Through the Music's Pied Beauty
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
"We're not perfect; we're not going for perfection," says Sarah Rice, co-owner of Through the Music. "We're going for comfort. ... We want everyone to feel comfortable as an artist or as a viewer here." The new gallery, located at the back of Turn It Up! (hence the name -- you have to go through the music to get there), at the corner of Elliot and Main streets in Brattleboro, does have a homey atmosphere. The inviting entryway leads to several small rooms that Turn It Up! once used for storage. A recent visitor compared the space to a rabbit warren, Rice said. Co-owner Josh Steele sees an analogy to Gallery Walk itself, but in miniature. "Gallery Walk is about exploring this town -- going down little hidden alleyways, up stairs and down stairs," he said. "It entertains me to hear people say, 'Wow, I never knew these rooms were here.'"
While this layout may limit the kinds of pieces that can be displayed, it keeps the art on a human scale. And that is what Through the Music is all about. Rice and Steele place no limitations on who can show at the gallery, though they do expect to attract emergent artists who may have never had a solo exhibition before. "We don't want to generalize to younger people," Steele emphasized. "We want [all] people who don't have the opportunity to show in a more prestigious gallery."
The relative youth of the co-owners certainly works to the gallery's advantage, though. The pair have plenty of idealism, and energy to match. Besides running the gallery, working their day jobs and (in Steele's case) attending school, they provide support for artists, offering critiques and helping to write artists' statements and compile portfolios. The gallery charges minimal exhibitors' fees.
Since it opened in December, Through the Music has displayed work by seven artists. Digital photographs by Jessie Stewart, who served for two years as an army medic, explore the loss of people and places to war. Rachel Brooks' drawings manage to look like animé woodcuts. Color photographs by Rice and Helen Jones explore dwellings from outside and in, including several images of a grandmother's possessions after her move from her own apartment into a nursing home. Through March, the gallery will feature pen-and-ink drawings by Atticus O'Feral and "photo paintings" by Benjamin Zeman in collaboration with Cara Downy. Photos of Zeman's contextualized graffiti make a study of art as ephemera, while O'Feral's figures exhibit themselves in various states of undeath.
So far, much of the work at Through the Music has had a fresh feel, sometimes bordering on raw. But while we are not likely to see a lot of classical still life at this venue, it would be unwise to try to sum up the gallery's character in a word, unless the word were "eclectic." Steele and Rice are reluctant to limit who can show at the gallery even by artistic style. Their primary goals are to help budding artists bloom and inspire viewers -- hopefully both at the same time. "I want people to walk out of the place and say, 'I'm going to pick up my old artwork and start working on it again'," said Steele. "Everybody's an artist; you just need to tap into that.
Copyright 2007, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont