Within 20 days of getting the keys to 317 S. Division Ave., The Light Gallery & Studio
already had 11 different artists hanging on the walls during the Sept. 27 soft opening of its new Avenue for the Arts live-work space.
“I was really pushing being able to open for ArtPrize so we could get some of that foot traffic,” says Erika Townsley, The Light Gallery’s new curator and girlfriend of the site’s owner, Matthew Provoast.
Though the official public grand opening took place Oct. 7, Townsley worked alongside Provoast and his family members to build three moveable gallery walls, with a few extra slated to separate the private living space in back from the public gallery and storefront.
Both recent graduates of Kendall College of Art and Design, Provoast and Townsley initially began looking for a live-work space that Provoast could use as a studio for his wedding photography business. After finding 317 S. Division Avenue through Dwelling Place and realizing the kind of creative freedom they had with its renovation, the two saw a bigger opportunity.
“I asked him what if we had a gallery and a storefront, because you have this great opportunity with this large of a space to do that well,” says Townsley, who herself is a mixed media artist.
“We have this great opportunity with being able to have such an affordable space because of our location.”
Situated near the end of the Avenue for the Arts, closer to Wealthy Street, Townsley says she and Provost realized what a great opportunity they had to have such an affordable space and wanted to pass that opportunity along to new artists, whether it be college students or just artists new to the scene.
“We really want to have an affordable space for artists, whether they’re in college or just starting out, and have a more realistic way to show their work” says Townsley, adding that they’ve been in touch with KCAD and the Kendall Photography Association and are hoping to coordinate more public and community outreach efforts once they’re more settled in the new space.
More immediately, however, Townsley says The Light Gallery & Studio are finding avenues for fostering community through its business practices, offering options for trading work and talents whenever and wherever possible -- like hiring a co-worker from Townsley's other restaurant job to cater both the soft opening and grand opening events.
"In addition to her payment, I'm also going to design her a logo so she can start her own small catering business," Townsley says. "I really want this space to be a productive one, and to give out as many opportunities as I can."
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Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Light Gallery/Erica Townsley