst for other projects and ideas. It has allowed many fellow artists and me to imagine an art exhibition for artists who had come to painting after working years in other professions. The resulting exhibition, Reinvented: Drawn to Art, allowed us to bring the idea for a show from idea to actuality…an exciting experience.
So positive was that contact with Gallery 263 that a few of us decided to become gallery sitters. Before the pandemic, many of us would gather on Thursday afternoons to open Gallery 263 and welcome those who wanted to view the work being shown. At the same time, we gallery sitters would sit together in the open space and draw and paint together. This continued until the shutdown due to the pandemic.
Now that Gallery 263 has reopened, it feels like a long lost friend returning. I have joined the Gallery as a member and my work is currently being shown. I am preparing to show work on their website. I have no doubt we will return as gallery sitters when we can safely congregate again. It has become a touchstone in my creative life.”
Sirarpi Heghinian-Walzer: “I joined Gallery 263 for its beautiful space and location, affordability and diverse opportunities it provides for its members and the community.”
Dominique Stassart: “What drew me to the gallery was the wish to join a supportive group of “painting ladies.” When we looked at the logistics and how we could gather in the same place, one of Gallery 263’s members suggested that we “gallery sit” together and paint.
The light in the gallery is so beautiful and soft, and the space is big enough for us to sit and paint. Now that I have seen my watercolor and others’ exhibited together, I can also say that the gallery is a beautiful space for exhibitions: the big windows and the shape of the space allow for paintings to come together and simultaneously preserve their individuality.”
Gallery 263 is located at 263 Pearl Street in Cambridge, open Wednesday-Friday 4-7 PM and Saturday 1-4 PM. More information, including social distancing restrictions, can be found here. Art featured at the 9th Annual Members’ Exhibition, on view through October 17th, is viewable here. All featured photos courtesy of Gallery 263.