Written by Mike Burnside
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 15:37
In early Autumn of 2009, Kathleen Godwin of ArtsYOUniverse came to me with the idea of starting a co-op art gallery in an empty storefront in Downtown Wilkes-Barre. I was skeptical, but Kathleen is persuasive, and after scoping out a few possibilities, we made a deal for a space in the Bicentennial Building on Public Square.We’re still going strong.
Two years later, Kathleen said to me,“Let’s do a gallery in Pittston!”Pittston? Now I was really skeptical. And yet, here we are on Main Street, and it’s doing just fine!
The concept is simple. There are many empty storefronts in high-traffic locations. The people who own these empty spaces want to rent them, but until they do they’re often quite happy to receive a minimal rent from a bunch of artists and
have the space occupied.
All Kathleen and I have to do is round up the artists, get their art on the walls, collect $20 a month from each, and make sure each of them is in the gallery one-half day per month to “mind the store.”The artists get a slice of wall space and whatever they sell, they keep. The gallery takes no commission.
As is the case in Wilkes-Barre, the location is an empty storefront and as long as the location will be available, the occupancy costs (rent and utilities) are very attractive.
The Pittston Arts SEEN has been a pleasant surprise. Slightly smaller (about 35 artists) than the Wilkes-Barre space (about 50), we were concerned that we might not be able to cover the monthly costs (utilities and minimal rent), but it
looks like we’re going to be okay. In addition, the folks in Pittston have been very receptive to us.
We knew we’d need a sign, for which most places charge a permit fee, plus the cost of the sign. Pittston gave us a grant, which paid for most of the costs.
Next door to the gallery, there’s a multi-use space for community events, and we benefit from the huge traffic as well as the opportunity to display selected work in the event space. The Wilkes-Barre gallery hosts poetry readings on Third Fridays; and in Pittston, we’re developing some workshops, which is another source of income for the artists.
The artists seem happy to be there and are pretty good about signing up for their gallery shifts. In both galleries, the wide variety of work is mind-boggling, and you’re sure to see something you like. Of course, we don’t know how long we’ll be there, but there are other spaces that would work if a “real”tenant emerges.
Stop in and see for yourself! We’re more than delighted to be in Pittston, where great things are happening because some talented and highenergy folks have decided to make the town something special.You can already see some of this as you walk down Main Street, but they’ve only just begun.
That’s another story, and you can expect to learn a lot more about it in the next issue of IndependentNEPA.