Crossing the Manhan: Oxbow Gallery, a longtime Northampton art forum, resettles in Easthampton

  • The Oxbow Gallery, for 17 years in Northampton, has relocated to Cottage Street in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Painter Karen Evans, whose work is featured this month in the new Oxbow Gallery space, says members of the collective are excited about the new space and being part of Easthampton’s lively arts scene. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Janice Wright, from left, Roy Rudolp, and Laurie Israel, members of the Ashplain Players, perform during a reception last week at the Oxbow Gallery’s new space in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Painter Karen Evans talks about her work during her opening at the Oxbow Gallery’s new space on Cottage Street in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Painter Karen Evans, whose work is featured this month at the Oxbow Gallery’s new location in Easthampton, said members of the artists’ collective refurbished the space in November. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Karen Evans’ exhibit offers a range of landscapes from the Valley. The Oxbow also has a smaller group show on display, “Crossing the Manhan,” to celebrate their new location in Easthampton.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/16/2021 1:30:10 PM

On a chilly Friday night, the brightly lit art gallery was hopping, with people continually coming into the space and examining the work on display, some greeting friends or chatting with the artist whose paintings had just been mounted. A small string ensemble, seated in the center of the room, segued between classical pieces and Christmas songs.

Though everyone wore face masks in deference to a certain virus that won’t go away, the mood was upbeat, and for good reason: It was the opening reception for the Oxbow Gallery, the artists’ collective, in its new location at 40 Cottage St. in Easthampton, in the heart of the city’s state-designated Cultural District.

The Oxbow, which opened in early 2004, had been located since its start on Pleasant Street in Northampton, in a modest space near the intersection of Holyoke Street and Michelman Avenue, in the small retail block that includes Ye Old Watering Hole and Catalpa Coffee.

But last month, members announced they were moving to Easthampton, where they’d have more affordable rent and a bit more space.

Karen Evans, a Turners Fall landscape painter whose work is highlighted this month, was one of a number of members feeling pretty jazzed about the new location. Perhaps the biggest reason, painter KC Scott said, was that foot traffic on Cottage Street appeared to be a good bit heavier than at the gallery’s Northampton location.

“We’ve already noticed a lot more people out on the street here,” said Scott, who lives in Greenfield. Pointing in the direction of nearby Nashawannuck Pond, just a short distance away, he said “That’s a popular place to visit, plus you have all these restaurants and bars and other small businesses right here … it’s a lively area.

“We’d been looking at this spot for awhile,” Scott said. “And everyone we talked to in town, like Pasqualina [Azzarello, the coordinator of Easthampton City Arts], was really welcoming.”

The new space had previously been home to a number of other art galleries, most recently #Local Galley, which closed in April 2020. That made it a good fit for Oxbow, said Evans. She and other artists spent time cleaning and refurbishing the Cottage Street space in November.

“We did a good amount of painting, and we also installed some new lighting,” Evans said. She noted that doors on either side of the gallery that had once connected it to adjacent retail spaces were also removed and replaced by fresh wallboard.

“It really looks nice now,” she said.

Evans’ show, called “Neighborhood Sightings,” highlights her oil paintings of, as exhibit notes put it, “scenes from everyday life in search of order that goes beyond the commonplace.” Working mostly from photographs and sometimes from drawings made on site, Evans offers a range of views from the Valley, from rural landscapes to quiet streets to reclaimed factory buildings.

Some paintings offer a bit of photographic sensibility, while soft, impressionistic brushstrokes and warm colors aim to capture the changing quality of light. Some of her subjects are familiar, like a view of the Field Memorial Library, with its distinctive domed center, in Conway, while other views are less easily identified (many are in Franklin County).

There are 44 member artists in the Oxbow collective; they pay an annual fee based on their level of involvement with the gallery. Every three years, members are entitled to one solo or shared exhibit in the gallery’s main display area and to another in a smaller space. Members can also take part in group shows each year.

Evans said it was simply her turn to have a solo show when the Oxbow opened its new space. “I definitely lucked out,” she said with a laugh.

The current exhibit includes a smaller group show, “Making Moves: Crossing the Manhan,” with contributions from numerous members. The setup of the two shows points to another nice touch in the Cottage Street space, Oxbow members say: The gallery has two wheeled partitions/partial walls that can be moved to arrange the setup of artwork in different ways.

“We even have room in the back that we’re using for storage at the moment, but it could be a third exhibition space,” said painter Jeffrey Gillis. “We’re still looking at different possibilities.”

Last month, another painter, Joanna Holtje, told the Gazette that Oxbow members had enjoyed their time in Northampton and weren’t leaving with any bad feelings, but that the Easthampton space made more sense for the collective’s future.

Scott, for one, echoed that thought. “I think we’ve found a really good home here,” he said.

“Neighborhood Sightings” and “Making Moves: Crossing the Manhan” will be on view at the Oxbow Gallery through Jan. 2. Normal viewing hours are Thursday to Sunday, 12-5 p.m. The gallery can be reached by phone at (413) 203-1196.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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