Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hera Gallery Welcomes New Member

Hera Gallery is very pleased to be welcoming a new associate member, Caroline M. Pyle, Jr. Caroline grew up in Rhode Island, where her surroundings inspired her to cultivate her artistic passion. A graduate of Yale University, Pyle has recently relocated to Cincinnati where she continues to work in the field of public health, concentrating on health disparities.

A nearly fatal car accident served as a catalyst of transformation for Caroline. Using courage and determination as tools to pull herself through this catastrophic event, Pyle now uses painting as a vehicle to communicate a sense of hope to the world.

Pyle has now cycled back to her artistic roots, and embraced her passion for creativity; which was initially a survival tool during her recovery. As Caroline has transformed tragedy into a positive vehicle for growth and development, her creative enterprises have symbiotically begun to blossom as well.

A self-taught artist, Caroline gives her emotions a clear voice, allowing pain and brokenness to be articulated through beauty. Pyle creates vivid works that memorialize the chrysalis of perseverance and determination.

Great People, Healthy Food: an art project at the Alternative Food Coop in Wakefield

Written by gallery member, John Kotula.

Just down Main Street from Hera Gallery is The Alternative Food Coop. Like Hera, the Coop is a South County institution that got started in the ‘70’s and has gone through many permutations. These days it is a small, busy market selling organic foods, locally grown produce, bulk items, vitamins, spices, and herbs. It is also one of the best places in town to grab lunch. You can choose from four or five crock-pots full of soups with fanciful names, a cooler of sandwiches and bottled drinks, and a great selection of baked goods. There are only two tables, so stopping in for lunch often involves sitting down with other people and having a conversation about politics, yoga, herbs that aid memory, midwifery, or the scarcity of naturopathic veterinary care. Although the Coop faces heavy competition from health food store chains and expanded natural food sections in the local super markets, it is one of those South County places that offer a sense of community that the other places can’t come close to. This is a big deal to me. At my most opinionated, I would ask, “If you don’t buy your oats at the Coop, or your latte at Sweet Cakes, or your New York Times at Healy’s, if you don’t have breakfast at the Bluebird Café or dinner at Crazy Burger, if you don’t purchase art at Hera, why are you living in South County?”

This past summer my wife Deb and I drove cross-country. We had been living in Honduras for two years. We flew to Portland, Oregon, bought a car, and took six weeks to wind our way back to Rhode Island. The trip was a great reintroduction to the USA. Over and over, the jaw dropping beauty of the beaches, rivers, lakes, forests, desserts, mountains, cornfields, little towns, and big cities awed me. At the same time, more than on other trips, I was aware of the waning of a sense of community. Deb and I would be driving through an absolutely unique landscape, a river on one side, snow caped mountains on the other, long vistas of two lane black top winding through forests ahead and behind, then we would approach a small city and everything that was unique would disappear. We would hit the strip outside of town and there was no way of knowing if we were in Montana or Georgia. It seemed like the same 20 or 30 giant chain stores, with the same facades, usually arranged in the same order, make up the commerce of every town of every state across the whole country. It was no easy matter to find Main Street and once found it was likely to be a pretty sad place, either abandoned altogether, struggling, or gentrified, seemingly in accordance with a theme chosen by a committee of the Chamber of Commerce. It is rare and exciting to find a Main Street like the one in Wakefield that is authentic to its locale, lively, a bit quirky, and a mix of old and new. I was glad to come home to it.

Deb started working at the Coop a couple of months ago. Since then, I’ve been stopping by once or twice a week to have lunch. It always feels good to be there. There is some remodeling going on. Eventually, the back area will be opened up so that the store flows into the kitchen. Maybe there will be a counter to eat at, maybe cooking classes, too. I started thinking about how I could make a contribution to this place that I enjoy so much. I have a lot of confidence in the contributive power of art. By this I mean that the presence of art makes a place better, but even more so that the process of making art enhances people and places. I negotiated for some wall space in the back room, a two foot strip where the wall meets the ceiling, and proposed a series of portraits of people involved with the Coop, staff, volunteers, board members, customers, depicted along with their favorite Coop product. So far, I’ve been doing the staff. I’m working from photographs in a graphic, brightly colored style. The next step will be to decide how to put these up on the wall. The goal is to run a frieze of these portraits around the kitchen. There is no hurry. It is a long-term ongoing project. It is my hope that this series of portraits will become a kind of composite portrait of the community of great people who give the Coop it uniqueness.

Then, of course, there is the question of how to pay for it. Here is the plan: anybody who would like to be part of this project can make a $25 dollar donation to the Coop to cover materials. Then they’ll pose for a photograph with their favorite Coop Product. I’ll turn the photograph into a drawing and put it up as part of the frieze. I can also make available digital images of the portrait if the person wants to have a personal copy.
Another way that this could develop would be for other artists to get involved, adding portraits to the frieze in their own styles.

Therefore, if you shop at the Coop and would like to become part of the décor or if you are an artist and would like to work on this project, get in touch with me.

