Thursday, June 11, 2009

After 25 Years, Ruschman Gallery Closing

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.

16 Responses to “After 25 Years, Ruschman Gallery Closing”

casey said...
June 12, 2009 at 8:57 AM

yikes, I can't believe it.
All I can think to say is thank you Mark for doing such a great job for so long.
You are the classiest dude in town.
I wish you, and Telene only the best.

ArtistDan said...
June 12, 2009 at 9:10 AM

"Oh no!" escaped from my mouth when I saw this header. With the state of the economy I'm not too surprised, but it's going to take a while for me to come to terms with this sad news. I wish Mark well and for success in wherever his future endeavors lead. Mark's legacy exceeds that of a gallery owner. His positive impact on the city has flowed into areas beyond the art world. We can only hope he stays involved.

So thanks Mark for all you've done so far. Good luck.

Carla said...
June 12, 2009 at 9:21 AM

This is disheartening, to say the least. Thanks Mark, for providing such a mainstay to the art community. This gallery has remained uncompromisingly art-centric.

I hesitate to politicize here, but the in the past few years, as the art community has grown in many ways, it also seems to be slipping into vacuous scene-sterism. In such a climate, the loss of Ruschman Gallery is even more devastating to our artistic integrity.

Anonymous said...
June 12, 2009 at 9:43 AM

This is very sad news indeed. Over the past several years I have watched with amazement how involved Mark has been in the arts community here. Always offering thoughtful, innovative and honest ideas and feedback, which I always appreciate. The arts community and the city of Indianapolis will certainly feel a strong void without the Ruschman Gallery, but hopefully Mark will stay around and continue to help us raise the bar.

Shannon Linker
Director of Artist Services

Arts Council of Indianapolis

RHill said...
June 12, 2009 at 11:59 AM

Mark Ruschman has been one of the groundbreakers of Indy Arts. His taste in art has always been impeccable and forward thinking. His advice and guidance to arts organizations and artist has been memorable and poignant. We will miss the integrity and leadership that he brought to us in Indianapolis arts. He will be sorely missed.

Sarah said...
June 12, 2009 at 1:03 PM

I can only second each of the sentiments shared so far.

Mark, Ruschman Gallery's closing will leave a very large hole. But I do hope we continue to benefit from your expertise, generosity of spirit and guidance. And I hope Indianapolis doesn't disappoint you further, and continues to provide you with a suitable canvas for whatever pursuits you choose.

Thank you for all the wonderful advice you have shared with me. I hope this is the dawn of an exciting time in your life.
Sarah Adams

Anonymous said...
June 12, 2009 at 2:03 PM

Mark has long been an art 'mentor' to me, and a trusted advisor. Over the past 15 years, in addition to the many exhibits in his Indianapolis gallery, Mark and I have traveled together to NYC, New Hampshire, Chicago and elsewhere to look at contemporary pieces for my home and offices - including a major public piece, installed on the exterior of my downtown building, which still gets raves from passers-by. My collection would not be as wonderful had I never known Mark. His personal service was stunning! Mark would do whatever was necessary to help a client find, acquire and then install a piece -- no matter how large or small.

From the day I first met him, I was particularly struck with Mark's emphasis on supporting local artists, and his zeal for buying the works of Indiana artists. As a result, I have a number of fantastic pieces from artists across Indiana, and to this day, an enhanced respect for supporting local artists.

In these especially tough times -- the worst since the Great Depression, I had hoped Mark could continue to weather the storm. I am deeply saddened to see that the Ruschman Gallery could not.

Indeed, Mark set the bar high. And for that, the entire arts community, and the city of Indianapolis, should be grateful. I will miss his gallery, but I hope that Mark will be available for private consulting and acquisitions. If so, he can count me in as a client!

RIP Ruschman Gallery. You have been one of the best things to have ever happened to the Indianapolis arts scene. In addition, and perhaps as significant, you and Mark were a significant part of the revitalization of downtown Indianapolis. You helped make it 'cool' to be downtown! As a result, you have been a major piece in the mosaic of the catalyst-quilt that helped bring us all downtown.

