pearl was an artist at Arts Gateway – a Brookline studio art center for adults with disabilities that has been around since 1973 – for over two decades. The untitled painting of the four women will be exhibited in “To return to,” Gateway’s first full in-person exhibition since the pandemic began. Held in the newly constructed Gateway Gallery, the show is scheduled to run from March 15 through May 7.
Pearl’s painting may capture a heaviness of spirit, but being at Gateway makes her feel lighter. “I walk in here and feel like I can breathe easy and the world can stay out. This place gives us that,” she said. .”
This world has become smaller over the past two years, due to the pandemic. The center has grown from 115 artists to just over 90, said director Rae Edelson – some artists have chosen not to return and others have not been able to be accommodated due to the social distancing measures currently in place . The staff has decreased. And visits to local institutions, such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Public Library, once a staple of Gateway’s schedule, are now rare.
The availability of certain mediums, such as pottery, has been reduced to avoid sharing materials. The gallery was once adjacent to the artists’ studios, but the dedicated jewelry studio (located behind the store) has been repurposed to create the new gallery to limit public face-to-face. interaction with the artists.
Gateway was completely closed from March to August 2020. During this time, the organization stayed in contact with its artists, sending them art supplies from Blick Art Materials and hosting Zoom sessions and online exhibitions. Even now that they’re back in person (with each artist at their individual workstation), things still haven’t fully returned to normal.
“We used to be so loud – it was really a place of art and din. And now it’s quiet,” said Edelson, who has run Gateway since 1978. For Artists, “[Gateway] builds their identity and sense of well-being and sense of community – or at least whatever remains of community at this point, which exists, but is certainly diminished.
And yet, as the organization approaches its 50th anniversary next year, some constants have remained. Most mediums – painting, weaving, digital art, textiles – are still available and many artists are hard at work on their pieces for the “Return” exhibition (artists earn a 50% commission on all sales of their work in gallery or in store). Artistic director Stephen DeFronzo estimates there will be around 80 pieces in the show, representing “pretty much” all of the Gateway artists.
“We wanted to show all the work people have been doing since they came back,” DeFronzo said, adding that the show will also be available online later in March. “Especially in the new environment, the new workstations… the newly designed studios. A lot of people are working with new mediums that they haven’t really worked with before.
At “Return”, the artist Daryl Richards will show off her untitled painting of a woman with a candy-colored hairstyle filled with a mishmash of objects — a pineapple, a phone, a smiley face — intended to express “how she feels inside and out.” outdoors,” he said. For Richards, the Gateway community has provided an invaluable support system. “They help me. Anything that seems wrong or wrong, they give me ideas or tips to help me [with] my paintings,” said Richards, 28.
The artwork, Richards said, is a way to “make a door” in her mind. “I do my best to try to get the image out [of] my head,” Richards said. “I like to do more fantasy and real life at the same time.”
Artist Colleen McFarland touches on a number of different mediums, including ceramics, illustration and textiles. Her untitled acrylic painting that will be on display in the exhibition is abstract, depicting a green dancer amidst blue and yellow stripes. Most of his work is about dancers, especially ballerinas. “I loved how they were able to tell a story that I could relate to,” said McFarland, 30.
McFarland also works as an associate at a Marshalls department store. She called her role at Gateway a “good respite”.
“They will never say that none of my ideas are bad,” she said. “There aren’t supposed to be any rules in the art.”
Despite her adventure in black and white, Pearl often works in the vein of pop art, using bright colors and playful lines. Her Gateway sales, she said, are her biggest source of income, but that’s not the main reason she keeps coming back.
“You have these people who are like you, they have similar emotions. It allows us to grab each other because we know when we get out of Gateway it won’t be the same,” she said. “That’s what Gateway does – they allow me to heal day by day.”
She added, “If I didn’t have Gateway, I wouldn’t be who I am.”
Dana Gerber can be contacted at [email protected]