The Gallery has reframed itself
BY MAUREEN O'CONNELL
Advertiser Staff Writer
Most shoppers probably never noticed that The Gallery at Ward Centre — packed with contemporary paintings, ceramics, glass, wood and jewelry pieces created by Hawai'i-based artists — had its flaws.
But Cindy Conklin and other artists tied to the cooperative fine art gallery winced at the shop's lighting and a floor layout that crowded displays and forced shoppers to wind through narrow spaces. The co-op has 17 artist-members, who share the exhibition and sales space.
"There was no way to feature art in a respectful way," said Conklin, a watercolorist who uses handmade paper to weave together human figures, petroglyphs and botanical and geometric elements.
One Sunday last month, artists armed with hammers, sledges, saws and a wheelbarrow decided it was time for a gallery makeover. Working as a demolition team of sorts, they tore out old furniture, display cases and cabinets built into the walls and the floors.
"Nobody was unhappy to be doing this," Conklin said, with a light, gleeful laugh. She noted that since she became a co-op member about 15 years ago, gallery upgrades in the rented 650-square-foot shop had been limited to minor tweaking, such as wall color changes.
The artists used part of their $5,000 budget, drawn from their own wallets, to add a registered electrician and a tile expert to the three-day work crew.
After initially worrying that most of their funds could be gobbled up by the purchase of sales-counter furniture to house a computer, security camera and other office gear, the artists found a deal on Craigslist. A Downtown beauty shop was willing to unload furniture for a mere $100, Conklin said.
"It actually cost three times more to move it than to buy it," she said.
And now, with the rattle of a jackhammer a fading memory, how does the gallery appear to an artist's discerning eye?
"It looks like an entirely different place," Conklin said. "None of us would ever go back to the way it was before" she said.
Co-op members are still exchanging celebratory hugs and high-fives, and a reception Thursday will celebrate the project.
The entrance, previously hemmed in by a large glass case and counter area, "has a more airy and welcoming feeling," Conklin said.
And rather than fitting more art into the reconfigured flowing space, she said, "We're trying to give the art more space," giving viewers more room to soak it in.