GROWING FAITH IN THE ARTS - The Gallery at Elm Street, Malden's Latest and Largest Exhibition Space by Roanna Forman. This article was published in the MaldenMuse Online Arts Journal.
Some marriages seem made in Heaven, and looking around the Malden arts scene these days, that old truism is borne out by the collaboration of the First Parish in Malden, Universalist, and Sand T, owner of artSPACE@16, in creating the Gallery at Elm Street. The Gallery, which will be in the Church’s Durgin Hall, will present its Premier Exhibit, MALDEN Contemporary, opening Saturday, September 9, and running through November 12. The opening reception will be on Sunday, September 10, from 12:00-3:00 PM, with an artists' talk beginning at 1:00 PM.
The Church took the lead on proposing the project, desiring to contribute meaningfully to the community and, of course, increase its visibility and build its congregation. The arts community also stood to gain from adding this new exhibit gallery, which will be the largest exhibition space in Malden.
In 2003, Church spokesperson Reverend David Horst, who has a background as an arts administrator, began researching the project, and, as he recalls, “I don’t know who I asked, but the only name that came up was, 'You have to talk to Sand T.” Accomplished artist, gallery owner, and powerful community arts activist, Sand T has 34 shows to her credit at her gallery, artSPACE@16 and has been recognized as the catalyst for a growing visual arts community in Malden, as well as garnering kudos from the likes of curator Raphaela Platow of Brandeis’ Rose Museum.
Sand T was enthusiastic about the project from the start, inspecting the 1,600 square foot space and considering its possibilities. Two years later, in October 2005, Horst contacted Sand T again to see if she were still interested in preparing a project proposal to co-apply for a 2006 grant from the Malden Cultural Council, a local agency that receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her answer was an unreserved yes, and she helped assemble the grant proposal, outlining in detail her role as curator. The project received the grant, and the Elm Street Gallery began planning its first curated show in the space, showcasing Malden artists.
It isn’t merely public relations that motivated First Parish to create a gallery, “appreciation and practice of the arts are integral to the Unitarian Universalist faith. As religious liberals, Horst says, “It’s very much a part of our worshipping and our community life together to recognize, to celebrate, and actually do, the arts.”
For Unitarian Universalists, the arts provide inspiration and themes common to their religious concerns. “Artists, like religious people, want to see what’s behind the immediate reality. Artists are asking a lot of the same questions as religious folks are, questions about meanings, and questions like: how do we understand the way we live, why do we feel hopeful when tragedy’s all around us, how do we deal with our mortality? Where is the beauty? And how you define beauty is not the most obvious thing.” To celebrate the powerful interconnection between its community of faith and the arts, the Church has timed the exhibit opening for the beginning of the fall worship season. The theme of the first worship will in fact be the importance of art to Unitarian Universalists.
Being religious liberals, First Parish feels a particular compatibility with Sand T as curator because of her interest in presenting new and challenging art, including art questioning religion itself. They are also excited about her considerable skill with space design. The gallery will have three moveable 8’ x 12’ T-walls, pedestals and additional lighting constructed by Church staff and parishioners, as well as volunteers from artSPACE@16. The mobility of the T- walls, which are on moveable casters, adds flexibility for future shows. For this exhibit they are configured in a straight line down the center of rectangular gallery. Some of the wall space will be also be used. There may also be a small wall built at the far end of the gallery near a kitchen space.
Photo: Sand T
This show promises to be comprehensive and provocative, with many mediums represented, including paintings, two-dimensional mixed media, works on paper, photographs, installations, videos, sculptures, and mixed media-3D works. Musicians will provide accompaniment from one of the balconies along the Gallery’s very high ceilings.
Among the 22 participating artists, Kelvy Bird will show work from her “Pulse” series about human emergence from energetic planes. (Bird and Malden artist Naomi Brave will co-produce Window Arts Malden in Malden Center from September 14 through 30, exhibiting Malden artists’ works in retail windows.) Other paintings include the small scale cityscapes of Erik Pettersen, and Carolina Pachon’s saturated, high contrast color painting series drawing from contemporary and ancient interior wall decorative art.
Photographers Eaden Huang, Wesley Kalloch and Bruce Myren will be showing works on the natural and the surrounding environments. Young-Suk Suh’s “Untitled Rooms” looks at modern residential space. From Pamela Pritzker there will be portraits of same-sex couples.
Hilary Tolan and Amy Morrison will contribute site specific installations. For mixed media, artists include Mary Elizabeth van der Cross and Gordon Morrison. Accomplished book and print artist Stephanie Mahan Stigliano is creating book sculptures especially for this show. (Stigliano is also curating "From Two to Three Dimensions: Prints into Books" featuring seven area artists at artSPACE@16, which will run from September 9 - 30, 2006.)
Among works on paper are cartoon strips from “Dead Guy. The Cartoon” by “2005 Best of Blogs Winner” Ignatius M. Dedd. Michelle Steve McCauley and John Rodzvilla each offer new mixed media. Zinc plate etchings by Bartek Walicki will also be included.
Two video artists will be screening their latest works. Kurt Gilbert Wahlstrom will premier his new edit video work including “Kuret & dad: new [musical] works on video.” Institute of Contemporary Art Boston’s Annual Prize Winner of 2003, Douglas Weathersby, will be showing his environmentally conscious piece.
With the momentum of city-wide publicity support, the opening should be a great success. Sand T and Reverend Horst are gratified by the sponsorship of the First Parish in Malden, Universalist, artSPACE@16 and maldenmuse.com, the Malden area's first online arts and cultural magazine.
MALDEN Contemporary will be on display from September 9 through November 12, 2006. Gallery Hours: Tuesday and Friday, 10 a.m.- 1 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.; Sunday, 10 - 1 p.m. Gallery address: First Parish in Malden, Universalist, located at Elm Street and Pleasant Streets (Route 60), Malden, three blocks west of the Malden Center T station, walking distance. For more information, please contact Reverend David M. Horst, Minister, telephone 781-322-0474, or visit malden.ma.uua.org. Also visit our Art Collaboratives Archives for more information on the show.