Thanks for 25 years, Mark, and good luck in the next chapter of your life. I have a feeling that it's going to be productive, satisfying and, most likely, even better than the last chapter. Life has a way of doing that to us!

Joe Miller

Nancy Lee said...
June 12, 2009 at 2:57 PM

I'm in denial. It seems like I just got to know Mark recently, since I'm a new artist, but in reality we met many years ago.

Ruschman Gallery was the very first art gallery I visited in Indianapolis. My friend brought me to an opening and introduced me to Mark, thereby setting a standard against which all other galleries and gallery owners were measured from that day forth.

What struck me as unusual was Mark's gentle, respectful way. At the time, I was in love with glass. Mark seemed to genuinely enjoy looking at the pieces and images with me, and didn't pause when the prices of the ones I liked were out of my reach. The mark of an art lover and a gentleman. I'm sorry I didn't buy a piece of art from you, Mark.

I wish you and Telene all the best in the future, whatever it holds.

Big C said...
June 12, 2009 at 5:31 PM

My mom, Telene, has worked at Ruschman for almost as long as I can remember. As a child, I remember playing tag around the gazebo behind the gallery during openings. Mark was always like a fun uncle to me and my brother and sister. He would come over to watch important games and I remember betting against him during the 1989 World Series. I don't think he actually took my money when he won because I was all of seven years old at the time.

I know that my mom has loved working at Ruschman. She is always excited to show off the new work that comes in and recommend pieces of art that a person would like. My wife and I buy a piece of art every year from Ruschman for our anniversary and we are in the process of buying a house with lots of empty wall space. I'm sad that we won't be able to look for our art at Ruschman.

I wish Mark and my mom the best of luck in this transition period. I know how much Ruschman Gallery has meant to Indianapolis and I am extremely sad to see it go. Thanks for all the memories and I look forward to what you both will do in this next stage of your lives.

Colin Edington Connor

BlogHub said...
June 13, 2009 at 6:49 AM

Think of all the homes and businesses in Indiana that are enriched by art that is there thanks to Mark's 25 years! Thank you, Mark.

alyssa said...
June 13, 2009 at 10:24 AM

We love you, Ruschdog. We'll be there on the 3rd--and after. I know you're going to do more for the art scene here, even after the gallery is gone.

chris said...
June 15, 2009 at 10:40 AM

Thanks for so many great shows, Mr. Ruschman. So sorry to be seeing this gallery go.

Craig McCormick said...
June 15, 2009 at 11:52 AM

Sad news indeed.

Mark's gallery has been the standard by which others are measured in Indianapolis for many years. I will certainly miss Ruschman Gallery, and I wish Mark the best in the future.

Anonymous said...
June 16, 2009 at 9:37 AM

Wishing all the best to Mark and Telene. Their gallery has been a shining example to us all in so many ways. Its departure will leave more than a hole in the Indianapolis art scene. It feels more like a wound.

Jerome Poitevin said...
June 24, 2009 at 3:56 PM

i'm very very sad

Visual artist Jerome Poitevin

Anonymous said...
July 3, 2009 at 11:12 AM

This gallery closing will leave nearly the cultural 'hole' that the closing of Patrick King Contemporary Art Gallery did in '93. Now that was a trend-setting business when there weren't ANY galleries in Indianapolis -- and a model that has been used for the last 25 years. Mark Ruschman's comments clearly reflect those that preceded the closing of King's ground-breaking gallery of the early 80s — economic downturn and recession.
There's always that artsy patron (both private and corporate) who say they want the arts in this type private venue, but what a struggle putting out the wine and cheese, keeping the lights on, paying the salary and taxes each month when no one purchases from an exhibit and you aren't eligible for all that Civic/State/Fedreal art funding. The best dealers could hope for is a pat on the back from competing non-profit galleries for their continuing exhibitions — or worse, the cooing of the artsy patron for 'just being there.' Those non-buying artsy patron always look better funding public art. (Anything to get their names in the papers!) Let's not forget, art patrons want one thing to survive — their legacy. Very sad, but very predictable situation. Good luck!

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