Former SEMVA artist opening new art gallery in Cooke Park's Design District
Imagine a street where local artists live, work and flourish, dotted with galleries of their works and unique gift shops.
Rochester artist Wendy Westlake wants to ignite this movement on 6th Avenue Northwest, near Cooke Park. This summer she’ll be opening 535 Gallery, a space for local artists to display their work and sell to interior designers for residents and businesses of Rochester.
“I was an artist at SEMVA before, and it seemed to me that about 80 percent of the sales were made to people living outside Rochester who were at Mayo Clinic for health reasons,” Westlake said. “That’s great for sales, but at the same time it’s kind of a shame because there’s a lot of residents here who would go, ‘I didn’t even know this existed.’”
The gallery will target local interior designers to help them find artwork that will enhance their designs, although it will be open for private purchases. The work on display will mostly be “large-scale contemporary,” as Westlake put it.
“Our plan is to feature two artists at a time who have bodies of work,” she said. “I’ve been telling them to have 10-15 pieces, an average of about four feet wide. If they’re great big paintings, maybe you’d have fewer.”
C. Anthony Huber is one of the first artists scheduled to show at 535, starting at the end of July and running through September. Westlake plans to use her SEMVA connections to find the right artists, and she and her son-in-law/gallery director Nick Sinclair will show their works at some point as well.
What’s more, they are providing opportunities for new artists to build up their bodies of work.
“We are scheduling an emerging artists show, and that’s going to be for around 2 weeks around Thanksgiving,” Westlake said. “Maybe somebody is a nice talent, but they don’t have a body of work. They might just be starting, maybe have 2-3 paintings. It’s a time commitment and an expense commitment to get a body of work together. Not all artists are there yet, but there might be somebody who we could do a full show with next year.”
Westlake and Sinclair are in process of constructing the gallery in a former industrial space between Werkstatt 533 and Auto Refinishers Plus. It might seem inconspicuous in that location, but there is an inspiration behind it, after a trip Westlake and Sinclair took to Dallas.
“We were down visiting relatives and decided to visit their arts district,” Westlake said. “I fell in love. The space is very much like this, old warehouse, mixed industrial places, not fancy. Filled gallery after gallery, and not a soul was in them. But they were gorgeous and had big contemporary work.”
This visit was also what inspired her to market to interior designers, after chatting with the gallery receptionists.
“We saw a $90,000 painting getting moved out in a truck that day, so we realized this actually worked,” she said. “For awhile we were like, ‘Why isn’t there a gallery like this in Rochester?’”
Westlake’s daughter, who is married to Sinclair, is an interior designer at Schmitt Goodman, which has provided inspiration to them on that side. With the closures at SEMVA and the C4 salon, their window of opportunity widened. When they got back home, they started looking for spaces with a realtor and chose 535 6th Avenue Northwest.
In addition to the gallery space, Westlake plans on setting aside a room with work tables and couches for a private meeting area for designers and their clients.
“We want that to be a dedicated resource for designers so they can bring their clients here, show them artwork, so they can see what would fit in their houses or professional spaces,” she said. “We want to have an inventory for them, a workspace they can come to if they do freelance work or don’t have an office.”
That idea is right in line with Westlake’s energy for invigorating the Cooke Park Design District. 535 Gallery will join artsy spaces like Dwell Local (featured in the picture below), Fox & Fern Floral and A Beautiful Soul.
“A lot of people are inquiring or saying it’s good to see the arts happening,” Westlake said. “Rochester’s a big enough and cultured enough city. We want Cooke Park to be a destination. We want artists to move in here, people to have studio space here, more galleries, more gift shops, artsy stuff. Make it happen. Flood the area.”
About Brita Moore: Brita is a native of Seattle and moved to Rochester in 2015. She works as a magazine editor and freelance journalist, and she plays the cello in various groups around town. In her spare time, you will find her making jewelry or cheering on the Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders, and Storm from afar. Twitter.
(Cover photo: Brita Moore)