Nonprofit North Adams Gallery Holds Affordable Art Auction

May 16, 2018

A nonprofit North Adams gallery held an affordable art auction Tuesday night.

James Jarzyniecki is a co-director of the Outside gallery.

“It was a temporary project when it started, so it was meant to exist for four months,” Jarzyniecki told WAMC.

Now in its third year, the gallery sits at 10 Ashland Street in downtown North Adams.

“There was a lot of interest, and we didn’t expect that," said Jarzyniecki. "We expected that we’d ask 10 people, and then five people would say yes, and we’d do the five shows. We asked seven people, and all seven said yes, so we just had to do all of those shows.”

“The long version starts with the fact that James and I have been coming here pretty regularly for the last 10 years," said Mandy Johnson, the gallery’s other co-director. She and Jarzyniecki met while studying architecture at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. “The short version is that when we moved to New York City, we didn’t have space to make things, so we began renting a studio here because we loved the area, and a few years later when we wanted to start our own business, we just kind of moved here, it just sort of happened.”

Leaving behind lucrative positions at a pair of architectural firms, Johnson and Jarzyniecki relocated to North Adams at an advantageous time.

“They were also having at the time a downtown revitalization initiative and they were looking for pitches for small businesses to take over storefronts," said Johnson, "and we thought that it was sort of the perfect way to engage this new community we had just moved to and realize this project that had been in the back of our minds for years.”

The gallery recently switched its status from commercial to nonprofit. Tuesday night, it held an art auction fundraiser at Bright Ideas Brewing.

“A big reason that we changed our status and are now having a fundraiser is because we’re wanting to do more events," Johnson told WAMC. "We’ve held a few concerts in the past, and have had artist talks and workshops, and occasionally offer the space as a part-time studio, and we’re hoping to do more events like that that engage the local community.”

Bright Ideas Brewing is also a recent addition to the North Adams scene. It just celebrated its second anniversary in April.

“The gallery is exactly the kind of space we like to collaborate with at Bright Ideas," said Colleen Rafferty, the operations manager at the brewery. “They’re doing great things for North Adams and for the art community. Bright Ideas Brewing is on the MASS MoCA campus, and we love to support local artists and anything that uplifts the community of North Adams.”

It’s become a key stop in North Adams’ art scene. Jarzyniecki says it was the perfect place for the fundraiser.

“This is the place to come after work, and this is the place to see who’s around and just to hang out. So, it seems right. We love our space, being diagonally across from MASS MoCA and diagonally across downtown, but I mean — there’s beer here, right?”

“It definitely wasn’t part of the operational plan, but we’re not surprised by it and we embrace it," said Rafferty. "We think it’s a great place for people to hang out no matter what you do during the day. Everyone can agree that a pint at the end of a hard workday is a good thing, and usually well earned.”

The theme of the art auction — which featured a number of artists from Outside gallery, including three Berkshire County locals — was affordability.

“One thing that we have to be cognizant of of course is the specific art market that we’re in, and the gallery being a not-for-profit, we don’t really operate under a commercial gallery model," said Johnson. "And we want to create shows and artwork that’s accessible to people in a way that maybe the prototypical gallery model isn’t.”

Community figures like Mayor Tom Bernard and MASS MoCA Director Joseph Thompson attended the auction. For now, the gallery maintains a tight schedule.

“We’re open two days a week, and we have one gallery assistant," said Jarzyniecki, "and that allows us to do five shows a year.”

But Johnson says Outside’s vision is expansive.

“I think what we would hope for Outside moving forward, is to sort of continue the culture of collaboration we’ve started," said Johnson, "and be able to engage with the downtown in ways that we haven’t been able to yet, and that may literally mean expanding beyond the walls of the gallery and creating works and projects that become a part of downtown.”

For more on the Outside gallery, visit their website.