Art businesses bringing works downtown

GLOVERSVILLE – “Art is the direct reflection of the people living within the community.”

While such a statement may not be the opinion of the community at the moment, it reflects the opinion and vision for the future of the owner of the new downtown art studio, The Drawing Board.

Co-owner Brian Benton said he and Robert Morey started the business after walking into the Micropolis gallery located within the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market this summer, which inspired them to do an art endeavor of their own.

“We wanted to create that inviting environment to all types of the art spectrum,” Benton said. “I’m originally from here and I would love to see Gloversville on the rise. I would like to inspire others to do more things around here and this studio creates that connection to our hometown.”

Benton said Saratoga Springs and New York City are well known for the presence of art and the culture it provides those regions, but he believes his shop and others along Main Street could potentially bring that same recognition here if the community embraces it.

“I think the greatest art could come from Gloversville, New York,” Benton said. “We don’t have the resources that some of these other places do but we can provide greater things if we all get behind and support it.”

He said the Drawing Board will provide an opportunity for the community to not only see the owners art but the general population as well.

“This place is a multi-functioning studio,” Benton explained. “It provides a space for other creative and intuitive minds to make and create their kind of work.”

He said artwork will be created, displayed and sold in the studio which will also be used as a public venue for art shows, art classes and public-speaking events.

Benton said with the store being fairly new to Main Street and the winter weather, foot traffic has been limited but he said he thinks business will pick up once the weather allows more people to walk around the downtown area freely.

The Drawing Board is only the most recent visual art business to open in the city’s downtown area over the last three years.

Visitors to the cooperative market, at 30 N. Main St., have been treated to the artwork featured in one section of the store for the last 2 1/2 years.

The gallery of art is being done on a regular basis by Micropolis, an artists’ cooperative.

Linda Hinkle of Johnstown said the group got its start when market Manager Chris Curro approached her about starting an artist cooperative when the market moved to its current location on North Main Street.

Curro said other food cooperatives have artists’ cooperative galleries in them. Both cooperatives can help build the community, he said.

“Art makes a town feel like it’s worth living in,” Curro said. “The more we can bring these kinds of arts to our region the more attractive we’ll be to those visiting and living here.”

Micropolis includes primarily, but not exclusively, local artists and works in a variety of styles, including photography, painting, textiles and mixed media, Hinkle said.

She said the gallery changes the work on display every two months.

Even the name has a local connection. Micropolis was chosen partly as a homage to retired City Court Judge Vincent DeSantis book, “Toward Civic Integrity, Re-establishing the Micropolis.”

“Over the past several years there has been a growing trend of young educated people wanting to live in downtown areas,” DeSantis said. “People want a downtown that’s an interesting place to live. Art could be the game changer for a city today and with our existing architecture, I feel like we really have something to provide.”

Curro and Hinkle said the gallery not only gives people another reason to come to the market, it also shows the diversity of the artists in the community.

“It gives a general sense of pride to the community,” Hinkle said. “The more diversity we have the better it will be.”

Across the street, Mrs. B’s Petite Galerie offers art classes for the community and studio space for owner, Cheryl Bielli, in the basement of Antiques n Uniques.

Bielli said she originally opened the studio in October 2012 as a part-time endeavor, but over the years, it has became full-time work.

“I dreamt of having a studio for some time and the downtown has beautiful architecture. I feel like art could be the avenue to bring it back to life,” she said. “There is a spirit to the downtown that can’t be found in other places and art is something that is needed. It isn’t essential in terms of life, but its what defines us as a species.”

Bielli said she works with community members ranging from small children to seniors, and the greatest reward of working with them is finding their inner talent.

Artists Michael and Emily Hopkins own Revenge Tattoo Parlour, which opened almost three years ago at 25 S. Main St.

Michael Hopkins said he’s fascinated by the colorful history and traditions of his craft. While he said tattoos are not for everybody, for many people they offer a special means of self-expression.

“Art tends to be really pretentious at times and it’s important that all forms of it have their exposure or outlet,” Michael Hopkins said. “We’re not bikers or outlaws and there’s a big stigma that tattooing is an outsider art, but really it is for all avenues of society.”

One thing that makes Revenge stand out among other tattoo parlors in the region, and to those interested in art itself, is its collection of handpainted “flash” – examples of tattoos designs – that they’ve created or acquired by trading with colleagues around the country.

They said the shop will move from its Gloversville location to downtown Amsterdam, at 2 E. Main St., in February because the larger space will allow them to open a full-size art gallery inside the shop.

However, they said the success and reputation they earned in downtown Gloversville was paramount in allowing them to move forward and expand.

Hinkle said that often art is the business that rises from the depths of tough economic times. Whether it was photographs from the Great Depression or the present resurgence of art in cities like Gloverville or Detroit, artistic vision always finds a way to depict and enrich the culture during those tough economic times.

Many local officials said they fully support the art trend developing downtown and are eager to see it grow.

Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer said the chamber has a gallery that is open to various artistic community organizations and individuals.

“There is a resurgence and desire for more art going on right now,” Kilmer said. “Art is a desirable thing in any culture and with a business like art or antiques they rely on cluster marketing for success.”

He said this marketing approach is different because having a competitor next door is often thought to be negative.

However, Kilmer said, with these businesses people will travel a greater distances if there are multiple options available.

Both the Glove Cities recently sought a grant to improve the downtowns and Mayor Dayton King said this grant, along with updating the comprehensive plan, could bring more art to the downtown area.

He said the architecture and existing businesses will play a role in the direction the downtown is heading in the future.

“[Art] really draws people to the downtown in a way that may not have brought them here before,” King said. “Once they are here, they can eat or shop and do other things that will boost the economy. If we continue to grow the downtown, which I think we will, art is going to be a major part of it.”