William Ris Gallery and the Art of Community in a Time of Uncertainty

Mary Cantone of William Ris Gallery credit Daniel Pollera
Mary Cantone of William Ris Gallery credit Daniel Pollera

“This time of uncertainty is undoubtedly stirring up emotions which will likely prompt some creative consciousness,” says Mary Cantone, owner of the William Ris Gallery in Jamesport. “Time sequestered, sheltered at home, being alone with one’s thoughts, it all requires alternative approaches to surviving the unknown. The arts, all of them, have been the salvation of people’s existence during struggles and strife through centuries.”

Amid exploring new options and outlets for herself and her artists—many of whom have had their work on the cover of Dan’s Papers—Cantone reflects on the power of community and creativity in helping people through these challenging times.

William Ris Gallery owner Mary Cantone
Mary Cantone, Photo: Barbara Lassen

The Art of Staying Creative

The artists with daytime jobs I’ve spoken to are now full time in their studios! They have the time now to immerse themselves in what, just two weeks ago, needed to be juggled between daywork, travel time and family time with the hope of enough energy left for their respective art focus. Being creative is best without time restraints and interruptions. For full-time artists, it’s the same. The art community is solid. There’s a communal understanding of the changing thought processes and challenges. But for everyone, the stream of information will influence the direction each artist takes. Unprecedented times opens the soul to replenishment, new perspectives and insights.

The Art of Supporting Others 

I am touched deeply by the support and kindness of artists, collectors and the community who know how difficult it is for all small businesses to survive this turmoil. We are not alone. Everyone must tap into their unique creative spirit to explore the options in business survival and changing models.

Artists and small independent galleries rely on visibility, relationships and communication. For now, sales can no longer be dependent on direct contact. I remain available with a full and diverse collection from which to choose. I am not going anywhere and will continue, albeit at a distance as long as advised. I will continue to find ways to encourage sales for my artists, and there will be extended opportunities offered for buyers to support my artists.

The Art of a Living Legacy

I have established close and candid relationships with my artists. They can depend on me to explore other options. I am transparent and open and available. They know my commitment to the William Ris Gallery’s success. And others who know me understand my dedication is rooted, steeped, layered and nurtured by the legacy of the founders of the William Ris Gallery. The labor of love will continue as I honor my mother and brother’s vision and goals established in the 1960s. The best decision I made was to relocate the gallery to the North Fork of Long Island four years ago. There was a place for me here; I saw it, I felt it, I ran with it. And because it was needed and because of the exceptional artists I represent, I know I’ve made a difference.

The Art of Staying Together, Apart

The daily check-ins via phone, text, social media and email help me feel less alone in these surreal times of mandatory separation. Being connected is an antidote to living alone. I am grateful for my community of friends and my family who are all on the North for the time being while NYC is in lockdown. Working from home is a blessing.

I Am Not an Artist But….

I often say, ‘I am not an artist but I have an artist’s mentality,’ and therefore an understanding which serves me well in this business. I am empathetic and compassionate to the efforts and challenges creative people experience.

Make a virtual visit to the William Ris Gallery at williamris.com.

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