New Gallery Drawn by North Adams' Air of Contemporary Art

The gallery is located at 44 Eagle, in the Flatiron Block.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A new art gallery in downtown North Adams is the result of the city's unique relationship with contemporary art as a lure to artists from other places. Gravity Gallery co-owners Lynn Richardson and Paul McMullan first became acquainted with the city in 2012 when both artists displayed work in Downstreet Art. Richardson's installation, "Arctic Garden," addressed climate change in context of Richardson's hometown, Winnipeg. McMullan's work was also featured in a pop-up gallery from Gallery 107, ceramic work that functioned as the "guardians of the gallery."

Richardson and McMullan are art professors at Keene State College in New Hampshire, where they run the Carroll House Gallery. Though they originally figured they would open their own gallery in Keene, North Adams was calling to them, partly because of the reasonable pricing of the space that made it possible to take a chance on the their idea, and partly because the city's unique relationship with its contemporary art museum."Mass MoCA brings in so many people that already care about contemporary art," Richardson said. "I like the arts community that North Adams has to offer," McMullan said. "I saw a 'for rent' sign on Eagle Street during a field trip with students to Mass MoCA. The price was right. Having Mass MoCA around the corner was a big factor in picking North Adams."

There's also a factor of art literacy, which Richardson says she has found a lot of in North Adams and truly makes a difference in its status as a home to contemporary arts. After years of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and various galleries and festivals appearing downtown, contemporary art is just in the air, part of the regular landscape. "During that Downstreet Art experience, I met so many people who could quickly engage in a conversation about art," Richardson said."That's what drew us to the town. You don't have to go back in time and start explaining everything — why people build the way they build, or why they're not doing landscape paintings. "

The duo are hoping to populate the gallery with work that is similar to their own. They still run the gallery at Keene State and foresee a situation where there is a direct line between the two galleries, and an artistic link is forged between Keene and North Adams."For the first two shows we tapped into our friends," said Richardson, "but we're hoping that being in that location we'll actually meet people, make connections and bring in other artists. Also bring them back over to New Hampshire."

McMullan says they are planning on moving forward with a mix of hopefulness and caution, diving into the programming and looking ahead to the rest of the year, but also approaching it incrementally in order to not take on more than they can handle — in other words, to do their best to make it work."We have a year lease," he said. "We hope to sign on for another year cause we are already almost booked for this year. I hope to be a place where local, national and international contemporary artists get to exhibit without the pressure of sales."

During the next year, the gallery plans shows with painter Sarah Fagan, who takes her inspiration from Japanese concepts to render portraits of unconstructed boxes, printmaker Jack McCaslin, ceramics artist Jason Green and painter Stephanie McMahon, as well as McMullan's ceramic work. Richardson says they are also working on possible group shows, including one around artistic interpretations of cake, sure to feature a few edible ones.

Opening the gallery has had an unexpected benefit — it's given Richardson and McMullan the opportunity to devote more contemplation the art they appreciate, to spend time with those works."What's happening is we really enjoy going into our little gallery now and looking at the work that's in there," Richardson said. "It's like slowing everything down for us, sitting around contemporary art and absorbing it."