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An auspicious debut: Lynne Allard in her new gallery.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Thomasville was the place to be last Saturday. That’s Thomasville as in the old furniture store on River Street in Troy, two floors of which now house a fine-arts gallery, Les Bohèmes Curious Art Collective. Saturday’s opening exhibit, Just a Tease, attracted more than 600 curious art enthusiasts, putting the retail gallery in the enviable position of accommodating heavy foot traffic throughout its two-floor display of 46 artists from eight states and four countries. “It was amazing, more than I could’ve ever let myself imagine,” says owner Lynne Allard of the unexpected crush. “Considering no one has heard of me or my organization, I would’ve been thrilled if 200 had shown up.”

Curated by Allard, Les Bohèmes’ artist-in-residence, the exhibit (which runs through March 29) is dazzling in its diversity, encompassing colored glassware by Terry Weaver, pop-art wall hangings by Lara Nigro, dichromate photographs by Lars Adams, parchment imprints by Jesse Matulis, art furniture by wood sculptor Jim Lewis, and oil paintings by Tara McKiernan Kovack. “All the artists who trusted me to present them well—I think that’s spectacular, too,” says Allard. “It was the highest time I’ve ever had in my life.”

An award-winning graphic designer, Allard gave up her full-time job last year to concentrate on her art, and began her search for a gallery space last summer. “It started out as a self-centered notion of wanting to have my own studio and gallery, and it evolved into ‘Well, gee, what if I had other artists in here,’” she says. “So with a not-very-solid plan, I went out to meet individual artists and collect information through their feedback.” Allard utilized her background in marketing and advertising to formulate a business plan that offers support services, including opportunities for artists to show and sell their work in galleries across the country. “My calling is to help artists to earn a living full-time from their art,” she says.

Her ideas also were shaped by the four-story Thomasville building: “The more I thought about the building, the more I tried to make my business model fit this enormous space, which meant a much larger vision, and aggressively hunting down more and more artists.” The 10,000-square-foot gallery is composed of the ground-floor showroom, a huge, open area that allows for the display of large-scale works and installations; and the more intimate second floor, a maze of warerooms and alcoves that is ideal for smaller works and groupings. “What’s important for me is for each artist to have proper representation with a volume of work,” Allard says. “Nothing is more frustrating for me than to go to a show and see only one piece. I can’t tell what the artist is trying to do. When you get to see a body of work, that’s what’s exciting.” The ambitious gallery will focus on established and emerging talent, artists and crafters, and classical and contemporary styles.

A native of New Mexico, Allard moved to the area in 1991. “The first time I went to Troy I fell in love with it,” she says. Although she was sure she wanted a downtown Troy location for her gallery, she also made inquiries into Albany and Saratoga. “I couldn’t find a location with the proper atmosphere,” she reports. “I could’ve found a warehouse in Albany pretty cheap, but I wanted to have more of an environment for what I’m trying to do. Troy made the most sense because there’s already a strong arts community. And you have all the antique shops—people who collect antiques are often interested in art, also.” Encouraged by the opening, Allard is considering taking on Thomasville’s additional floors to sublease as studio space or for art-related businesses. “People are coming out of the woodwork,” she enthuses.

In addition to changing exhibits, Les Bohèmes will hold weekly events including poetry readings and acoustic music. On Saturday, March 15, the gallery will host a book signing by Ray Materson, a local fiber artist who is exhibited internationally. Materson is the co-author of Sins and Needles: A Story of Spiritual Mending. Les Bohèmes Curious Art Collective is located at 174 River St., Troy. 283-8342.

—Ann Morrow

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