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Art & Culture
Auld Lang Syne
lessons learned from this profession
ok, I'm not the guy from SNL,
mostly true stories from my
more "it's all about me"
Iím at -7.13/-7.33 on The
Political Compass. Where
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|Published in the Columbia Daily Tribune 26 November 2006|
PS: Gallery"The person who says it can't be done should not interrupt the person doing it."
I've always seen that credited as a Chinese proverb. But since I am not Chinese and don't speak any of the languages of China, I won't vouch for it. I do know that it is a proverb I've long agreed with, whatever it's origin. And so does Jennifer Perlow of the Perlow-Stevens Gallery (or, as they style themselves, PS: Gallery) at 812 East Broadway, downtown.
I stopped in to chat with Jennifer last week, to see how things are going for the new gallery and to check out their latest show. First off, let me say that you should go down and see the work on display, as they have some top-notch artists in a wonderful variety of styles and media. Jennifer and her assistants have made intelligent use of this larger gallery space, and the whole setting is friendly and warm, without feeling crowded. The decision to use the exposed brick walls with a soft white wash was a good one, and the artwork stands out to its best advantage. Lighting, always critical in showing art properly, is extensive without being overdone. Free-standing displays in the center of the space allow for additional work to be shown, and help define groupings of work by a given artist. The alcove in the back of the store has a playful component, and lends itself to being a mini gallery within the larger storefront. The whole space works, if you know what I mean.
What also works is the friendly and welcoming attitude of Jennifer and her staff. This is not some cold and aloof museum space, nor a snobbish "we know better than you" big-city gallery. Anyone who feels intimidated at PS: Gallery needs to sign up for some assertiveness training classes.
This attitude isn't just an accident. Jennifer wants people to feel welcome in her gallery. She wants people to feel comfortable with art. She believes that the local art scene is vibrant but underappreciated, and is enthusiastic in telling me about arts events happening downtown such as the new Missouri Contemporary Ballet company at the Missouri Theatre. PS: Gallery has hosted a number of parties, receptions, and special events, all to get people into the gallery and get them used to original art. It is a shrewd strategy, and has paid off already - Jennifer tells me that they've been surprised that the demographic for their clients has been younger than they initially expected. That bodes well, because once people become accustomed to buying original art, they tend to keep doing so - and getting them hooked younger means that many more years of collecting.
Because being in the gallery business is all about building long-term relationships. Jennifer and her husband, Chris Stevens (hence the Perlow-Stevens name), know this. Realistically, you can't open a gallery and count on it being self-sustaining for a couple of years. It takes time to get established. Only then can you judge whether or not to continue the enterprise. Jennifer is realistic about this assessment, and knows that they are taking a risk, though the initial response from the public has been encouraging. What she really doesn't like, she tells me, are those who feel that they have to tell her how impossible her dream is. The ones who can only come in, not buy anything, and relate how a gallery is destined to fail in Columbia. This is not helpful.
There are those who think that I am in this category. I have been accused of being overly negative about the local art scene, of not being sufficiently rah-rah in support of Columbia as an art destination, of being embittered by my experiences with Legacy. I think that this is a misreading of my columns, because my intent is to prod people to actually open their wallets instead of just their mouths in showing their support for the arts. I am certain that any reasonable person has to look at the decision to open a professional gallery in this town, or to be a professional artist, as being a triumph of hope over rational analysis. But there is nothing at all wrong with that. Humankind's greatest accomplishments have almost always come when hope triumphs.
PS: Gallery may or may not survive over the long haul. But Jennifer Perlow is doing all the right things, with the right attitude. Now it is up to the rest of us to not interrupt her. Better yet, show your support of her gallery, and any other art enterprises in Columbia, through your purchases. Instead of another electronic gadget, ugly tie, or some other mass-produced junk, give something this holiday season that was actually made by a real artist. That's what helps hope triumph.
PS: Gallery can be found on the web at http://www.perlow-stevensgallery.com/index.php
all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
photos © Martha K. John, 1994-present
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