An Artistic Revolution In New Milford: the harts gallery
Carmen Elsa Lopez Abramson.
By Jacque Lynn Schiller
When a gallery’s business plan is as inspiring as the art on its walls, you know the gallerists are seeking to do more than simply display pretty pictures — though the recently opened the harts gallery [sic] in New Milford, Conn. accomplishes this undertaking just as beautifully. Imagining the airy space as a hub for creative expression through exhibits as well as residencies and compelling talks, husband-and-wife team Evan and Carmen Elsa Lopez Abramson seem well on their way to achieving something truly remarkable: a welcoming art gallery where one wants to linger.
The duo, who are also filmmakers, photographers and activists, “envision a place where people can express their thoughts and emotions through art. We believe art is transformative,” says Carmen. Quite like the building itself. Formerly the Harts Five and Dime, the beautiful structure still boasts tin ceilings, exposed brick walls in the downstairs rooms, and spectacular windows looking out onto an increasingly bustling Bank Street. All the better to entice passersby to stop in and have a look around, perhaps chat with affable Carmen.
“A few months ago we approached the landlord, Gary Goldring, about doing a pop-up gallery here at the old Harts shop and he liked the idea. Quickly, we decided to make this a permanent gallery as well as a non-profit organization providing a gathering space that does not yet exist in our region, where community can form around the common values of creativity, vision, sustainability and collaboration,” she says.
If you sense a bit of spontaneity in their decision, I think you’d be correct. Running an art gallery wasn’t necessarily in the plans, but given their passion for storytelling — in all manifestations — it made sense to take the leap. The subject of the first exhibit, Love & Sacrifice, could likewise apply to this new endeavor.
“Without love there is no sacrifice,” the exhibit proclaimed. “Without sacrifice there is no love. Mutually dependent, the two are interchangeable—and yet evoke opposing feelings and ideas when spoken together.” United under the theme of contrast/complement, the harts gallery brought together the impressive work of six unique local artists working in diverse mediums and expressions, including Mr. Abramson, Lauren Booth, Tealia Ellis Ritter, Sebastian Tillinger, Elizabeth MacDonald and collagist Peter Wooster. An impressive start.
Why here and why now? That’s a question I’m always curious to have answered when someone moves to the area, especially when the decision to open a company is involved. Explains Carmen, “I’m from Peru and have lived in eight countries. Evan and I work on social and environmental documentaries. Traveling, meeting and getting to know people is something I love. We now live in Bridgewater and are new to the area. I like bringing people together and making connections.”
Making links carries through to the curation of shows. For the current exhibit, She’s a Changeling, Carmen and Evan weaved together a startling reimagining of the role of women in a world of flux, inviting the artists Claudia DeMonte, Julia Randall and Cecilia Mandrile to examine the relationship between the female body and identity in unique and surprising ways. It’s a thought-provoking collection, marrying pieces that on the surface might seem disparate: saliva bubbles, Milagros covered calipers, foldable paper dolls. The works are intriguing, playful, dark and developing, and the Abramsons have an eye for and embrace themes of transformation. This extends to what’s happening just outside those giant storefront windows, as well.
“New Milford can be a destination for emerging artists, artisans, makers and entrepreneurs similar to Portland, Beacon or Brooklyn,” says Carmen.
Through a mix of contemporary exhibitions, workshops, film screenings, live performances and outreach programming, the artist-run harts gallery aims to build community and inspire transformation regionally. I like what I see.