Annapolis, Md., businesses create ‘Gallery Row’

The buildings and streets of Annapolis, Md., as seen in this picture of a downtown street, reflect the city's colonial past. Feb. 2005 photo by Dan Smith, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

The buildings and streets of Annapolis, Md., as seen in this picture of a downtown street, reflect the city’s colonial past. Feb. 2005 photo by Dan Smith, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – Something artfully ironic is going on in the first block of West Street.

Three showrooms – Whitehall Gallery, Annapolis Collection Gallery and the new Annapolis Collection Gallery II opening Oct. 23 – display the fine brush strokes and craftsmanship of watercolors and oils, designs and photographs.

The red brick facade of Stan and Joe’s Saloon anchors the robust outdoor photographs of Marion E. Warren in a permanent public exhibit. Restaurants 49 West and Tsunami enhance their businesses with regularly featured art collections.

So perhaps these purveyors didn’t get the memo that the “Capital City Cultural Arts District,” a city-led, state-approved zone that was founded last year to promote the arts with tax exemptions, begins at the Calvert Street boundary – precisely where their block ends.

But it’s no matter to these five businesses. They’ve recently defined their little part of the sidewalk as its own art district with its own moniker.

They call it Gallery Row.

“I think the idea is to revive this block a little,” said David Iatesta, a furniture and lighting designer just entering the city’s art market, though long-established nationally and abroad. “The last thing you want is another law firm that doesn’t necessarily bring in a walk-in customer. There are a lot of other kinds of businesses that don’t really contribute to the culture in Annapolis.”

Representatives from the businesses said this is more than just about dropping a new name. It’s about creating an identity amid the hodgepodge of businesses along West Street for their particular niche – and marketing it.

To that end, a new gallery and a new look for one that’s been around for a few years may rally more patrons.

Iatesta, who is a native to the city, is now partnering with owner Katherine Burke at the Annapolis Collection Gallery. His paintings, found antiques and one-of-a-kind handmade furnishings, such as a carved wooden table and a chandelier anchored with a piece of drift wood, are prominently displayed in the 45 West St. showroom, where he was featured recently in a “meet the artist” event. His modern art pieces will remain in the gallery.

The Gallery Row concept was his brainchild. When Iatesta first entered the furniture design business, it was in Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, where a cluster of antique shops and furniture makers, including himself, promoted their block as Designers Row. They even hosted annual “red carpet” design events, during which they’d literally roll out a red carpet down the length of their sidewalk.

The West Street galleries and the restaurants will host a similar event for Gallery Row on April 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. and hope it will continue in years to come.

Outdoor musical performers, special exhibits and receptions will be part of the event. The two artsy Gallery Row restaurants, along with Stan and Joe’s, will contribute special menus for the occasion.

Ryan Little, manager of 49 West, said art and the coffeehouse environment are a natural pairing.

“I think the art has played a big role in the business, especially when it’s a local artist,” Little said over the din of the kitchen. “And then the coffee seems to bring in people from all walks, so we have a nice eclectic atmosphere.”

Last week Burke shuffled through some of the inventory to be on sale at her new, second showroom, Annapolis Collection Gallery II, at 55 West St. A collection of black-and-white photos developed from 143 negatives, found in the attic of a historic Annapolis house, will be the mainstay at the former Slama Shoe Store, more recently Acousticopia. She’s also moving three of the six master artists from Annapolis Collection Gallery into the new space.

She believes Gallery Row is fortunate to be intermixed with restaurants and nightlife draws, such as Rams Head and El Toro Bravo, whose customers will also peak into the galleries in the evenings while they’re in the area.

Not every gallery in Annapolis has that advantage.

“Often people come into the gallery holding their table numbers,” Burke said.


Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md.,

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