With a new director and their third new gallery space, 1708 gallery hopes to turn some heads in the national, contemporary art arena. 

Three Time's a Charm

ess than a month before the opening of 1708 Gallery's 2001-2002 season, gallery director Peter Calvert stands outside the gallery's new space at 319 W. Broad St. and beckons to a visitor who has just walked past the unmarked entrance.

"Hello!" he shouts over the buzz of an electric saw, while motioning the visitor back to the boarded-up storefront. Behind him, a small army of construction workers labors in a haze of sawdust. Calvert enters the building and begins pointing out the features of the new space — the reception area, the spacious main gallery, a conference area on the mezzanine, three studio apartments above. It takes an artist's vision to conjure the new 1708, because right now, the building is still a work in progress.

The traditional first Friday opening has already been pushed back a week to ensure that construction will be completed in time to welcome visitors. But come Sept. 14, the gallery's walls will be freshly painted white and hung with works from 1708's 22 artist members. Richmond's art cognoscenti will pack its nearly 2,000 square feet of space to view and discuss some of Richmond's most vibrant and accomplished art. And in the years to come, Calvert says the new gallery will help attract topnotch artists from around the country and further raise the bar for Richmond's visual-arts scene.

"We've become a place that people have come to expect to have the new and the freshest art," he says, "and we're really trying to expand out to more national and international shows — curated shows and new media shows. This space will allow us to do that. We'll be a place really on people's A-lists."

1708's new Broad Street space represents the third location for the country's oldest, nonprofit, artist-run gallery. Founded in 1978 by a group of 21 artists who were frustrated about not having a place to show their work, 1708's mission has remained a constant: to expand the understanding, development and appreciation of contemporary art.

That 1708 is still thriving today, says Calvert, "is a testament to the city of Richmond both as a place that supports art and as a place that has an incredibly talented pool of artists who year after year continue to investigate that need that drives them."

The talents of 1708's member artists will be on display in the inaugural show in the new gallery, with each of the 22 artists displaying two works of their choice. "This show is going to be a chance for people to see the talent that is on the board of the gallery," Calvert says.

The new gallery space, combined with the arrival of Calvert, who took the helm of 1708 last year after leaving a post as a university gallery director in Texas, has given the gallery's artist board a renewed sense of energy and purpose. In addition, the success of this summer's Go Fish! Project, which was organized by 1708, has raised community awareness of the gallery.

Last year, artist Cindy Neuschwander first began thinking about joining 1708 after meeting Calvert. "I was just charmed by his enthusiasm and his community spirit," says Neuschwander, one of the gallery's newest members. "The new director, combined with the new space, just felt really fresh and like something I wanted to be a part of."

Heide Trepanier, who earned her masters in fine art from Virginia Commonwealth University in May, joined the artist board last year to help keep the tradition of 1708 going. "The way [1708] is going to keep moving forward is by consistently having younger artists with fresh views on what contemporary art is," she says. With its new gallery, 1708 is eager to explore.


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