The Loft Parlor, new Easthampton gallery and performing-arts space, opens Saturday

Last modified: Friday, June 21, 2013

Kim Carlino had lived in the Valley for several years, after moving to the area from New York and enrolling at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to study art. But it wasn’t until she settled in Easthampton a couple years ago that she felt she’d found a home.

The town’s blend of art, old and new businesses and what she calls “a great mix of people” has now inspired Carlino to, as she puts, “build on what we have” by opening a new art gallery in an old mill building that’s currently getting a big face-lift.

On top of that, Carlino has curated a separate art exhibition, opening Saturday, that’s designed to coincide with the city’s monthly Arts Walk — and which will serve as the first of what Carlino hopes will be a series of pop-up exhibits in unusual spaces around town.

“I’m really feeling energized doing this,” she said. “Meeting other artists, making connections and building networks, organizing these shows — I feel like I’m tapping into something really special here and building on what we have.”

Carlino, a painter who works with water colors and ink at Cottage Street Studios, has partnered with Mike Michon, the owner of Mill 180, one of the old industrial buildings on Pleasant Street that’s being recast as small business space, artist studios and apartments. Michon has turned over 1,000 square feet of space for Carlino to use as an art gallery/performance space that will be called The Loft Parlor.

Carlino is using the space rent-free, and in return will volunteer her time putting together monthly exhibits, poetry readings, musical performances and other events.

Michon is an architect and developer who has rebuilt other New England properties along similar lines — he also heads High & Mighty Brewery, which plans to move into the building this year. On the Mill 180 website (, he writes that he’s “pleased to revive Mill 180 and contribute to Easthampton’s vibrant arts community, growing small business sector, and active green building industry.”

Carlino, who was looking for exhibit space, toured Mill 180 with Michon a couple of months ago, and was quickly taken by the high ceilings and walls of the third-floor space.

“There’s a real need [in town] for showing bigger artwork,” she said. “There’s room here to be really creative and expansive.”

Exhibit space will include a large lobby by an elevator and staircase, as well as an interior room; the latter can also host music and poetry readings.

Right outside the inner room is an outdoor wooden platform that can serve as a casual gathering spot; Michon has added railings to the deck, which offers a view of Mount Tom and part of the Manhan Rail Trail. Carlino says Michon added the deck to give tenants in the building a place to go and relax, but that it can also comfortably accommodate future gallery visitors.

“It’s a space with great potential, especially if we can convince people to make this a regular stop for the Art Walk,” she said.

Getting gussied up

The Parlor Loft will not host its first show until later this summer, in part because the space is still being dressed up; new carpet, for example, was recently added. But Carlino has also prepared the building’s debut exhibit down a nearby hallway, perhaps 100 feet away, in a separate industrial space that has not been renovated, in part because she wants to explore the idea of hosting art in unconventional places.

“The Laboratory: Version 1,” which opens Saturday, features the work of 24 artists — local, regional and from out of state — who Carlino encouraged to submit experimental work, as befitting the rough-hewn look of the space.

Lighting has only recently been restored to the space, and marks against the wall from old machinery — as well as the occasional unfixed hole — are still evident. The building was originally home to the West Bolyston Manufacturing Company, which opened for business in 1899 and specialized in cloth production.

But there’s lots of room — about 2,500 square feet, Carlino said — and the art has been arranged to make good use of it.

“I didn’t hide the fact that it’s not a traditional gallery,” she said. “But I like the idea of working with a space that’s not typically used” for art.

The new show, which will run through July 28, includes a mix of painting, sculpture, mixed media presentations and other artwork. Easthampton artist and writer Carand Burnet, for example, has contributed a series of three-dimensional miniature cities, enclosed in glass domes and made out of hand-cut wood, sea shells and other found objects. Lena Schmid, also of Easthampton, has created huge, abstract black-and-white murals by mixing powdered charcoal and mineral spirits. Her work will be on view in the third-floor lobby.

Carlino said she received proposals for the show from artists as far away as Georgia, California and France. Though she wasn’t able to accept all the ideas, she found good ones from up-and-coming artists from UMass and Hampshire College, as well as a junior from the Easthampton’s Williston Northampton School, Gabriel Jacobson.

“He wrote a really detailed proposal, very thoughtful, that seemed well beyond someone of his age,” Carlino said. Jacobson has contributed an abstract painting to the show.

Some of the artists, like mixed-media specialist Maggie Nowinski, will incorporate the room’s structural flaws, like a large hole, into their work.

Though she’s had less time to work on her own painting, Carlino says she’s enjoyed taking on the role of curator and organizing the show — and she looks forward to doing more. She’s got her eye on a few potential places in town that might serve as a good forum for her next pop-up art show, like a former car dealership on Route 10.

In the meantime, “The laboratory: Version 1” will serve as the official after-hours party spot following Saturday’s Art Walk and will include food, drink and a disc jockey.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at

“The Laboratory: Version 1” opens Saturday at 5 p.m. as part of Easthampton’s regular Art Walk, which takes place Saturday at various locations in town from 5 to 8 p.m. An after-hours party will also take place at “The Laboratory” from 8 p.m. to midnight. The exhibit is located at Mill 180, 180 Pleasant St., on the third floor of the building; take the stairs or elevator from the main lobby. The exhibit will run to July 28. For more information, visit


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