Originally published in the Manchester Journal Dec. 5, 2017.
MANCHESTER — Walking past what was once Eastern Mountain Sports on Manchester’s Depot Street, you may notice that the space has taken on new life.
Now, a plethora of paintings, sculptures, and photographs populate the 7,000 square foot area, recently rented by locals Michael and Carolina Ellenbogen. The Ellenbogens, who also operate the nearby Village Picture Shows, have worked to transform the former outdoor gear store into a gallery dubbed “stART Space.”
“When it comes to the arts, Carolina and I have had some big ambitions since we moved here officially in 2011,” said Michael, who spent years in the New York City film industry in addition to his own artistic endeavors. “I’ve been involved in the arts to some degree in Manchester since the mid-nineties. There used to be an arts center right next to Al Ducci’s, and I used to bring programs of short films up from New York City and show them in that space.”
“Both of our backgrounds are in the arts,” added Carolina. “When we arrived in Manchester it was a natural fit for us, because it was what we came from.”
Since arriving to Manchester “officially” in 2011, the couple has laid the groundwork for both an international film festival and a contemporary art fair, the latter of which they hadplanned to host at the Inn at Manchester’s Celebration Barn in 2015. In 2010, Ellenbogen opened a pop-up art gallery on Main Street, just below “Up For Breakfast.” Though the concept of opening a full-time gallery retained its allure, other endeavors had taken precedence.
“This project went onto a simmer for a while,” Michael said. “We decided that when this opportunity came up, and our relationship developed with the plaza owners, that we would try to relaunch our concept of bringing contemporary art to Manchester in a different way.”
Since leasing the gallery space in July, the couple has worked to make renovations before opening with the support of businesses like: Crosspoint Associates, which owns the plaza housing stART Space; the neighboring Sherwin Williams location; the Vermont Telephone Company (VTel) which has provided WiFi for transactions; and their own Village Picture Shows.
“There was a lot of preparation needed for the space to make it feel and look like a gallery opposed to just an empty shell of a store that was here for twenty years,” said Michael. Though there was definitely work to be done, he says, they were able to make the space work for them.
“This has track lighting around the entire gallery, so it’s definitely a bonus to not have to install that,” Michael said. “It’s open, it’s clean, and there are high ceilings.”
“The openness of the space really fits with the way you present contemporary artwork,” added Carolina. “The ability to look at every point, and appreciate the entire room, really makes this a perfect fit.”
As a gallery for both “emerging and established” artists and collectors, stART Space will display collections of contemporary paintings, drawings, digital art, photography, mixed media, and sculpture.
“We’re going to be all inclusive in terms of media, and grow over time in terms of what we can offer,” said Michael. “We look forward to even considering installations when that becomes possible.”
With their focus on contemporary works — including art forms like minimalism, abstract, non-representational, avant-garde, and conceptual — the couple hopes to provide more variety in Manchester’s artistic landscape.
“There are a lot of galleries and organizations in the area that offer great work in other styles and genres,” said Michael. “We also felt that it was important to try to offer something a bit unique to Manchester.”
“We want to make it happen here because we want to make this place home,” Carolina added. “It’s great the way it is, but you always feel like you want to make your own contribution to your community.”
Though all five of the artists displaying work at stART Space are local — Dona Mara, Sarah May, and Erika Lawlor Schmidt alongside the Ellenbogens — Michael emphasizes that there are “no real boundaries or borders as to where the art is going to come from.”
“I don’t consider anybody a local, I consider them artists,” he explained. “Obviously where they’re from may influence the work that they’re doing, but to call someone a local artist is to localize them in my opinion.”
“We make this place our residence, but we all come from different places,” added Carolina. “Art is always international; it doesn’t have a specific language.”
In addition to welcoming both emerging and established artists, collectors with a range of experience are also welcome at stART Space.
“That’s why we came up with the name ‘stART Space,’” explained Carolina. “This is a starting space for emerging artists, but also for emerging collectors.”
“What we mean by that is that over time we will look for ways to educate people about collecting art,” added Michael, noting that the gallery currently houses works ranging from $20 to over $8,000. “We would like to make it more accessible, and more exciting, for people to consider art something that they can participate in.”
To begin that process, the couple will utilize both the Village Picture Shows and stART Space for screenings of “Loving Vincent” between Dec. 8 and Dec. 12. Carol Berry, local author and Van Gogh scholar, will lead two live discussions on the film’s subject, Vincent Van Gogh, at stART Space. One talk will follow the Friday, Dec. 8 screening at 4:15 p.m. and the second on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 5:30 p.m.
“After the movie she’ll come to stART Space to talk about Vincent, and why we’re bringing that into context for the emerging artist,” said Michael. “As much as we’re all emerging, we hope that we all don’t have to stoop to cutting off an ear and getting shot to eventually get recognized.”
Currently, the gallery is open on Sunday and Monday by appointment only, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. An artist reception will be held at stART Space on Saturday, Dec. 16 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.