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Gallery Space

New Curator Brings Changes to Art Association Sales Gallery

With this issue, the “Gallery Space” column marks its 10th anniversary in Harrisburg Magazine. And, after a decade of various art-related subjects, the writer has finally composed a story on a defined gallery space. It is the sales gallery at the Art Association of Harrisburg (AAH).

During its existence, the sales gallery has been an orphan of sorts, banished to a back room at the association’s N. Front Street address in Harrisburg. It was cluttered with objets d’art hanging on teal-colored walls, in cabinets, on shelves and in storage bins on the floor and beneath a table in the middle of the room. The organization of it all was tenuous. Enter Rachel O’Connor, the newly minted curator at the AAH.

The Mount Holly Springs resident came to her current post by way of Cumberland Valley High School, Harrisburg Area Community College, Messiah College and the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD). Each stop nurtured the 29-year-old woman’s love for art and, in particular, art history. She is in the process of completing her master’s thesis at SCAD on contemporary art.

“I joined the staff here in January 2014 as an administrative assistant,” says O’Connor, “and worked closely with Terrie Hosey, the association’s curator at that time. A year ago, I was given the title of assistant curator and then assumed the position of curator when Terrie retired on December 31.”

O’Connor was given responsibility for the sales gallery as part of her duties as assistant curator and began to juggle ideas for improving its appearance and function.

“It has always been a perk for association members,” she says, “but the manner in which art was presented did not do justice to the work. It was jam-packed.”

“Curating is not only about hanging or displaying work,” says O’Connor. “It’s about selecting artists, how to arrange an exhibition, how much space to employ and, most importantly, providing the viewer with a positive experience.”

To that end, O’Connor has had the teal-colored walls painted with a neutral color that matches the association’s other formal exhibit rooms. One of the walls is devoted to a featured artist, while the balance of space presents others’ work. A process has been established for the acceptance of pieces, as well as for the duration of the exhibitions.

“Those interested in showing their work in the sales gallery must submit images for consideration,” says O’Connor. “Only active members are eligible. Annual association dues are $40. We have a range of abilities within the association, so it is my desire to help our members select that which represents their best efforts. There is no fee for exhibiting in the sales gallery, and the association takes one-third of the sale price as a commission.”

Some members are only concerned with exposure, while others are more intent on earning recompense for their time and skills.

“That is another subject that I discuss with the artists,” says O’Connor. “How much do they want for their pieces? Which of them are more likely to appeal to the general public? Does the framing enhance the pieces? These are the kinds of issues that can be resolved with cooperation between the artist and curator.”

With a fresh look and new exhibition format, O’Connor looks forward to the results of those innovations at the AAH sales gallery.

For more information, visit artassocofhbg.com, and click on the sales gallery link.

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