The newly opened Gallery@Rhinebeck occupies the space on Market Street once filled with nuts and bolts and other necessary tools of living. In fact, gallery founder Patrick D’Antonio says that he was in search of hardware after moving to the village last May. “I was familiar with the area because I’d been a weekender a decade before. I got up the next day and said, ‘I need some hardware,’ and I went into town. Apparently, the old-fashioned hardware store had been gone for years. In its place was a fancy housewares store. I walked in and made a joke: ‘I guess you don’t have any half-inch drywall screws.’
“A couple of days later, I walked by the storefront and it was gone – just cleared out! I looked at this big, beautiful bare brick-wall space with a high ceiling, and I thought, ‘This would make a terrific gallery.’ I’ve never been in the art game before; I don’t know what I’m doing. But I got introduced to the grand dames of art in Rhinebeck – Joanna Hess and Betsy Jacaruso – and I talked with them about the idea.”
They were enthused about a street-level retail gallery space, but it turns out that a traditional co-op was not exactly what D’Antonio had in mind. “‘What if I can combine the services of a full-commission gallery with the volunteerism of a co-op, and get the artists to buy memberships? We can get the base money to rent and open the space.’ I reached out to the community, the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations and Rhinebeck Savings Bank. We formed a nonprofit corporation with the slogan ‘Art, Performance and Public Service.’
“The gallery is built to be flexible, so we can turn it into a small-venue performance space with 60 or 70 seats, in which we can have local artists, writers, performers come in and do small-scale performances. And the artists get more exposure, and we can charge a little to defray our costs. Artist memberships only cover about half of our costs. We’re looking to the community for private donations, and in the next year, we’ll be applying for grants through foundations to make up the difference.
“The Public Service part: In a traditional co-op, artists are asked to volunteer in the gallery in support of themselves. I didn’t really want to do that. So we’re developing programs where the artists go out into the community and maybe mentor a fledgling art student. We’re meeting with the people at Brookmeade Retirement Home, where they have a very successful seniors’ art program, and we’ll go to volunteer at that and also learn how it’s run. One of our members has a connection to a writing project she’s volunteered for at the Veterans’ Center up in Hillsdale. Perhaps we can help even longtime veterans to express their service through some kind of art.
“We feel, if we’re asking for the community’s financial support, the artists will in turn do something for the community. It’s not really a co-op where artists band together to run a gallery themselves; it’s a membership gallery. Here, the nonprofit corporation runs the gallery, runs the performances and manages the public service. Artists can hang their art and walk out the door and not worry about the display and sales. We say, ‘With your membership fee comes the responsibility to reach out to the community.’”
The gallery is accessible to the street’s pedestrian traffic, and D’Antonio explains how holding events during the week will get people out of their homes to patronize local restaurants and other businesses on what would otherwise be off nights. “We’re partnering up with Upstate Films and Oblong Books. While they do a great job showing movies and offering books, they have limited public space to have, like, a party afterwards. Our space can accommodate them.” It’s a model of cultural cooperation that becomes inclusive, rather than competitive.
Since taking possession of the space on November 1, D’Antonio’s crew has renovated the interior and begun to hang art, taking advantage of the holiday activities in the village by moving $15,000 worth of artworks in the process: money that goes directly to the artists. “It was a great soft opening, and lots of people have gotten to know us. We had an Open House for the artists and their friends that was very successful.” Plans for three invitation-only opening celebrations are on the books this month to thank supporters and art patrons, and generally let the greater community know what’s happening at The Gallery@Rhinebeck.
Check out the website to learn about these events. Meanwhile, the gallery will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 11a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended hours on Friday and Saturday evening. The Gallery@Rhinebeck is located at 47 East Market Street, Rhinebeck; (845) 876-1655, www.galleryrhinebeck.org.