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Gallery Gone

Photo: Joe Putrock

In what’s getting to be a heartbreakingly common occurrence, yet another local arts space is about to shut its doors. Changing Spaces, a gallery and listening room located at 306 Hudson Ave. in Albany’s Center Square, has been forced to close due to a lack of funding. Although an exact date was not available, they are expected to cease operation sometime within the next month.

Changing Spaces was the brainchild of Sandra Williams, a local sculptor, and her husband, Phil. The gallery has played host to an impressive array of talent since opening to the public in early 2001, including exhibits by local and regional visual artists, performances from many area musicians, film screenings, and a number of small theater productions. With an extremely intimate setting—25 people could fill the room—and a tight-knit group of supporters and patrons, Changing Spaces quickly became a favorite venue among the local arts community. Its closing delivers a strong blow to a scene that has lost many an outlet in recent years.

Miss Mary’s Art Space, a nonprofit collective, has been without a home since the summer of 2002. Laura Koennecke, one of the proprietors of Miss Mary’s, laments the loss of Changing Spaces. “Albany’s lost yet another showcase for the breathtaking diversity and quality of creative work our city has to offer. Half the time Albanians have to . . . schlogg across the river to Troy to enjoy locally produced art outside of a bar or church. Our city . . . is a little bit crappier for having lost Changing Spaces.”

Following a stint at the now-defunct Café Web on Madison Avenue, area poet Dan Wilcox moved his successful monthly poetry open mike to Changing Spaces after meeting Phil Williams at a party, and he remained there for 34 straight months. Wilcox is quick to divert the blame toward the economy: “It’s like any other small arts space in corporate America. There’s just not the money out there for these small galleries.” Wilcox will host the gallery’s final open mike on Thursday, Jan. 15, with featured poet and author Simone Felice. The monthly readings will move to the Lark Street Bookshop beginning Feb. 20.

The gallery’s closing also directly affects what was to be the second annual Fire and Ice Arts Walk. According to their outgoing phone message, the event will be canceled, ostensibly due to the same lack of funding that put the gallery under. Last year’s Fire and Ice took place at 10 venues and featured six film screenings, plus displays by 50 local artists and performances by 30 musicians, dancers and poets. Whether or not the event will be taken up by another party and staged in the future remains to be seen.

The support for the Williamses and their efforts has been overwhelming in the face of such unfortunate news. “[Phil and Sandra] were always really visible and supportive . . . that’s the glue that makes any sort of scene work,” said local musician and artist Jason Martin upon learning of the closing. “You need many individual people contributing what they can. Without that glue, the larger venues and organizations fail too.”

Ed Atkeson, co-curator of Firlefanz Gallery on Lark Street, seconded Martin’s all-for-one, one-for-all attitude. “They filled a unique niche and were certainly an asset to the neighborhood. I look forward to . . . what they’ll be doing next. They are very energetic self-starters and I’m sure we’ll be hearing from them again.” Koennecke, on behalf of her Miss Mary’s cohorts, beamed, “We admire Phil and Sandra for fighting the good fight for Albany and its artists.”

Changing Spaces will open its final show, an exhibit of recent work by local photographer Shaina Marron, on Jan. 23.

Phil and Sandra Williams were unavailable for comment.

—John Brodeur

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