This month - Gallery 220 is one of the liveliest artist co-ops on the gulf coast. Meet owners Jenise McCardell and husband Mark Currier and find out why this Old Town anchor is a hot-bed of creative energy.
Gallery 220 is always one of the liveliest spots during the Old Town Second Saturday Artwalk
Where Art and Real Life Merrily Meet story and photography by Ellis Anderson
Before you go in, check any stereotype of "art gallery" at the door. While Gallery 220 is filled with amazing artwork by award-winning artists, you won't catch even a whiff of pretension here. This is the type of place where art and real life merrily meet, where customers linger long after the purchase to bask in the creative energy and good vibes.
However, visitors won't find any sales personnel at Gallery 220. Ever. Twenty-six artists belong to this co-operative. Since they all split up the work schedule, that means the gallery is always staffed by artists who feel passionately about their work and will happily share both knowledge and enthusiasm. Some artists even bring their latest works in progress with them, so between helping customers, they're drawing, painting or sketching.
In the back part of the building, gallery owners Mark Currier's and Jenise McCardell's ceramics studio, Clay Creations is always bustling. For over two decades, the couple have created thousands of architectural renderings in clay and they're treasured by collectors across the south. Each ceramic piece is hand-painted and fired in kilns on the premises.
The gallery is housed in one of the few examples of art deco architecture in Old Town's Historic District. It's rumored to be haunted. If so, the ghost has probably developed artistic inclinations by this time. Gallery 220 had its beginnings as a welcoming refuge for the community's creative.
Jenise and Mark purchased the building and the house directly behind it in 2004. They moved into the studio and house, then rented the front portion of the building to another business.
During Hurricane Katrina, just a year later, 220 Main sustained damage, but at least it was standing and hadn't been flooded to the rafters like most of the buildings in town. The couple got to work on clean-up and repairs just days after the storm. A few weeks later, they hosted Second Saturday in October, inviting artists in to sell their work.
Since only six weeks had passed since the storm scattered the community and severed ties, the event turned out to be more of a grand town reunion. People were still scattered, the town torn to bits and filled with rubble, but the gallery at the corner of Main and Toulme created the illusion that life could go on as it had "Before." Mark and Jenise decided Second Saturday should be EVERY Saturday, at least for a while. "The grateful reactions of residents that evening convinced the couple to hold the event on a weekly basis for the next several months. Each Saturday, the festival offered a touchstone of togetherness, a chance to wash off the mud and reunite with friends on an island of normalcy."*
The first Second Saturday after Katrina, October 2005. The corner of Main and Toulme made life seem normal. Just a block away, the debris fields began. Photo Joe Tomasovsky
Soon after, Mark and Jenise hit on the idea of renting spaces in the building out to artists and Gallery 220 was officially born.
Many of the original exhibitors are still part of the gallery, yet a schedule of rotating shows throughout the year gives artists a big creative push. Regular customers - and there are many - stop in frequently to see new work.
On Second Saturdays, the co-op becomes one of the town anchors. The artists all bring some sort of dish or appetizer, so customers can snack while they shop or talk to artists about their work.
Everyone feels welcome and instantly at ease because authenticity, rather than pretension, is the order of the day - every day - at Gallery 220.
January 10th Saturday Bowl Benefit for Food Pantry at Gallery 220
photograph by Mark Currier
This month, Gallery 220 shakes things up for a good cause during the Second Saturday Artwalk on January 10th, from 5 - 8pm.
Normally, two of the twenty-seven artists who are members of the cooperative gallery are featured for the monthly artwalk.For the January event, many of the artists in the coop have donated their time to paint unique “Splash” bowls that have been fired in the studio and will be auctioned off to benefit the Hancock Food Pantry.
Gallery owners Jenise McCardell and Mark Currier say that this time of year is particularly difficult for many families and elderly residents of the area.Increased utility bills often cut into already stressed grocery budgets.
“It’s just a small way that our local arts community can raise awareness – and some money for a good cause," says McCardell.“And it’s a great way for our customers to help out – they get to take home a fun AND functional piece of art.”
Gallery 220 is known for their Second Saturday appetizer buffet created by the coop artists each month.In keeping with the January “Splash bowl” theme, they’ll be serving up hot soups from 5pm – 8pm.
There will also be live music, with artists on hand to discuss their work.
The Bay St. Louis Shoofly is published by Ellis Anderson Media. Website design by Ellis Anderson Media. Unless otherwise attributed, all written content and photography copyright 2011 - 2017 by Ellis Anderson.