A Brief History of Front Street Gallery
In 2010, Front Street Gallery opened with a show featuring its
founders, painters Gene Cadore, Linda Puiatti, Mary Smoot Souter, and
photographer Jeremy Wolff.
Eight years later we got back together for a swan
song, sort of. Front Street will be closing at the end of the year, and
will reopen in a new incarnation in the village of Pawling as part of
the Pawling Bread Company building, now under construction on East Main St. The
original artists returned for The Founders Exhibition, which opened Saturday, July 7. Artist Jeanette Rodriguez, long-time
curator at Front Street, was also a part of the show.
The gallery was the others' idea. I was brought in last and stayed
the longest. Mary and Linda had run a gallery in the village years ago
and had been looking for a space. Gene also had gallery experience, I
think in Poughkeepsie. I had none. I was pretty new in town as a
full-timer, and was brought in by Linda, it was 4 of us splitting the
rent so it was easy. (It was in the building where I used to get my hair cut; I imagined my hair still on the floor.)
I had been a commercial photographer in the city--galleries to me
meant Soho and mostly conceptual art I didn’t like and couldn’t relate
to. And the few times I had to hang my work it drove me crazy, the
actual framing and hanging. My first big show was at the Knitting
Factory, and my girlfriend and I almost broke up over that.
Front Street Gallery opened in April, 2010, to show our own work.
I think the others thought they would be selling enough work to pay the
rent, but it didn't work out that way. Artists are often not the best
business people and there were a lot of disagreements about how to run
the place, especially when things weren't selling. I was more realistic
about selling, and under less pressure, as I had just stopping paying
rent on my Mott Street studio in the city after 21 years there.
Linda gets credit for the design of the gallery, building a new
wall, covering a window, and for the color scheme. Also the style of
hanging--very professional, the right height and evenly spaced, which
is hard to do. There is an equation and a lot of measuring and
calculating to make it look perfect. Linda was committed to that, and
made sure we were too, and it has made every show look like something
you'd see in the city or in a museum. The place looks very
professional and I think it surprises people when they walked in the
door to find a gallery like this in Patterson.
The biggest surprise has been the quality of the artists who come
and show in the gallery--who knew these hills were full of great
artists? Over the years we expanded to local artists—including Taryl
Gabel, Michael Garland, Crista Pisano, Tanya Kukucka, Anne
Huibregtse—and to group shows. The community was expanding but
the partners weren't getting along. The worst thing was Linda wasn't
painting. I'm a big fan of her work and when it was time for her to
leave the gallery, it was a good thing--it meant I could keep her as a
friend, and I could witness her great success that soon followed.
A collection of most of the shows and events through the years can
by seen by scrolling down the website which I made and
maintain with my 1998 html editor which I know how to use, barely. Not
my intention to record our history like that, it was just the easiest
way to do it.
Leaving this great community of artists is the hardest part about
closing Front Street. It’s not easy to create a business selling
art, but the community of artists, the great openings--a roomful of
artists and friends having grown-up conversations--that's what has made
it all worth it.
I never imagined owning a gallery; I sort of backed into
it. When Gene and Mary and Linda left the gallery, I had to decide
whether to keep the place open by myself. There was a lot of support
from the community then, a lot of good ideas, so I kept it going. Soon
after, Jeanette Rodriguez, came on board. She was good at everything, a
talented artist, and had a great attitude. Terry Ariano had been doing
the hard job of hanging the shows, and she taught Jeanette the complex
hanging equations that make everything look right. I could never do
what Jeanette does hanging these shows--not only the curating and the
flow of pictures which she has a talent for, but especially the actual
hanging which takes a huge amount of work and concentration. It may
look easy but it's not. For the last few years Jeanette has been
doing the heavy lifting.
The greatest satisfaction of running FSG has been encouraging
artists. There are a number of people, like Shelley Dell, an
amazing painter, who had stopped working, but who was encouraged by our
group shows to start painting again. Now Shelley has showed and sold
work in many of our shows. Also younger artists: kids who perhaps
didn't have confidence in their work--getting into our group shows,
seeing their work on the walls of a real gallery, and coming to
openings where they get to meet and connect with other artists.
We had a lot of memorable "family music nights” -- playing the
music of Bowie, Neil Young, Dylan, Freedy Johnston, and the Beatles,
the room full of great musicians, including the late great Al Selvin,
and my wife and children. Those were very special.
The gallery space upstairs at Pawling Bread Company will be a
fresh start. I don't know what the space will be like--I'm not the kind
of person who can look at an architectural drawing and imagine it. I
have to stand there. It will be smaller, and whatever we do will
have to fit in with what Cynthia Kinahan, the genius baker behind
PBC, is doing downstairs. Cynthia has a great sense of design and
we'll work together to create the gallery and event space upstairs.
We were huge fans of hers, as anyone who has tasted her bread
will understand. We saw how hard she worked and wanted to help her move
her business to next level. That turned into buying the old "Petite"
building at 10 East Main in Pawling Village, with Jay Erickson and some
other investors, and it seemed a natural fit to move the gallery into
the upper level of the new space. As at FSG, we hope to have art, as
well as music, classes and other community events, but none of that has
been determined yet. We are hoping Pawling Bread Company, a bakery and
cafe, will open in the fall, but that will depend on construction and
other things. We are excited to see what Cynthia and Bill, and the
designers who are helping them out, will do with the space--we are
watching like everyone else.
In any case, Front Street will stay open through the end of the
year. I've had the idea of the Founders Show for a while, but once we
were committed to opening PBC and closing Front Street, it became more
important to get the original artists back together--Gene, Mary, Linda
and me, along with Jeanette who has become part of the family. We have an
ArtEast show in September, a juried show in October and the 3rd annual
FrOGS show in December.
The Patterson space is perfect for a gallery, a great size and
design, and I'm hoping by some miracle it will remain a gallery,
hoping that some business or group of artists can keep it going.