Artist Marvin Espy to open gallery in New London
Artist Marvin Espy is opening his own gallery on State Street in New London, and here’s how it all began:
Espy was traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina, to pick up his art that was featured in an exhibition there. His show, “Context,” was awarded “Best of the Best Solo Exhibition” by Carlotte Magazine. (He used to live in Charlotte, before he moved to New London in January 2021, after his wife, Tracy Espy, became president of Mitchell College.)
“In the same trip, I had work from two other exhibitions that had gone unseen due to COVID. … They hung right at the beginning of that year but then went into storage. So I was bringing all that work back with no place to store it all,” he said.
Espy has a studio in the Dewart Building on State Street, so he asked owner Mel Foti if there might be storage space he could use in that same building. Foti said he’d walk Espy around the site to show him what was available.
When Espy saw the space that has now become his gallery, he recalled, “I managed to keep a poker face and I thought, ‘This has got to be my gallery.’”
The site was divided into several small offices for a former tenant. Each of those rooms would serve perfectly as an intimate gallery space.
“Because (the Dewart Building site) has four distinct spaces, I can present a different story in each space,” said Espy, whose art is wide-ranging in style and subject.
“Maybe it’s ego, but I think I’m different in some ways than a lot of artists. I admire some of my friends who paint wooded scenes and they do beautiful wooded scenes, but that’s what they do. (As an artist), I love oils, I love acrylics, I love watercolors, I like figurative work, I love cars, I love cities. So my body of work covers all the genres. I think it’s a bit unique to me that someone who does cities also does people and also does watercolors (et cetera).”
While he was walking through the location the first time, Espy said he was already writing a proposal in his head. He said he knows that businesses on upper State Street are trying to drive more commerce to the area.
“This corridor has so much potential to be a bright spot in New London, in addition to Bank Street,” he said.
With the jewel-case storefront whose angled windows reflect in its glass the hues of his artwork — as well as the neon lights of the Garde Arts Center marquee across the street — he said, “It’s just magical. So I really want to be a part of restoring some great commerce and culture to this corridor.”
As for Espy’s art background: He studied under the late Henry Koerner at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where he was a 1985 alum. He was a fashion illustrator for three years, until photography replaced illustration in that world. Espy ended up working in business development and then marketing consulting. During those 27 years, he doodled and did some painting but didn’t pursue art in earnest.
When he was one of about 900 in a workforce development program at the University of Phoenix who was laid off, his wife encouraged him to take some time to relax, paint, and figure out what he wanted to do next. She ended up showing some of his ballpoint pen sketches to people at Shane Gallery in Charlotte. They were so impressed, they gave him three months to create paintings for a solo exhibition.
That was the start of his reentry in the art world. Espy’s shows in New London have included “Patina,” focused on his paintings inspired by the city, at the Thames River Gallery in 2021, and another a solo show, “context NL,” at the Hygienic this fall.
Inviting people in
After the Marvin Espy Gallery of Fine Art’s official opening Friday, Espy isn’t sure yet what the hours will be. He figured he would sit in the gallery for a week or so and count how many people walk by. He’ll determine a gallery schedule based on that kind of research; it might end up being primarily weekend hours.
He said he is also developing “a great partnership” with the Garde. Espy believes that there is crossover between the Garde audience and people who are interested in buying art. If the Garde has an 8 p.m. show on a given night, Espy plans on holding a 6:30 p.m. wine reception at the gallery.
Espy has also encouraged organizations to hold meetings at the gallery.
“It’s really important for me to have people in this space, so I’ve invited the New London Arts Council to have some of their team and committee meetings here. I’m inviting different groups to consider this as a meeting place,” he said.
He’s also creating a small space in one of the gallery rooms that could serve as a conference center.
For the first year of the gallery, the art will consist solely of Espy’s work. Part of the reason for that has to do with how much art he has that hasn’t been seen in public yet. Another reason, he said, is so he can control visitors’ experience until the gallery gets firmly established.
“So for the first year, it’s just going to be mine. What I’d like after I feel like I’ve got some legs under me is to invite another artist to show,” Espy said.
What: The Marvin Espy Gallery of Fine Art
Where: 308 State St., New London
Where: Opens at 7 p.m. Friday
Future hours: To be determined
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