Catalyst Gallery Operates a Little Differently

Short-term rental gallery designed as alternative business model to serve and sustain artists

By Alison Rooney

The usual equation for an art gallery is akin to that of agent and client: in exchange for services provided — in this case a space to exhibit work — the provider receives a percentage of the artist’s sales profits. Catalyst Gallery, a new space that opened near the west end of Main Street in Beacon last February, uses a different formula.

Exterior of Catalyst Gallery   
Exterior of Catalyst Gallery

The gallery is available to rent, without curatorial vetting or any real restrictions, for any artist. The renter can use the space as they wish, paying simply the negotiated fee, with any sales profits retained directly by the artist, not the gallery. Catalyst’s stipulations are simple: “We provide only the space, our friendly support. You take care of installation, publicity, openings, ‘sitting’ the gallery, sales, and de-installation/basic cleaning.”

The space, formerly the second of the two spaces which were home to the VanBrunt Gallery, is approximately 400 square feet, and includes “freshly painted, well-constructed” walls, as well as wood floors, track lighting, a bathroom, some parking and large storefront windows facing Main Street. The renting artist takes care of and has control over all the rest.

Rentals are available monthly (ideally including a Second Saturday date) with some two-week and even shorter rentals available from time to time. Right now Catalyst, which is within walking distance from Dia, is booked solid through November.

The idea for this came to Catalyst co-owners and artists themselves Erica Hauser and John Reichert (he is also a cabinet maker). Hauser says she and Reichert “talked awhile about having a show — I’ve shown pretty regularly in the area. We were feeling discouraged that there aren’t more venues for art in a town known for being revitalized due to art; galleries come and go. I didn’t want to be a gallery owner and though we thought about having a collective, most of all we wanted to have a place where you can just go and see something — this town can be quiet or packed so it can be hard to plan, economically.

“Then, this space became available and it didn’t need a ton of work to get it ready. We went back and forth on the idea until it evolved into making it available for artists to rent on a short-term basis, and occasionally use it to show our own things. This gives people looking to show a professional place to exhibit and also to meet with colleagues. We’re not interested in ‘being the main brand’ — it’s not our vision.”

Hauser recently spoke of her vision for the space at the June Beacon TEDx talk:

“I want to engage the public, support artists and open a good-looking place to show art on Main Street; I need such a venture to sustain itself and to facilitate my own work. My friend and I manage Catalyst Gallery as a rental space where people can realize their creative projects, independent of a more typical gallery model. They rent it short-term to install essentially whatever they want, find new exposure, experiment with ideas and inspire dialogue. They have full control, which is something we as artists so often end up handing over to someone else, or waiting for others to make decisions about our work.

Catalyst Gallery's Erica Hauser, standing near one of her own paintings. Photo by A. Rooney.
Catalyst Gallery’s Erica Hauser, standing near one of her own paintings. Photo by A. Rooney.

“This way, artists have access to a professional gallery space in a highly-visible location to try something out. A sculptor used the gallery as a testing ground for new pieces and to meet with collectors. Another wanted to explore the local market potential with an eye towards opening a permanent shop. As for us, we have extra studio space, a venue for group exhibitions and workshops. Every time I see a new show going up, and watch people walking by, peering through the windows, I am reminded that the vitality that drives Catalyst is rooted in making our own work, providing a way to sustain and encourage the creative life, and supporting the art community we are part of.”

The gallery opened with an exhibit of Hauser and Reichert’s own work, and since then has played host to a range of art including a sculptor from Los Angeles whose works focused on dogs (and tied into the “Beacon Barks” community event; a group of MFA students from New Paltz who showed their work together, and, most recently, an installation which examined truth in advertising and agribusiness while reinterpreting product packaging and in-store signage. “There’s been so much interest, we’ve been able to pick and choose,” says Hauser, adding, “we like diversity.”

Philipstown photographer Aleta Wolfe’s show opens on Second Saturday, June 13 (see sidebar.) Hauser says Wolfe was “looking for an opportunity to explore a new project and committed to the idea early on.” Occasionally they may break with the mold, for instance a group holiday show with works from multiple artists is planned, that one possibly on a commission basis. Artists have the option to open the gallery for whatever schedule they personally wish for, i.e., weekends only, or every single day of the rental, if they are available and willing to gallery-sit.

Hauser has been in Beacon for about six years, moving there from Washington Heights, after having a “good instinct about this place.” She’s not a stranger to the Hudson Valley, however, having grown up in Brewster. Her own art, which was visible during an in-between exhibits visit to the space, has been called “American nostalgia, with a vintage aesthetic.” She describes it as “representative, but it’s not photorealism, evoking a sense of place and time — maybe a memory but also having graphic appeal.”

Sculpture  and other artwork by Ed Benavente fills the windows last April at Catalyst Gallery. 
Sculpture  and other artwork by Ed Benavente fills the windows last April at Catalyst Gallery.

She describes Reichert’s works (there is a very small area at the back of the space which serves as a mini-working area for him, as “very kinetic work: sculpture with moveable parts and also acrylic on wood paintings.” Hauser sees both of their works (prints of which are available for sale at the Clay, Wood and Cotton store next door) as sharing a “strange sense of humor.”

Hauser and Reichert chose the name Catalyst because the definition of the word coincided with their goals for the space: “The space will be continually utilized and transformed to fulfill various needs, and by doing so will create new opportunities for communication and creativity. Essentially unchanged, yet always different.”

As Hauser has stated, “It will bring something new to town each month, and we won’t be sure just what, but we know it will be interesting.” Catalyst Gallery is located at 137 Main St., Beacon. Visit catalystgallery.com or phone 845-204-3844 for more information.