A Coop Takes On A Campus

Allan Appel PhotoRegina Thomas has put the gothic back into Yale’s neo-gothic arches.

Her mixed-media collage, fashioned of old Yale Daily News issues scrunched and smeared over, suggests both the intellectual flights (the birds) but also the potential darkness of an Ivy League education.

Her piece is part of the Elm City Artists current show at their cooperative gallery located at 55 Whitney Ave. near Audubon Street in the arts district.

“I think I captured the doorway to higher learning,” she said.

The cooperative gallery members chose the theme to welcome Yale students back, especially those attending the new School of Management building nearby, said Thomas, one of the five members of the cooperative enterprise.

Ralph Schwartz, the founder of the group with Frank Bruckman back in 2007, offers less abstract and more traditional views of the university in his pastels, like this view of the Marquand Chapel at the Yale School of Divinity.  In recent years a half dozen parents of students and graduates of Yale’s colleges or schools have commissioned architectural views from Schwartz .

Unlike other cooperative galleries in town, Elm City Artists restricts their membership to a small number, each of whom works in a different medium. By contrast, Kehler Liddel in Westville or the City Gallery on Upper State Street, have upwards of 20 members, each of whom gets a solo show every year or so. All the Elm City member artists exhibit work in each of the six shows that are up for two months each year.

The current show features, in addition to Thomas’s and Schwartz’s pieces, the work of Sharon Morgio, Margaret Ulecka-Wilson, and Laura Wilk.

In the small but well lit and organized 400 square feet, I counted at least 40 pots or sculpted vessels, several dozen watercolors, pastels, and multi-media works and bins of giclee’ prints, which are high-resolution digitally photographed images of original works.

“We call ourselves the moving gallery,” said Thomas. This is the third year Elm City Artists have been in the Whitney Avenue space after previous locations on Broadway and on York, all with Yale as landlord. Still Thomas praised Yale for always finding another space for the artists, who pay a real rent and utilities, but not on the scale of a retail chain or other more deep-pocketed concern.

What also distinguishes Elm City Artists from the other cooperative galleries is that the gallery stays open six days a week—seven during the recent Christmas season—for a full business day. Each artist commits to being there a day or two half-days per wee.

Then they go off to their studios and produce art, because they must show new work in six shows a year. “We all have to be working. I don’t know another [gallery that] runs this way,” she said.

The egalitarian nature of the enterprise also runs to the hanging and positioning of the work. During this show, Thomas’s work—like “The Educated Class” and her mixed media “Paris Rain,” which sits on an easel near the entryway—get the center space right opposite the door as you walk in. In the coming shows, her work will rotate along the the other walls, allowing her cooperative gallery colleagues the center space where a visitor’s eye will likely first alight.

So the far the location, beginning its second year, has been productive. The business and arts community members pop in at lunch time.

“There are many artists and very few places to show their work. Artists have to be entrepreneurial,” she said.“This will become more of a destination. My fantasy is the Apple Store. That people will be lining up for art.”

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posted by: Regina M. Thomas on January 13, 2014  1:02am

The Educated Class is a Metaphorical work on higher learning.  My icons, the butterflies symbolize transformation, and the birds represent the spirit of learning. Taking artistic license with Yale’s Gothic Architecture I created the Arched Door as the way in to higher learning.