My first job ever, a teenager at the Jersey Shore, was washing dishes at Avalon Seafood. Over twenty years later, I named my first gallery Avalon Seafood.
It was Summer 2009, and Claire and I opened Avalon Seafood Gallery in North Adams, MA. We were already plugged into the local art scene in this small Berkshires mill town, and we worked through MCLA and DownStreet Art to obtain a derelict storefront at a reduced rate, turning it into an emporium for experimental art.
The raw space at 7 Holden Street was most recently a pet grooming establishment, but had stood vacant a few years when we took it over. It was a diamond in the rough, and we did our renovations on the cheap.
The original tin ceiling and etched-glass windows had not been removed, merely hidden behind one of those acoustic drop ceilings that were so popular once. The walls were matted with dog hair and the tile floor stank from the fossilized urine of discontented pets. We stripped the space down to its bones, showed off the ceiling through the lattice of the subsequent grid, applied some primer white to the walls and some chocolate brown to the floors, built a front desk and a couple positionable walls, and it was go time!
Our sharply reduced rent, offset by our “sweat equity”, gave us the freedom to pursue shows with artists we knew and admired, paying no mind to commercial considerations. In other words, we could do what we wanted without worrying about how to make money. In addition to rotating solo and group exhibitions, we screened movies, hosted lectures, showcased theater productions, and generally made our gallery a space for creative experimentation and community engagement.
We did six shows in 2009 and four shows in 2010. We brought some great art to North Adams, and the city gave us the opportunity to play, flex our curatorial muscles, and show off our talents. The exhibitions were:
Ian George – June 2009
Bryan Heggie – July 2009
Jason Lockyer – August 2009
Claire Fox – September 2009
The Davis Art Foundation – October 2009
Veronica Tyson-Strait – November 2009
State of the Union – June 2010
The Little People from Somewhere Else – July 2010
Drawing Marathon Results – August 2010
The North Adams Makeover – September 2010