Located at 767 Centre St., the building that will be the future site of UFORGE Gallery was most recently the headquarters for an unsuccessful candidate for city council, and before that one of the city's longest-running hair salons. “We’re excited about being on the block,” said Brian Crete, one of the gallery’s owners. “Next to , , and the new sushi place.”
“The project has been in the works for a year,” explained co-owner Rob Festa. “There was someone else interested in the property but that fell through. I guess this was meant to be,” said Festa smiling broadly.
The gallery, which is scheduled to open its doors early next month, is currently a construction zone. “It’s been gutted completely,” said Festa.
Crete, who is a set designer, and Festa, an architect, envision a gallery that is more than a place to hang art on the walls. “We’ll be providing a beautiful venue,” said Crete, who plans to do installations in the gallery. “We have twelve-foot ceilings!” he added excitedly.
The owners have developed a highly original and dynamic concept for UFORGE. Crete and Festa have created a series of monthly "call for artists" in the form of thematic art assignments. Artists, both local and anywhere in the world, can register online for an assignment, pay a small $35 entry fee, and be guaranteed a spot in the upcoming show. The opportunity to show in a non-juried setting is available to all artists whether they are students, amateurs, or professionals..
Festa, who is a photographer, and Crete, who is a painter, said they had both experienced having their work anonymously rejected.
“We hope to foster creativity, and show art in an atmosphere of collaboration, said Festa, “not as competitors but as mentors.”
“New artists will have the opportunity to learn from more established ones,” stated Crete.
The first assignment is for artists to interpret Art Deco, an opulent and decorative movement that flourished in Paris during the 1920 and 1930’s.
“We’ve already had artists from Virginia and California register for the show,” remarked Festa.
“We chose Art Deco first, “explained Crete, “because it touched every aspect of life,” from interior design to architecture, automobiles, and even hairstyles.
The other guidelines for artists are few. There are size limitations, and in the case of “Art Deco,” only works in two dimensions such as painting, photography, prints, or assemblage, will be accepted. The deadline to register was Thurday and their work must be delivered to the gallery by March 31 for the inaugural exhibition, which opens on April 3.
Crete and Festa have created a calendar of monthly assignments until the end of the year. Upcoming themes include “Andy Warhol” in May, “Faces” in June, and “Primary Colors” in July. The assignment for October is the locally inspired one of “Lanterns.”
The assignments, said Crete, “Are a way to plant a seed of creativity . . . like when you have artist’s block.”
The assignment-based exhibitions are also a way for the owners to fulfill UFORGE’s educational mission. Each assignment includes a Wikipedia link to inspire and inform participants about the artistic theme. The owners also envision artists’ workshops where registrants can discuss the assignments, internships opportunities for students to gain valuable experience, and a line-up of informational events.
Concurrently with the Art Deco show, UFORGE will also be hosting this year’s “JP to Me” exhibition. In 2007, Festa co-founded this annual spotlight of local talent which was previously held at the . This year over 40 artists with ties to JP will be exhibiting in the show which is entitled “Defined by Light.” Participants were given multitudinous definitions of the word “light,” ranging from “to illuminate” and “to ignite” to “of little importance” and “easy to lift.” With these definitions in mind, participating artists were given the challenge of envisioning Jamaica Plain.
Festa and Crete are a dynamic duo whose enthusiasm for UFORGE is infectious. Like the gallery’s logo, which shows a red dot to the left of a blue square, they think outside the box. The addition of UFORGE to the and Aviary galleries on this bohemian stretch of Centre and South Street is a welcome addition to the neighborhood’s increasingly lively art scene.
“The gallery will have a community feel,” said Festa, “but it’s open to the world.”
UFORGE Gallery is located at 767 Centre St. “Art Deco” and “JP to Me 2011” will be on view from April 3-28. A public reception will be held on Saturday, April 9 from 6-8 p.m. The gallery’s hours will be on Thursdays and Fridays from 2-9 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m.- 9 p.m.