A contemporary art gallery in downtown Williamsport? Noooooo way!
Within the last few years, Williamsport's art scene has rapidly grown and according to Casey Gleghorn and John Yogodzinski, co-owners of the new Grey Art Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St., it demanded a contemporary space devoted to nurturing it.
"We felt that with Williamsport's booming art scene that the market would be able to support a contemporary gallery," Gleghorn said. "It was in need of a contemporary gallery."
The creative duo tested the local art market with several exhibitions at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave., to see if a professional gallery - solely devoted to art - could be successful here.
"With the shows that we had at the factory, we proved to ourselves that there was a market here to sell artwork," Gleghorn said.
The guys were quick to note how influential the Pajama Factory was in contributing to their project.
"First and foremost, this place wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the Factory," Gleghorn said. "The art community wouldn't be as diverse and as fruitful if it wasn't for the factory bringing all these creative minds together."
At the same time, they wanted to make sure that everyone knows that the Grey Art Gallery is an independent venture and is open to all artists, not just Factory talent.
"We are not affiliated with the Factory," Gleghorn said.
"We don't want to look like we only represent Pajama Factory artists," Yogodzinski said.
Not only does their roster of artists extend beyond the Factory, it goes outside the state and even the country.
"Our goal isn't just a local goal," Gleghorn said. "Our goal is an international market. We have an artist sending a piece out from Rome - her name is Ekaterina Panikanova and she is an established artist who has never shown in the U.S. ... she is phenomenal. She's won all sorts of awards and she's willing to work with us - in Williamsport!"
The American, out-of-the-area artists who are a part of the gallery come from places including Philadelphia; Chelsea, N.Y.; Boston, Mass.; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Virginia and mostly got involved by way of the Public Art Academy's Artist-in-Residence program.
"With Michael Pilato [founder] and Jeremiah Johnson's [program director] permission, a few of them put in hours and days of work to get this place running," Gleghorn said. "We had two weeks to construct this place and get it ready for the show. That wouldn't have been possible without the artists-in-residence. Ford [Bostwick] and Phil [Evans] went above and beyond."
The artists also show in the gallery and plan to continue showing even though the program ended Friday.
Local artists also have been involved in the process - Chad Andrews made prints for the flyers for the gallery's upcoming First Friday grand opening, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, with a ribbon-cutting by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana at 4:30 p.m.
"I told Chad that it would be a great idea to get one of the artists to do the promotional flyer," Gleghorn said. "Chad spent two days working on ideas and he came back with six different printouts and drawings, so we worked together on the illustrations and I did the design."
The opening for the water-themed show will feature catering by the Herdic House (donated by the LKW Dance Center) and music by DJ Omegalypse.
Gleghorn and Yogodzinski are excited about participating in First Fridays downtown because this collaboration brings the last decade of progress in the local art community full circle.
"We're happy to be part of the evolution of Williamsport's art community," Gleghorn said. "Everything's working together - First Friday, Pilato's 'Inspiration' mural, the Pajama Factory and now the Grey Art Gallery."
Yogodzinski added, "The gallery bridges a couple of gaps - First Friday is primarily around Pine Street and usually this whole strip is a dead zone. This brings a different kind of vibe, a big city vibe ... People keep saying they feel like they're in New York City or in Philadelphia when they're in the gallery."
And while the gallery owners are thrilled to be a part of First Friday, they're also looking to expand beyond it.
"We wanted more of an opportunity to do an art show and have it up longer than First Friday," Yogodzinski said. "It's not like you're going to the coffee shop to see so-and-so, it's a collection, kind of like the factory but on another level."
This other level includes a website, www.greyartgallery.com/, through which the artists' works will be displayed and sold.
"The website's almost done," Gleghorn said. "It will be live before the opening."
Amidst all the excitement, however, there are still some hurdles facing the gallery as it tries to blaze a trail for professional galleries in the area, including the maintenence of the building.
"This building is over a 100 years old," Gleghorn said. "This building has a lot of history and we want to restore it to show that. We had to redo the floor and we had to construct a moveable wall on rollers so that we can change the space and keep it fresh-looking."
These renovations aren't cheap and Gleghorn and Yogodzinski are hoping the community can help to support their dream of making the gallery sustainable.
"There's plumbing problems, electrical problems, lighting problems and the front of the building, which needs some TLC ... we would just like the community to get behind this."
Regardless of these issues, the guys are confident that the art scene will keep getting stronger and the gallery will become a "juggernaut."
"As Williamsport's art community keeps growing and snowballing, more people are coming here and seeing the value of it," Gleghorn said. "Once we get bigger names, I see people driving here from great distances to see these shows; I see an international art market developing. This is only the beginning."