Summer 2022 marks the beginning of a new era for the Montauk Artists Association’s (MAA) Depot Art Gallery in Montauk. With a new management team comes an updated gallery, the infusion of music and a new, more welcoming vision for exhibitions.
After serving for decades as the MAA treasurer and manager of Depot Gallery and the biannual Shows on the Green, Anne Weissman has taken a step back and now serves as an emeritus board member. In her stead, MAA President Rosa Hanna Scott and the board have Donna Corvi managing the gallery and the Shows on the Green, with vice president John Papaleo, treasurer Jim Levison and board members Chris Lucore and Teresa Lawler working alongside her.
This new team quickly began to enact sweeping changes to the Depot Gallery, starting with a major refurbishment that included replacing old carpeting with new flooring, removing the center wall to open up the gallery space, and adding improved lighting and a fresh coat of paint. “It looks like a gallery should,” Corvi says, describing the finished ground floor. “With Anne stepping down and us stepping in, our goal was to bring the gallery up to date. It was long overdue for that.”
Depot Gallery Refurbished
The gallery’s upstairs, which was once used for art classes, is currently being used for free jam sessions, and once refurbished like the ground floor, will likely be used for art and music classes for all ages and/or weekly jam sessions. The introduction of music with Depot Gallery’s jam sessions makes for a fitting tribute to founding member and jazz bassist Percy Heath.
“Our goal is to have a more organized way of offering music. We’re not sure if it’s classes or the opportunity to continue jam sessions one night a week, but we want to bring music into it because, after all, founder Percy Heath was a legendary jazz musician,” Corvi says. “So we want to make sure we bring music in, which has really oddly never been a part of the Depot.”
With work on the gallery taking two weeks longer than expected, the season kicked off June 16–27 with a show spotlighting Phyllis Chillingworth, Mary Daunt, Teresa Lawler and Rita Zimmer. This was then followed by an exhibition featuring the works of the Plein Air Artists of the East End July 14–25 and The End, an MAA members group show, July 28–August 8. While not immediately clear, this lineup is a major changeup from Depot Gallery’s usual schedule, with the big change being as simple as opening gallery exhibitions to non-MAA members.
“While we do want it to be a space that offers people of all skill levels a place to exhibit, what I’ve done is offer two members shows, one to kick off the season and one to end the season, in which all of our members are welcome to hang a painting or two or three, depending on how many respond,” Corvi explains, adding that these members exhibitions are not judged and retain the same eclectic mix of art as the MAA shows of the past, even more so thanks to the new members.
In branching out beyond members-only shows, MAA is now reaching out to high-caliber artists across the South Fork. And the irony is that in becoming a more inclusive gallery space — in line with the bylaws established in 1998 when the nonprofit MAA acquired the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk Station for use as a community art space — Depot Gallery has brought an increase of members to the MAA’s ranks.
“I feel our membership has grown, and it’s far more vibrant. … And I love the fact that younger people are excited about exhibiting, because that says something too. I think they’re happy with the new space, happy with the caliber of shows going up, and they want to be a part of it,” Corvi says, adding that MAA board member Chris Lucore, the young owner of Montauk gallery The Lucore Art, has been a welcome addition. “He calls us his sister gallery; we call him our brother gallery. … My goal for the Montauk Artists Association is to bring in a few more young people like Chris so the gallery stays relevant and current.”
What’s Next at Depot Gallery
In addition to artists and gallerists, the MAA is also looking to recruit members who are grant writers with expertise in funding proposals, craftsmen capable of building a bench or patching a roof if the need arises, and others willing to devote more than the membership fee to making Depot Gallery a year-round Montauk hub for arts, culture and music.
“I wish we had the funds to winterize the gallery space. … I would love to see the Depot open as a year-round gallery, because even though winters can be quiet out here, they’re not quiet with art. Artists work and need places to exhibit. Even though the throngs of summer tourists aren’t here in the winter, there are a lot of people out here, more so than in the past,” Corvi says. “I know so many families that lived in the city, and then with Covid, decided to live out here full-time. So we’ve got that group, and I only think it’s going to get better.”
Currently the season runs through October, with the final members exhibition, The End II, on view October 6–17. The weeks before then, however, are packed with shows featuring non-member artists that have inspired Corvi and her team.
The current show is John Tuttle’s The Tranquil Sea, Depot Gallery’s first-ever solo show, which opened on August 11 and runs through August 22. Corvi describes the Eastport artist’s work as “very mystical landscapes.”
Then, next week kicks off a 50-year retrospective of Lou Spitalnick’s fine photography, August 25–September 5, with an opening reception on Saturday, August 27 at 5 p.m. “He is a gem and has been around forever,” Corvi says adding that, though he has continued to work through the years, this will be his first exhibition in nearly two decades.
Next up will be a group show with Thomas Alfano, Anne Palermo and JoAnn Zambito, September 8–9, followed by a group exhibition of works by Sarah DiOrazio, Karen Kirshner and Ted Shaine, September 22–October 3.
Additionally, the MAA is hosting their annual end-of-summer Show on the Green on August 19–21 at the Montauk Village Green. These Shows on the Green generate more revenue for the MAA than any other exhibition, and help pay for the Depot Gallery’s next season, though surprise maintenance fees and the Percy Heath Arts and Scholarship Award Program require additional donations.
“We’re not in a position to throw a fundraiser and do all that. We don’t want this to be a burden on other people and ask artists to donate paintings and all of that, maybe down the line,” Corvi says, acknowledging the association’s reliance on donations and memberships. “We need new people, and we need more people.”
This summer, the MAA has shaken up their gallery’s structure to let the Montauk and Hamptons communities know that their artists and art lovers are welcome to explore and present great art at Depot Gallery.
“However people perceived it in the past, is no longer true,” Corvi says. “And not that people perceived it in a bad way, I think people just thought of it as a club, and it’s not. When you read the history of it and all the bylaws, it’s meant to be a vibrant, functioning gallery in Montauk. I think we did a big leap this season in getting it there.”
To learn more about the Montauk Artists Association and Depot Gallery in Montauk, visit montaukartistsassociation.org.