Thursday, June 11, 2009
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Sometimes a "scoop" is something you are glad to get in the blogging and/or journalistic field but at times, with news such as this, it is hard to be excited. In what came as both sad and sobering news, I was informed that Ruschman Gallery will be closing. After much consideration and what I can only imagine was an emotional decision, Mark Ruschman will be closing his gallery, two months shy of its 25th anniversary.
The downturn in the economy has hit many of us in the art community in different ways, some more than others, but the fact is, people simply are not buying as much art these days. Indy has long struggled to maintain a strong, vibrant art buying clientèle and collector base and sadly this has meant a constantly shifting gallery scene. Most galleries are short lived and last less than a couple years. So the fact the Ruschman Gallery has been able to make a go of it for more than two decades speaks volumes and its absence will be felt for some time.
Having opened in the fall of 1984 on Massachusettes Avenue, along side the now long defunct artist co-op gallery 431, Ruschman managed to carve out its niche in the local downtown art community and helped revitalize the Mass Ave corridore. The gallery later relocated to its current residence at 948 N. Alabama Street in 1996 where its continued to exhibit local and regional artists and has remained as one of the most, if not the most, successful art gallery in downtown Indianapolis. Few would contend that Ruschman Gallery has continued to exhibit quality art and its presentation and professionalism was always of the highest caliber.
But I also wanted to point out that Ruschman Gallery would not be the same if not for the continued and added help of his assistant Telene Edington who has been with the gallery for over 20 years now. She has been a big part of the success of the gallery and the running of the gallery has been a collaboration between them both. As will be the closing.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark, in the gallery, and discuss his decision to close and talk about some of his thoughts concerning the past and his future. When asked about the decision he talked about how things have been leading in this direction for months but the final decision was only made recently. Once that decision had been made, that he did not want to let it linger. That the artists deserved not to be left waiting in uncertainty. When asked what he had enjoyed the most being a gallery owner these past 25 years he talked about the experience and relationship he has had. His experiences in the art world, the people he has worked with, both artists and collectors. The experience of being a downtown business and helping to revitalize and take part in the growth of downtown. Being a member of IDADA and a participant in the First Friday Art Tour since its inception, the gallery has continuously placed great importance on fostering and contributing to the downtown visual arts scene.
The conversation then shifted, when I asked what he believes he will miss the most. In this, he said that for 20+ years he was able to earn a living doing what it is he loved, that it was only in these past couple years that things had been tough. He was going to miss the satisfaction of putting on first class exhibitions month after month, showing new bodies of work by his artists. That feeling when you opened the door on First Friday and you were anxious for the response. I think it is exactly this connection, the love of art and the respect that Mark has continued to show not only to his artists but to those who come into his gallery, that has made his gallery special.
What's the future have in store for Mark? Well, over the course of the next 6 weeks or so, things are going to be busy. He and Telene will be preparing for the next and final show in the space and getting everything in order for the close. After that, he mentioned the possibility of taking a bit of time to readjust to get his bearings so to speak. As for down the road, who knows, he said he may possibly do some private dealing or consulting work. Time will tell.
As I tend to finish most of my interviews with a question, inviting advice or knowledge for our readers, I thought I would ask this of Mark as well. When asked if he had any advice for those existing local galleries or for those up and coming gallery owners out there, he sort of shy'd away at first saying that he really didn't have any advice per se, only that he enjoyed the experience of being a part of the art world, being a part of downtown life and being a part of something important. That you must have a passion and a true desire for the work if you are going to open a gallery. Running a gallery can be a hard and trying thing. You should get involved with your peers, work together to get things done. Share ideas and strive to put on quality shows and help build a better local art scene. I think these are great words of advice to all of us.
The gallery will remain open for the upcoming First Friday event, with an as-of-yet to be announced exhibition and later the galleries first "sale". In partnership with many of the gallery artists, a number of works will be available for sale along with pieces from Ruschman's private collection. And at a later date even the galleries furnishings and some of its fixtures will be sold before locking its doors July 31st. A sad day, in what will be the end to an era in the local arts community. I can only say, on behalf of OtC and the local art community, Ruschman Gallery will sincerely be missed. Good luck Mark and Telene with your future endeavors.