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Keeping Art Weird 

Two local artists-turned-gallerists join forces for a Scott’s Addition space to feature “unexpected” art they love.

click to enlarge A look inside the Pamplemousse Gallery during the recent show, "Snafu," by co-founders Kevin Sabo and Mary Fleming.

Scott Elmquist

A look inside the Pamplemousse Gallery during the recent show, "Snafu," by co-founders Kevin Sabo and Mary Fleming.

Along a quiet street in Scott’s Addition, the seeds of artistic vitality have found a new crack in the sidewalk to take root thanks to the area’s latest neighbor — the cheerfully named Pamplemousse Gallery.

Located at 959 Myers St. and having officially opened its doors in December of 2022, Pamplemousse is a diminutive space; a repurposed foyer that sits below a private artists’ studio. But upon entering and walking across the hand-painted checkered floor, there is an immediate sense of warmth, care, and tenacity that mirrors the gallery’s mission: to create a small but mighty space in which up-and-coming artists, both local and from afar, can find footing and connect with the Richmond community.

Co-founded by Mary Fleming and Kevin Sabo, the new gallery is the product of their longtime experiences in the art world as well as their relationship as creative collaborators. Fleming, an artist who works primarily in sculpture, has been a presence in multiple art spaces throughout Richmond, having served as gallery director at Quirk Gallery, project manager at 1708 Gallery, and assistant director at Studio Two Three. Sabo, also a full-time artist, has had his paintings shown at Quirk, Povos Chicago, Schlomer Haus Gallery in San Francisco, Kates-Ferri Projects in New York, and, most recently, at Bim Bam Gallery in Paris, France.

click to enlarge Pamplemousse Gallery founders Mary Fleming and Kevin Sabo. - KEVIN SABO
  • Kevin Sabo
  • Pamplemousse Gallery founders Mary Fleming and Kevin Sabo.

The two first met when Fleming was introduced to Sabo’s work during her time at Studio Two Three. From there, they developed a bond that drifted between friendship and what Sabo called a “mentor-mentee” relationship, with Fleming helping to promote Sabo’s work in the Richmond art scene.

Joining forces

After both independently running pop-up galleries throughout the city—Fleming running the Sometimes Gallery, and Sabo heading the first, nomadic version of Pamplemousse—the idea of co-founding a gallery came to life, as many splendid ideas do, over a meal.

“We met for breakfast at a cute little diner,” Sabo says, where they decided to join forces for a permanent space, keeping the Pamplemousse name and making it a priority to keep things controlled and a bit gritty. “One of our big points of discussion was how to keep the stakes low, so we didn’t feel like we had to sell a certain amount just to pay rent. That can get icky pretty fast. Initially, we even talked about converting a garage into a space. We came to find out that garage spaces are hard to come by, and maybe not as practical as we had thought. That’s how we landed on [the location].”

The nook on Myers Street, part of a building that has been a studio and artist-run space for generations, wasn’t being used for much before Pamplemousse—other than harboring a friendly ghost, according to rumors, and dust, according to Sabo. After setting their sights on the space, a period of hands-on creative alchemy followed, complete with new coats of paint and the construction of a new wall to make more space for two-dimensional artworks.

Without the pressure to sell as many pieces as possible to keep the lights on, the co-founders plan to use the gallery as a space where artists whose work they love—and who may not have the kind of resumes that can get them in the door at other galleries—can engage with the city’s curious, from collectors to budding artists.

“We really want to make sure that the gallery feels approachable and charismatic, and will maybe introduce people to some work that is a little more of the unrefined, maybe a little bit more of the weird that you’re not really seeing a lot in Richmond,” says Fleming.

click to enlarge Exterior of Pamplemousse at 959 Myers St. in Scott's Addition. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Exterior of Pamplemousse at 959 Myers St. in Scott's Addition.

Sabo adds, “we want to focus on keeping the space accessible and not focus on what academic background these people may have had, but instead focusing on the charisma we see their work emitting. Our mission is to truly make this a place where anyone who comes in can see themselves in the work and feel connected to the space.”

At the grand opening, Pamplemousse displayed Fleming’s heavily textured sculptures alongside Sabo’s paintings of playfully lurid characters, drawing a substantial crowd of mostly young locals from across Richmond’s visual art, craft, and music scenes. Fleming and Sabo plan to continue to mix 2D and 3D works in the space, and focus on hosting collaborative—rather than solo—shows, allowing the works of different artists to play off of each other and inspire new opportunities for storytelling.

Thanks to their own artistic careers and the power of social media to foster virtual relationships, the two have connections to artists across the globe whose work they hope to amplify.

“We want to keep it unexpected, like you’ll never know what you’re going to see,” says Fleming. “We have some very fun artists that we’re going to be working with, such as [figurative painter] Hampton Boyer, Josh Stover, an Oregon-based painter, and Dara Schuman, a ceramicist from Chicago. There’s a long list.”

Pamplemousse Gallery is located at 959 Myers St. in Scott’s Addition. Visits to the gallery’s current display of the founders’ works are available by appointment, and the next show, featuring artists Bradd Young and Emma Barnes, will debut on March 3.

click to enlarge img_2934.jpg

Correction: In an earlier version, we misspelled the name of Chicago artist Dara Schuman.

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