Dec 02, 2010 Ami Olson Uncategorized
When the Delavan Art Gallery closed May 1, it left a gap in the Syracuse arts community much bigger than the 3,800 square feet it had provided artists and arts patrons for six and a half years.
Caroline Szozda-McGowan, 30, who managed the Delavan Gallery throughout that time, knows better than almost anyone.
“I knew we were leaving a giant hole,” she said. “There’s a major need for quality spaces to show and sell the work of local artists.”
But even after a six-month “restructuring” hiatus in 2008, Szozda-McGowan said May’s closing was unavoidable.
“It’s a hard market,” she said simply. “There was also the simple level of energy… it was time to step back and look at it really seriously and make a tough decision.”
But from that decision came an opportunity for Szozda-McGowan, a Syracuse resident who graduated from Cazenovia College in 2002 with a studio arts degree, to be a part of the next era of the space while offering a smaller, more intimate quality space to local artists.
When he announced Delavan’s closing, owner Bill Delavan said he planned to subdivide the large gallery space into five or six arts-related spaces — it was only natural that the former gallery manager would be the first to take advantage of the next phase of the space.
Now, a walled-off section is home to Szozda Gallery, (“drop the first z”), which will open its third exhibit this month.
While she said it’s still hard to think about breaking up the beautiful gallery space, it was the chance of a lifetime for her to continue working with local arts in Syracuse.
“I knew [the closing] was coming, and it was, well, what do I do next?” Szozda-McGowan said. She said no one was really surprised that she chose to take a chance and open her own space.
“You have places like SU who do have wonderful exhibit areas, but that’s what they are — they’re exhibit areas,” she said. The purpose of her space, as was Delavan’s mission, is to provide quality gallery space for local artists to showcase their talents and also sell their work.
How dedicated was she to remaining a supporter of Syracuse artists?
Szozda-McGowan moved back to the ‘Cuse after a five-month stint in Hawaii with her husband Bill McGowan (during Delavan’s temporary closing).
“I could have stayed there for another full year, I didn’t have to come back… but the gallery was opening back up. I loved the gallery, I loved my artists,” she said. “That’s why I took the chance in opening my own. I love the folks, I love what I do.”
It was a shot she had to take.
“I would have never had this opportunity,” Szozda-McGowan said. “I would just regret it if I didn’t do it.”
The gallery opened its first show, a group exhibit of works by ARISE clients, in October. The three-week exhibit celebrated the 10th anniversary of the ARISE magazine, Unique, for which the Delavan Gallery had annually hosted a one-night show.
Szozda Gallery will open its third show, a group exhibit of local artists, Friday Dec. 3 with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m.
For a sneak peek, visit the gallery the Wednesday or Thursday before any exhibit reception and check out the soft opening.
The guts and the nerve
Who gave Szozda-McGowan the “guts and the nerve” to take a chance opening her own gallery?
She credits a list of players, topped by, of course, Bill Delavan and her family. Her mother and sister, she said, have not only traveled from out of town to visit the gallery, they’ve helped hang pieces and prep for shows.
She also thanks Delavan Center maintenance “magic man” Reggie Sanford, who has been a “shoulder to cry on many a time;” Gloria Romeo for her PR advice; and Leonard Assante of Assante Design.