As a gallerist, do you feel that there is a dialogue between you and the artist?
Yes. There is also a dialogue with everyone who walks through the door, looks at social media, or reads a press release, and so forth. Once the artwork is installed, the gallery can act as facilitator. As gallerists, we need to have dialogues with the artists we show, to ask questions about how they work, what media they use, are there stories behind the work, and much more. For Caldbeck, I feel that the bottom line is the work itself. Does it transport us?
We have been on Elm Street in Rockland for forty years now. We’ve grown the business slowly, along with what has been happening in Maine. The arts in Rockland may feel like an “overnight sensation” right now, but as we all know, getting the word out and slogging through each day and season takes time and dedication. No matter what happens in the daily grind, from wonderful to horrible, we continue to be thrilled by the work we show.
The ultimate dialogue for us is the one between us and the work. If the work talks to us, it means something, and we try to find a way to share that work with the public. Then the dialogue is between the work and the public. The artist’s statement or interview is of interest to many viewers, but again, it is the work that needs to be allowed to speak for itself.
There are many layers to running a gallery and keeping its head above water, hopefully way above water! You have a gallery because you love art. You love working with your artists. You’ve learned how to survive through thick and thin. And that you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. And if it’s not enough of the time, then that artist moves on. Happiness is sales! Without sales, you can’t pay your light bills. The artists can’t pay their light bills. In the first years of the Caldbeck, if work wasn’t selling, the gallery was shored up by Jim’s full-time job. His thrill in sharing art with others fed him too. Ultimately, our goal was for the gallery to be able to support itself fully. As Peggy Golden once said to me, “you tighten your belt and pinch pennies.”
At this point in my personal life, I have to pace things to work with what I have the energy, and therefore time, to get done. Somehow it all works out. With the enormous dedication of the artists, both to their work and to their wanting to have a relationship with the gallery, we survive, and more than often, thrive!
I love the triangle that forms between artist and gallery and collector. When all three pieces of that puzzle are engaged, we’re fully fed. Artists and galleries need each other, of course. A gallery that respects the artist, pays the artist, and champions the work, can feed the community. The Arts build communities, don’t they? Before my mind goes down the rabbit hole of thinking of all the layers and layers that go into the arts communities, I will end (yay!) by saying that because Jim and I are artists (painters) ourselves, we have always tried to put ourselves in the artists’ shoes. I do not see us as directors. We wish to provide the medium through which the art speaks. When I think of the amazing relationships we have had and have with artists, I feel blessed. I’m reminded of something my wonderful Saab dealer, Howard Stetson, once said to me. I was over to his Warren dealership for a winter tune-up. “Howard,” I said, “do you realize that I have been coming here for over 30 years?” Howard warmly replied, “It’s like a small marriage, isn’t it?” For better or for worse, that is how I think of my job and the work all of us do at the gallery.
Image at top: Jim Kinnealey and Cynthia Hyde getting ready for a two-person show at the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset, 1986.