This Old Town anchor is set up as an artists' co-operative - which proves to positively impact attitudes and creativity as well as its business plan. Find out how.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
Owners Jenise McCardell and Mark Currier’s house is directly behind the stand-out art deco building that houses Gallery 220. Since the studio for their own ceramics business, Clay Creations, is also located on the premises, they have the ultimate in a work/live situation, with a gallery that hums with energy, seven days a week.
The pair were one of the first businesses to open their doors in 2005 after the unprecedented devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The building sustained less damage than most in the town, so the couple hurriedly mucked it out and threw open the doors for the September Second Saturday – less than three weeks after the monster storm.
The spirits of dazed residents, astonished volunteers and shell-shocked artists were revived by the event, so for many months, every Saturday was Second Saturday. The community had one place to find respite and encouragement. Any artist who had wares to sell were welcomed. Gallery 220 was born.
Since each of the member artists works in Gallery 220, shoppers are always assured of having an artist help them make a selection. This means that each member learns about the other’s techniques and styles. The painters sometimes bring works-in-progress with them, so often there’s an in-house demonstration.
Potter and sculptor Regan Carney is one of the original members of Gallery 220. She maintains her own working clay studio (Bay Artists Coop) in the Depot District, nd calls the gallery “my showroom.”
And quite the showroom it is. One of the only art deco style buildings in Bay St. Louis, it has high ceilings, lots of natural light and hand-painted floors. As a co-op, the business philosophy adds another layer of interest.
“This place operates differently than a conventional gallery,” says Carney. “We respect each other’s space and each other’s art work. We learn to work as a group. Since we don’t have a central person to handle display, it’s in all our best interests to keep the gallery looking fresh and engaging.”
“It’s not a pretentious place at all. Everybody has the opportunity to arrange their work and present it in a very personable way, rather than deal with something that’s highly structured.”
Several artists have been part of the nucleus for years: Janet Densmore, Spencer Gray, Jr., Michelle Allee, Regan’s husband, Mark Buszkiewicz and jewelers Sid and Pam Yoder. Some of the established members also teach, so they share information about workshops. Barbara Brodtmann, Janet Densmore, Jo Slay and Carney all give classes, some at the gallery itself.
These veteran artists are able to offer counsel to younger artists who are just beginning to market their work.
“It provides an opportunity for entry level artists to learn some of the basics of presenting and selling their work,” Carney says. “They learn the fundamentals of professionalism.”
And the newest member of the Gallery 220 is taking advantage of that fact. Holly Boynes is a ceramics artist living in Chalmette. Drawn to art her entire life, she graduated Nichols State University in 2013 with a degree in fine arts. Currently, she’s focusing on hand-built teapots and wall-hangings based on flowers like tiger lilies, cherry blossoms and sunflowers.
While Boyne has a solid education in technique, she’s finding the camaraderie and support from other gallery artists beneficial.
“Although I do crafts shows, I’ve never worked in a gallery before,” says Boyne. “This is brand new to me. But everyone’s friendly and they help each other. I’m getting to know people’s art and their stories, while learning the ins and outs of the business of art. “
The support system between the artists moves far beyond the professional sphere. Carney says that when she suffered a life-threatening and debilitating aneurysm a few years ago, the co-op members came to her aid.
“They were extraordinarily instrumental in helping me out,” Carney says. “They helped me sell my work, take care of business and set up a fund to help cover medical costs.”
Carney says the group hosts at least one charity fund-raiser event a year. Recently, coop members held a benefit to help a fellow artist who’s currently going through chemo-therapy.
“We celebrate each others' successes. When we hit low spots, we try to pull each other up. Everyone benefits.
"Even our customers,” she adds, smiling.
The Artists of Gallery 220