About 20 people gathered inside Patterson’s Front Street Gallery on Thursday night to brainstorm ideas and discuss the future of the financially troubled art space.
The meeting was convened by gallery owner Jeremy Wolff as a way to gather local artists, businesspeople and citizens interested in keeping local art a part of downtown Patterson.
Wolff said it was important to “establish a rhythm” of events at the gallery so that the community was continually engaged with the space and committed to its future.
But that emphasis on forward planning, he said, would be somewhat of a new direction for the Front Street Gallery.
“The ground that needs to be laid is that there are regular events, that there is a format,” Wolff said. “For me that involves having local people who want to make it happen.”
Diane Ingram, of the Pawling Chamber of Commerce, said the Front Street Gallery could learn some useful lessons from the way downtown commerce and artistic enterprise is handled just a few minutes’ drive north.
Ingram suggested the gallery combine with other events — like those focused on crafts or the military — held at the nearby Patterson Recreation Center, held just down Front Street from the space.
“I don’t know what the Patterson chamber’s like, but the Pawling chamber is always looking for ways to bring people into downtown to support local business,” she said. “There’s a lot of artists who seem like they might be interested in having a presence here.”
Others at the meeting suggested new outreach efforts like juried exhibitions, sponsored wall hangings, an annual membership fee, art talks for senior citizens and felting classes for children.
Amy Emke said she’s love if the gallery catered to younger audiences, as there’s not much for them in Putnam County besides the Putnam Arts Council in Mahopac — a substantial drive from Patterson.
“There’s really nothing here for the kids who are a little more accomplished,” she said.
Ron Taylor, president of the Patterson Historical Society and a member of the town’s planning board, said the meeting was an important way to bring together the diverse group of people interested in supporting independent downtown businesses like the gallery and it’s next-door neighbor, the cafe Magnolia’s.
“Everyone in town wants to redevelop downtown,” Taylor said. “The question is how to make that happen. It’s putting the pieces together and sustaining business.”
Taylor said the gallery has a tremendous opportunity in its proximity to the Patterson Metro-North station but downtown Patterson has “nothing really concentrating on the fact that the railroad is here and people are using it.”
Wolff told the crowd he appreciated their ideas and is working to find a way to make the gallery more sustainable while maintaining the identity he’s fostered over the last few years.
“In the history of this gallery, we’ve never been two months ahead. We never have worked that way,” he said. “It’s definitely a problem, but the fact that we did a 9/11 show two weeks after we had the idea, I sort of appreciated it — doing the kind of things where you can land on your feet.”