Four years ago, in the Winter of 2008, I started volunteering at the Romaine Brooks Gallery of the Capital Pride Center. Under the auspices of the masterful Michael Weidrich, I learned all about Albany’s 1st Friday events, and by September of 2008 I was ready for my own show (a solo exhibition – ‘The Eye of the Ego’) and to assume the role of Gallery Manager.
Since that time it has been a joy and a privilege to host 1st Friday at the Romaine Brooks Gallery, to book shows and artists, and to meet the people of the community who make every 1st Friday such a fun time. One of the most startling aspects of hosting at the Pride Center was the diversity and richness of those seeking out art and culture in Albany. I thought I’d get to know everyone in a few months or so, but even after four years of standing there for four hours every month, there are still new faces coming up those stairs, gazing with wonder, admiration, and, as often as not, confusion, when they enter the room. If there’s one thing I’ll take with me, it’s the wonderful sense of community found both at 1st Friday, and at the Capital Pride Center.
Four years is a decent stretch for anything, especially when one is dealing with artistic temperaments. Artists can be an infuriating, frustrating, and fickle bunch, and, speaking as one myself, I understand that there’s a different mindset to many of us, one that doesn’t always handle schedules or structure well. (I’m sure that my ability to organize and meet deadlines is directly proportional to my lack of God-given talent, but never let it be said that I didn’t try.)
Still, we don’t create or display our work because we want glory or accolades or money – we do it because we need to do it – something impels us to write or draw or paint or take photos, and it’s this passion that has always enabled me to overlook someone’s tardiness or missed deadline. I have yet to meet an artist who doesn’t have heart.
It’s a bittersweet departure – saying good-bye is not my strong-suit – but one that is due. It’s always nice to leave on your own volition, when things are going well, and it feels like it’s time. The gallery needs someone new, someone who is excited about taking over and bringing a new dose of energy and ideas, and we’ve found the perfect person in Lyle Houston. He already has plans for updating the third floor space, and I can’t wait to see where he brings the gallery next. If I had any reservations about leaving the gallery in less-than-capable hands, he more than set my mind at ease.
The one minor drawback of hosting 1st Friday all these years is that I never got to attend the other 1st Friday events. It’s different when you go to all the places the next day – the energy and excitement is missing, the electricity in the air has dissipated, the communal sense of participating in something together is gone when strolling solitarily through spaces that are often closed anyway. I miss going out and peeking at all the other venues. Now, I’ll get to enjoy 1st Friday as a spectator (and have dinner in between gallery stops).
I’ll also be able to go out-of-town on those 1st Fridays – for a while it seemed that every event in a different city was scheduled for the first Friday of the month. This may be the first tentative step in severing some ties to Albany. Again, it feels right. It’s time.