This has been an unusual year for those who enjoy art of any kind, whether it involves theaters, galleries, or museums. Many of us have had to satisfy our need for art through YouTube recreations of theater performances, or attending virtual art gallery tours through Zoom. If that’s not enough, then consider The Gallery Q (yes, Q is for quarantine). This pop-up gallery debuted on Wednesday, July 22, at 203 N. Talbot St. in St. Michaels and will be open for the next four weeks.
Thanks to some local and regional artists, this temporary studio is the perfect place where you can lose yourself in stunning sculptures, paintings, jewelry, and other handcrafted goods. It will give artists a place where they can share what they have been working on throughout the quarantine. “It’s been a really tough time for artists, with the cancellation of art shows and festivals this spring and summer,” said Jen Wagner, an award-winning local mosaic artist, and entrepreneur who is spearheading the opening of The Gallery Q. “We are so excited to offer an opportunity for artists to show their work again, and our artists are thrilled to be a part of it.”
Wagner is no stranger to short term galleries. One of her first studios, Ouvert Gallery in St. Michaels, started as a temporary one, but then, “I fell in love with it and did it for three years,” she says. “I love owning a gallery, and I love curating, but I also love being an artist, and I like doing my big projects and my commission work.”
After closing Ouvert in 2017, Wagner had another idea for a short-term exhibit. This time she envisioned taking over the Waterfowl Festival building during the holidays for a Christmas in Easton Arts and Crafts Market Place. With the help of a friend, Susan Langfitt, the two-day event became a yearly success, and a winning partnership was formed. So, when Wagner again mentioned the idea of a pop-up a month ago, Langfitt was all in.
The pair began looking for space, and Wagner reached out to various area artists, selecting approximately 12 who would be part of the show. “I wanted the quality of the work to be really high,” says Wagner. “I wanted it to be interesting, and as always, with every space that I’ve opened or show that I’ve done, I wanted it to be work that you can’t typically find in other places.” The group found the N. Talbot St. location on July 3, began hanging the artwork this past Monday, and was ready to open on Wednesday.
Says Wagner, “We’re not charging gallery admission prices. I believe in offering artists opportunities. That’s what the Christmas show is all about. We do things during the Christmas show that benefit places like Talbot Mentors and the various youth groups in the area, but we don’t put that pressure on the artists. They don’t have to give up a piece of their sale. We don’t charge outrageous fees for them to show. We’re just really selective about who comes in.”
Who is in at The Gallery Q includes Eddie Ford featuring his larger-than-life metal sculptures, and driftwood pieces by Tom Yeats and Larry Ringgold. Painters range from local favorite Josepha Price to newcomer Chelsea Benincasa, whose images show a bold and colorful graphic style. Filling the gallery will also be Wagner’s mosaics, handmade jewelry, etc.
Because of the pandemic, Wagner realizes that galleries, even pop up ones, may be forced to close or switch to virtual openings for a while. “It’s a lot of experimenting right now and trying different things. And I don’t think we’re going to know what any of this is until we just start walking down that road for a little bit.” What’s important, she says, is that “there is nothing as powerful as standing in front of a piece of art and just connecting with it.”
The Gallery Q will be open from 10 am – 8 pm. Strict safety precautions will be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in adherence to state regulations on retail stores. Masks and social distancing will be required. For added safety, private appointments can be made to view the gallery.
Visit The Gallery Q Facebook page(https://www.facebook.com/thegalleryq/) to meet the artists and get a sneak peek at some of their work. For more information, contact Jen Wagner at 443.521.4084
Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.