Another validation of the economic and creative vitality along the streetcar route arrives Dec. 1 in the form of a new, collaborative art gallery.
Gallery 708 is just north of Jeff Ruby’s at – you guessed it – 708 Walnut St. The primary movers behind the gallery – jewelry maker Lisa Inglert and fiber artist Phyllis Sadler – began making plans in early 2016. Their idea was to capitalize on the renewed interest in being and living downtown, as well as the impending arrival of the streetcar. The 3,700-square-foot space is in the center of what they call “downtown’s visual arts corridor.”
In the spring, they recruited Sara Caswell-Pearce, vintage-paper artist, writer and former Enquirer editor.
“On one side of us,” Pearce said, “the Contemporary Arts Center is a block away, and the 21c Museum Hotel and Weston Art Gallery are less than a block from us. Within a block on our other side are the YWCA’s Women’s Art Gallery and the Main Library, which hosts numerous art exhibits.” A streetcar stop is directly across from Gallery 708’s entrance.
Inglert and Sadler have managed the business end of launching the gallery, while Pearce curated the first group, a mix of emerging and established artists. Another goal was to provide a space “to showcase a range of the area’s many talented artists, many of whom were not represented by a professional gallery,“ said Pearce. “We wanted to provide that option, but with lower commissions on sales and the chance to have a say in how the gallery is operated.”
Mike Besl, an owner of the 708 Walnut building, was bullish on the concept and worked with the artists to renovate the space into what Pearce called a stunning gallery.
Pearce believes 708 to be “the first full-time, freestanding art gallery to open in downtown’s core business district in at least a decade.” The previous 5th Street Gallery, in the Carew Tower, was forced out by new ownership and now exists across the street as a pop-up shop within Macy’s.
The current group consists of 28 artists and artisans: painters, sculptors, ceramists, glass artists, jewelers, printmakers, a photographer, a collage artist and fiber artists. “Work will change on a regular basis to keep the gallery fresh,” she said, and the hope is to host many special events. The first will be the grand opening Thursday Dec. 1, 5-9 p.m.