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State of The Art Gallery fosters collaboration and community

The State of The Art Gallery is located in downtown Ithaca, NY / Source: Syd Pierre

Tucked inside the State of The Art Gallery cooperative in downtown Ithaca is a variety of art, including painting, mixed-media pieces and photography, as well as a strong sense of community among its members.

A shot of the gallery. There are paintings on the walls and a hallway into another room with art.
The State of The Art Gallery is a cooperative gallery, run by its members. / Source: Syd Pierre

Current exhibits and preparation:

Patty Porter has been a member of the State of the Art Gallery cooperative for over 20 years, where she has shown her paintings and also served as a member of the installations committee.

Her current show, Porter and Newton, is her fourth duo show with Diane Newton. The exhibit has been running since Aug. 31 and will run through Oct. 1, showcasing both of the artists’ work in a joint exhibit. Porter said much of her work is inspired by the nature she is surrounded with and she has been impressed by the number of people who have viewed the exhibit.

A painting of a pond with trees in the background.
One of Porter’s favorite pieces from her exhibit, “Teeter Pond.” / Source: Syd Pierre

“I think everybody that came in asked really interesting questions; things that I wanted to talk about, questions about art in general, but then specific questions about my paintings,” Porter said. “And that makes it really worthwhile when you can have those conversations.”

Susan Larkin, a member of the SOAG since 2015, said that she enjoys the preparation and collaboration that goes into exhibiting at the gallery. She is currently preparing for a duo exhibit that will premiere in 2025, featuring her photography and fellow SOAG member Eva Capobianco’s sculptures.

“It truly helps to have a deadline and to know that you’re going to exhibit and work with someone along the way in the gallery,” Larkin said. “Working on committees or being on the board or being officers, getting to know people — I’ve learned a whole lot from the people that I worked with.”

Collaboration and values found in the gallery:

Like Larkin, SOAG member Jane Dennis said she also enjoys the sense of collaboration that comes from exhibiting and working with other members on a frequent basis. She said she loves seeing her fellow artists grow and progress in their works.

“In this group, people are doing art, because they want to do it,” Dennis said. “It doesn’t sell in the same way, we’re not trying to play to the audience in the same ways as people who are trying to live off it do. … And because you get to know the artists, you get to see, ‘oh, what has he done this month? What has she done this month?’ and see a change and everybody changes. And that’s really inspiring, and wonderful.”

A photo of four women together.
From left: SOAG members Jane Dennis, Patty Porter, Carol Spence and Susan Larkin. / Source: Syd Pierre

Dennis said that she likes the challenge that comes from making art, like the way she keeps trying new ideas and setting up problems for herself to solve. She also enjoys the freedoms that she feels as an artist.

“I think being a woman, there are a lot of constraints,” Dennis said. “I grew up in a time when I was told to ‘be afraid of this, be afraid of that’, and art is where I feel freedom that I don’t think I have in the real world. In art, I can just do what I want to do and there’s a real sense of freedom in that.”

Community events and programming:

As a non-profit, cooperative gallery that is run primarily by its members, a large part of the SOAG’s mission is its community outreach.

SOAG member Carol Spence said that the SOAG is a collective of individuals who want to showcase their art, as well as contribute to the Ithaca community as a whole. In October, the gallery will be continuing an existing partnership it has with Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in Ithaca and a workshop series with Longview Senior Living Community.

“Some of the community aspects that are starting to revolve more now is actually bringing the community in more,” Spence said. “So finding ways to demystify the idea of a gallery that people feel like, you know, ‘only if I understand art, or I have talent or some bizarre thing’, they feel uncomfortable in a space. And we want to make this a space that invites people to come in and get more comfortable about how to look at art.”

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