In late August, a new art gallery opened in a storefront in a warehouse at 200 Allens Ave. amidst an industrial Providence neighborhood that includes a pavement factory, a tire business, an adult video shop, a boat yard, a strip club and a giant pile of salt. The Gail Cahalan Gallery is named for the wife of lawyer, historian, and developer Patrick Conley, who owns and has recently refurbished the building and a neighboring pier.
“The Conleys have generously donated the space,” says Finn Yonkers, who directs the gallery with his pal Dave Loewenstein. “So for us it was a no-brainer. With that extra cushion and support we could bring a new type of gallery to the area.” In fact, they say, Cahalan’s name and the space are her sole involvement in the gallery.
The space at 200 Allens Ave. is part of Conley’s planned hotel, marina, and condo complex on the Providence River. The project that might transform the character of the neighborhood — where industrial businesses oppose the city’s vision for mixed-use development — but Conley’s plans have presently stalled over a disagreement with state regulators about required clean-up of contaminated soil on the property.
In the meantime, Conley operates a private social club, the Fabre Line Club, and a conference center on the old warehouse’s fourth floor. The remaining three floors are leased to the Partnership for Creative Industrial Space (PCIS), a Providence nonprofit devoted to preserving and providing affordable commercial space in the city.
PCIS has subleased spaces to a baker, recording studio, photographers, designers and a sculptor. The Partnership’s plan for the building also included a gallery to showcase the work of tenants and others. Yonkers, who operates a marketing design firm, Studio 1011, on the third floor, offered to run the gallery with Loewenstein, who ran Full Circle Gallery on Providence’s Westminster Street from 1999 to 2000, and now helps with his wife’s Wakefield-based graphic design firm, Loewenstein Design.
“We don’t have to choose the artists because we know they’ll sell,” Yonkers says. “We can choose an artist because they’ll contribute to the community.”
The gallery premiered August 25 with work by three Rhode Island artists: Jason Brockert’s moody landscape-abstraction combos, Kathy Hodge’s portraits of machines, and Arthur Moore’s painterly abstractions built around what appear to be fish, deer and sand dunes.
The gallery offered photos and video of Cuba by two Canadian artists during a week-long show in late September that tied in with the Providence Latin American Film Festival, which operates out of an office at 200 Allens Ave. “It’s not just a show where people go to experience art, but where communities can cross-pollinate,” Yonkers says. Rhode Island artist Peter Campbell presented nostalgic paintings of baseball last month.
Yonkers and Finn say they aim to present nontraditional art in nontraditional ways. So far the art has been fairly conventional, but they talk of offering sound installations and developing a robust Web presence (gcgallery.net), beginning with a virtual tour of the gallery that’s already online, and expanding to offer online communication between the gallery’s artists and visitors.
The gallery’s “Holiday Show,” from November 24 to December 29, will feature pottery, abstract sculpture, photos, stone carving, and origami by local artists, including people who work in the building — including a couple of Studio 1011 employees. Loewenstein says, “There’s a lot of creative energy with the people in the building.”
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