New gallery pops up in Putnam

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Aug. 12, 2013
(L to r) Paul Toussaint, Sarah Paquette and Dawn Cook stand in front of Cook's work at the Empty Spaces Gallery on Main Street. Photos by D. Coffey.
(L to r) Paul Toussaint, Sarah Paquette and Dawn Cook stand in front of Cook's work at the Empty Spaces Gallery on Main Street. Photos by D. Coffey.

The Empty Space Gallery in Putnam celebrated its grand opening on Aug. 9. The dark storefront at 112 Main St. was transformed into a beacon of light and welcome with coats of white paint, new carpeting and an installation of art by eight artists.

iPhoneographer Paul Toussaint and Ann Monteiro, owner of The Flying Carpet Studio, were the creative forces behind the project. They thought if they could take over an empty storefront, clean it up, and decorate it with the work of contemporary artists, it would give the space new life. They were right.

The idea has proven successful in many other cities. New Haven Artspace is in its fourth year. Supporters believe there's no coincidence in the 100-percent rental rate in those buildings where pop-up galleries are located. A Hartford program is in its second year. In New York, No Longer Empty has been going on for five years. And Chicago's Pop up Art Loop has been connecting artists with property owners since 2009.

That's what Monteiro wants to do in Putnam, where several empty storefronts could provide gallery space. “It's making something out of nothing,” Monteiro said. “It provides a fresh perspective on creating, presenting and experiencing art.” And Pop Up galleries look nice.

Putnam's first pop-up gallery took over what used to be a tool and die shop. The space had been empty for 15 years. “People are coming in saying they had no idea the space could look so nice,” she said.

When a space looks nice, it's appealing to people. Monteiro hopes it's especially appealing to business owners who might be convinced to rent the space and open shop. “Then we could pick the gallery up and move it to the next empty space,” she said.

“It helps surrounding businesses to have something beautiful next door,” said artist Kim Curtin. Seven of her pieces hung in the entryway, photos she'd taken with her iPhone and manipulated with a series of applications. One looked like a painting of a boat motoring past a Cape Cod cottage. Another was a close-up of a face with water droplets superimposed on it. In a triptych of New York scenes, one of her photographs made the skyscrapers blend and wave like trees.

Three iPhoneographers displayed work at the gallery. Curtin joined the company of Toussaint and Cat Morris, who are making names for themselves in the art world. Morris' series of four brilliantly colorful photographs are part of a project that will eventually find its way to textiles.

Toussaint, who has exhibited in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Italy and the U.K., is excited about bringing the work of contemporary artists to the public's attention. The first exhibit was an eclectic blend of sculpture, drawing, photography and jewelry. Audrey Mucci showcased her found object art. Dawn Cook's sketches and two dimensional pieces addressed social and political issues head on.

Ian Sklarsky's four sketches were an example of portraits done in one uninterrupted line. “He'll look at you when he's drawing and never take his pen from the paper,” Toussaint said.

Luke Kurtis exhibited six works combining recognizable images, bright color and text. Susan Lizee LaPalme's silver jewelry was also on display.

“This is a whole new exciting world,” said Mac Paul, a member of the Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities. She moved from one exhibit to another. “Everyone has their own talent. Everyone has their own artistic eye.”

To submit work for consideration, send photos to Paul Toussaint at For information about volunteer opportunities, contact Ann Monteiro at

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