Behind the Glass Gallery brings art to The Mercantile-on-Main
Richard Colón didn’t set out to open an art gallery in the heart of downtown when he scheduled a meeting last September with Sean Brooks, the commercial operations manager at Sibley Square.
All he wanted was to rent space tucked against the east wall of The Mercantile, opposite the line of restaurants, for a one-month showcase of photography by local artists he felt had been overlooked .
“I wanted to have kind of an all-star event of a bunch of different artists that were in my inner circle,” Colón said.
But at the end of that conversation, Colón had secured the space as the newest art venue in the city’s center, and a role for himself as volunteer curator of monthly exhibitions.
After renovations that converted the glass-walled space into Behind the Glass Gallery, the inaugural show opened on Jan. 6, featuring work by Rob Bell of the Democrat and Chronicle, school librarian Beth Larter, and photographer and videographer Roberto Felipe.
Each of the artists shoots with film, focusing on the city’s people and places. The show is filled with images shot at The Public Market, Frontier Field (now Innovative Field), Highland Park, Lamberton Conservatory, and many other recognizable sites downtown and elsewhere. Some of the images were photographed from such distinctive perspectives, you’ll see them as if for the first time.
The Rochester theme came as no surprise, given Colón’s steadfast and unabashed cheerleading of this city, which he conveys through his own photo work and regularly proclaims on social media.
Colón, 39, is a college counselor at the University of Rochester, husband, and father of four whose moody images capture gritty and gorgeous nuances of Rochester in sometimes humorous, often moving ways and have earned him a following as a street photographer.
The launch party was filled with art scene enthusiasts eager to embrace the new venue and its mission of giving artists a spot to show and sell their work.
Colón’s dedication to that mission goes beyond providing the walls — he also offers each artist he features at the gallery assistance in creating a SquareSpace site for their work if they don’t have a website. He also asks them to take part in a podcast episode, named for the gallery, that features a lively conversation that provides listeners with additional insight about the artists' work.
Colón is sticking with showing the work of photographers for the time being, but says he’d like to highlight artists who work in other media in the near future.
February’s featured artists are Narada Riley, Rudy Fabre, and Joshua Taylor. An opening reception is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 2. The gallery is open for public viewing when The Mercantile is open, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.