Delavan Art Gallery, Open & Shut

Nancy Keefe Rhodes 04/09/10More articles
Thursday night, Bill Delevan stood on top a folding two-tread stepladder in the center space of his Delavan Art Gallery with some index cards in hand and a new, closer-than-usual haircut. For an hour and a half, a sizable, relaxed and amiable crowd had chatted and strolled about, peering at the painted batiks of Marilyn Forth, the water colors of Elizabeth M. Hueber, and the floral water colors and cut paper sculpture of Louise Woodard. The work of these three comprises the gallery’s new group exhibition, “The Color of Spring,” on view until May 1st, with Saturday afternoon meet-the-artist events scheduled for April 17 and 24.

Delavan had put considerable thought into when he would announce that his gallery will close after almost seven years on May 1st. He said he felt he needed to say something about this decision soon, but he would put off the press release and the official announcement until the next morning, so that the crowd and the artists could enjoy the opening and those who were there could hear it from him in person first. So one of the gallery staff flicked the lights on and off a few times, and Delavan took two steps up and twice asked the crowd, “Please come closer.” Local artist Michael Barletta snapped several photos as Delavan spoke.

In 2005 Bill Delavan wrote a letter to the “Post-Standard” about his gallery's mission, proclaiming, “We love art but we don’t worship it.” He was convinced that what he called a “hooty-snooty attitude” did more to scare people away from galleries than it did to invite patrons in and allow artists to actually sell their work.

The local art scene had been “dismal” when his gallery opened, Delavan said, and he wanted to make a space for Central New York artists in particular. So while he ticked off the gallery’s accomplishments – 54 shows, 186 solo shows for individual artists, 15 group and special shows for 220 artists, seven shows for elementary students from the neighborhood’s Blodgett and Seymour Magnet schools, nearly 10, 000 pieces of art – Delavan was just as proud that artists and public have used his gallery as a space to meet and interact; that made closing “painful." In these past seven years, three other galleries have opened and closed. But seven more have opened and stayed open, the city has launched a monthly city-wide arts night called Th3 (for its slot on the Third Thursday), and a myriad of projects, including the work of the Gifford Foundation and Syracuse University’s Near Westside Initiative, are transforming the neighborhood.

But in totting up the numbers that measure the gallery’s accomplishments, Delavan added that mounting that many shows was so “intense” that “sometimes it’s just time to do something else.”

And the other factor, Delavan said, was financial, even though, he told me, “If it were solely the money, I would’ve closed four years ago.”

Delavan said Thursday night that his own next “something else” includes continuing to run the Delavan Center – he owns the building – which houses many artists’ studios, offices and businesses, and over-seeing the transformation of the large gallery into four or five smaller art-related spaces.

Gallery manager Caroline Szozda McGowan says she wants one of those herself so she can open her own small gallery. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I came back to Syracuse from Hawaii to work in this gallery, so I’m staying.”

“Now I’m just going to say this once,” Delavan concluded, after a detailed list of thank-yous ranging from his wife Terry, his sister, his volunteers, gallery staff – Delavan has employed a steady stream of young people involved in the arts who’ve gone on to their own careers and contributions to a more robust arts scene – building staff, and even the press. “On Friday night, April the 30th, we’re having a closing party here from 7 to 9. And I think Marcia Rutledge is going to provide the music. So please come back and celebrate.”

The Delavan Art Gallery is located at 501 W. Fayette St., a stone’s throw from Armory Square. Free parking in the Delavan Center lot. Gallery hours are Thursday and Friday noon to 6:00 PM, Saturday 10 – 4, and by appointment. 315.425.7500 or delavanartgallery.com. Meet Marilyn Forth and Louise Woodard on Saturday, April 17, from noon to 3:00 PM, and Elizabeth M. Hueber on Saturday, April 24, also noon to 3:00 PM. Nancy covers the arts. Reach her at nancykeeferhodes@gmail.com.

Note: Bill Delavan's statement at the gallery was released in full to media after this story was posted; read it here in the News section.

TAGS: Bill Delavan, Terry Delavan, Delavan Art Gallery, Delavan Center, Armory Square, Central New York arts, Caroline Szozda McGowan, Marilyn Forth, Louise Woodard, Elizabeth Hueber, Th3, NWSI
EDITION: The Eagle

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