Avenue of Art
Katonah’s new art-lover’s vibe
Art Stroll patrons visit Gallarus Art Space, a gallery in Katonah that exhibits contemporary art and early European sculptures, old master paintings, and drawings.
Photos Douglas Foulke
Katonah is becoming an arts destination, as a number of new galleries have opened their doors, and a monthly evening art stroll is bringing increased foot traffic to the many venues where art can be appreciated and purchased. “Art is how we bring people together,” says Mindy Yanish, owner of Offerings Gallery, who spearheaded the effort to coordinate nine diverse shops for the stroll. The first was held in April, and the venture has been steadily growing in popularity. “This is a collaborative event that brings the community together,” Yanish adds. The strolls feature musicians, and a number of local restaurants offer a glass of free wine to stroll patrons.
That sense of community was one of the factors that led Christopher Brescia and Sarah Ryan to open the doors to The Lane Contemporary Arts. “This town has such a natural energy—it’s really becoming a mecca for this type of event,” says Ryan. The space struck the two as ideal for contemporary art. “We wanted to complement the other galleries and offer something different,” Ryan says.
The array of art found throughout town is certainly varied. Renaissance pieces mix with contemporary ones at Gallarus Arts Space. Landscape scenes abound on the walls of Oak & Oil. 10536 Art Gallery, housed at Ebba, displays an array of local artists. Whether it’s long-time retailers such as The Eclectic Collector championing American folk crafts, and Katonah Art & Frame Shop, where the art pieces highlight the frames, or newer stores such as Old New House and Majestic Hudson, where the owners have art backgrounds, the town abounds with art.
“People are looking for experiences,” notes Viktoria Fisch, Ebba’s owner. Gregory Muenzen, owner of Gallarus, concurs with that sentiment. His gallery has also become a “salon,” says Muenzen. He notes that he’s seeing a desire for communal spaces. “I want people to engage with the art by explaining the stories behind the pieces and by offering classes and performances.” Muenzen says that with the influx of galleries and the art stroll, Katonah can become a destination town. “And having an institutional foundation with museum and library participation adds to the mixture.”
Both the Katonah Museum of Art (KMA) and the Katonah Village Library see the strolls and the growing art scene as a boon. The museum kicks off the strolls with a special free-admission hour, docent-led tours, and snacks and drinks. “We’re helping to support the galleries, and they’re helping to bring visitors to the museum,” says KMA’s Executive Director Michael Gitlitz. He notes in speaking to directors at neighboring cultural institutions there’s a move toward, “thinking of ourselves as a cultural catch basin; we should be drawing travelers that go the Berkshires with all the riches we have here.”
The library started displaying art outside this year, and Director Mary Kane says she hopes to continue the tradition. “The pieces draw people to the library.” Kane notes that the library has collaborated with KMA and is using space at Gallarus to offer story time. “As a public institution we want to offer events everyone can take advantage of,” Kane says. And she notes that Katonah is such an “artsy community, we want to offer ways to cultivate that.”
“We love the idea of supporting local artists,” says Maxine Ganer, who with Michael Kearns owns Oak & Oil. They both note that the growth in galleries and stores displaying art and the art stroll are contributing to the health of Katonah. “Customers love coming in to the gallery to meet the artists, and the artists are encouraged that their works are being exhibited where they live.”
“Throughout the population I think there is more of an interest in collecting art; it’s no longer seen as a reserve for the elite,” KMA’s Gitlitz says. Brescia of The Lane says, “People no longer have to go into the city to experience great art.” He and Ryan are seeing a renewed interest in contemporary art, in homes having that “pop of color.” Ganer and Kearns say their customers are buying landscapes and are drawn to the horse photography. “People love beauty, and they are looking to buy local talent,” Ganer says. The Offerings’s Yanish says her customers have been responding to street art and wildlife paintings. “They are drawn to messaging, to what’s relevant.” And she speaks for other galleries when she notes that the strolls have brought an uptick in business.
(Photo: ART BUS Michael McKenzie’s gallery on wheels came to Katonah for an autumn Art Stroll.)