Sunday, 9 June 2013

CLOSING TIME: Signalling the end of an era, Mutual Gallery shuts its doors this month-end

POINT OF VIEW: Bauer and Chen at the gallery, 2012. Below: Khary Darby's Untitled (2005).

Usually TALLAWAH concerns itself with what's new and next, not what's coming to an end. But the surprising news that the Mutual Gallery, the cozy little art lovers' retreat on Oxford Road, will be closing its doors permanently at the end of June is enough to give anyone pause, but especially supporters of the fine arts and longtime admirers of the little gallery that could. 

As it turns out, their sponsors (and owners of the building), AIC/National Commercial Bank, have decided that after more than a decade, they will no longer be able to house the gallery rent-free. And for the two-woman team of curator Gilou Bauer and administrative assistant Keisha Campbell, the pricey monthly rental fee is out of their reach. Even so, Bauer chooses to see the silver lining. "I think it's something positive. I'm not certain of how and why," she explains, "but I see it as a wake-up call for us to change and operate in a different way." 

Still, she admits, the gallery's exit means the loss of a cherished creative space. "As artists, we see it as a great loss," she says. "It's a lovely space."
At a time when the Jamaican art scene is showing such admirable fighting spirit in the face of myriad challenges (financial, chief among them), it's disheartening to think that we're now bearing witness to the slow disappearance of our creative spaces. "I'm saddened by it, because this is one of the spaces the younger artists could rely on to get exposure. It's a sad thing," notes Campbell. "A lot of young-generation artists who got their big break here have gone on to become big names." 

As for her next move, post-closure, Bauer reveals, "I have one or two ideas, but I'm not yet sure," she confides. "So I plan to use the time to explore the possibilities." 

Among the numerous activities/exhibitions that helped the gallery earn renown is the annual Super Plus Under-40 Artist of the Year exhibition, conceived by Bauer and Super Plus' Wayne Chen. What will become of the competition? "I certainly hope we'll continue with it and some of the other activities we've done in the past," Bauer says, "but it will depend on the availability of space and what happens next."

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