John Kotula

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Artisan Craft Sale

Today Hera Gallery hosted an Artisan Craft Sale.  In support of the creativity of local artists, Hera extended its gallery to local makers.  This event also offered the community an opportunity to experience one-of-a-kind handmade works.  The gallery was inundated with ceramics, jewelry, paper goods, textiles, and handmade sculptures.  It was a very warm and festive afternoon.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Repost regarding installation at Providence Place Mall

The Following is a repost from todays Providence Journal. I thought that those of you heading to the Providence Place Mall might find this particular use of commercial and communal space interesting.

He wanted a new sofa. She thought the apartment could use more color. When friends stayed over, they often wound up sleeping on the floor.

Clearly, everyone agreed, it was time for a change.

And so, just days before their secret hideaway was discovered and their exploits became the stuff of local legend, the artists who spent nearly four years homesteading inside Providence Place mall were about to do something that homeowners everywhere can relate to. They were about to redecorate.

“We had it all planned,” says Michael Townsend, the lanky 37-year-old mastermind behind what some have called inspired performance art and others, including mall officials, have termed an illegal “violation” of private property. “We had a bunch of new furniture, including a new sofa, new chairs and a very nice china hutch. All we needed was a little time when the mall wasn’t too busy to start bringing it in.”

Needless to say, Townsend’s arrest by mall security on Sept. 26 put a quick end to the group’s makeover plans. But beginning tonight, curious, envious and even outraged onlookers can catch a glimpse of what might have been when Townsend and other artists associated with the Trummerkind art collective re-create their four-year experiment in mall living at a temporary gallery space in downtown Providence.

To re-create the apartment, Townsend, his wife, Adriana Yoto, and another artist, James Mercer, will use many of the furniture pieces they had hoped to use for their redecorating project.

“They still have all the old furniture,” Townsend says, referring to mall officials, who have so far not allowed the Trummerkind artists to return to the 750-square-foot “apartment” they created in a hidden corner of the mall’s south parking garage. “So what people are going to see is all the new stuff.”

The exhibit, which will run through Dec. 31 at 70 Eddy St., near City Hall, is part of a flurry of activities and appearances by the Trummerkind artists in recent days. (For the record, trummerkind is a German word meaning “children of the ruins.” Townsend says it was coined during World War II to describe children who found shelter in bombed-out buildings. For more information, go to

On Monday, Townsend and Yoto appeared at Brown University, where they illustrated their talk with photographs and videos taken at the mall. The artists have since given two more presentations — one at URI on Tuesday morning, the other Wednesday night at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.

Yoto, a 29-year-old Brown University grad who has studied shopping malls as part of her academic work, has also appeared at the New School for Social Research in New York and at a conference in Mexico City.

“People seem really fascinated by what happened,” Yoto says.

The group is also planning a performance-style exhibit at the 5 Traverse Gallery in Fox Point. Dubbed “The Art Aquarium,” the show will feature Trummerkind members living for several weeks in the gallery’s two closet-size exhibit spaces. Townsend says the exhibit is due to open Jan. 14.

As for the Eddy Street exhibit, Townsend says the goal will be to re-create the artists’ now-famous mall hideaway as faithfully as possible. Cinder blocks, for example, will ring the perimeter of the installation, giving viewers a sense of the room’s size and layout. (A similar technique was use at the mall, with the artists hauling dozens of the heavy cinder blocks up fire-exit stairwells, then using them to enclose their hidden living space.)

The installation will also feature a sofa, chairs, tables and even a china cabinet. Though the exhibit won’t be an exact replica of the mall apartment, Townsend says that most of the furniture on display was purchased before his arrest as part of an effort to make the apartment more livable.

During the exhibit, Townsend, Yoto, Mercer and other artists plan to spend time sitting, reading and generally hanging out at the gallery. (Townsend says the times will be posted on the group’s web site.) When the artists aren’t there, a group of cast-plaster figures will serve as sculptural stand-ins.

As a final touch, Townsend and Yoto plan to spend the afternoon and evening of Christmas Day inside the gallery. “Hopefully, people will come down and visit with us,” Townsend says.

Townsend, who grew up in a military family in California and Massachusetts before attending the Rhode Island School of Design, says he originally approached mall officials with the idea of re-creating the apartment as a kind of family-friendly holiday display within the mall. The mall’s response: no way.

“Given all the publicity surrounding the story, I thought they might be interested,” Townsend says. “Then again, I can certainly understand their position.”

In fact, the mall’s owner, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, is suing the Trummerkind artists. Among other things, the company is trying to force Townsend and Yoto to turn over everything relating to their stay at the mall, including all papers, videos and photographs. Yoto says the suit even demands that she hand over materials relating to her academic research.

Asked about the lawsuit on Thursday, mall spokesman Dante Bellini Jr. declined to comment. “At this point, it’s in the hands of the lawyers,” he said.

Since Townsend’s arrest two months ago, the story of how a small group of artists lived, on and off, inside an American shopping mall for nearly four years without being discovered became an international cause cÉlèbre, with reporters, commentators and Internet bloggers all buzzing about the artists’ exploits.

“The Apartment at the Mall: The Showcase Exhibit” opens tonight at 7 p.m. . Regular hours are Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. and Sun. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. A gallery talk with the artists will be held Friday, Dec. 14 from 6-8 p.m.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wiki page is done.

Check out all of Victoria's hard work! The wikipedia page for Hera Gallery is finished, and can be viewed through the link below.  Enjoy, and happy editing!