Painting by Tommy Cherry
Tommy Cherry glances at his iPad for reference, a photo of one of the infamous Tall Ships sailing through Boston Harbor, as he adds a few more strokes of oil paint to his canvas. The room is silent save for a few coughs and an occasional question about technique. Cherry steps back and looks at his progress.
“You always want to keep stepping back,” says Cherry to the group. “When you’re looking at a painting, you’re looking at it from four feet away, so you kind of get lost when you stand close the whole time. It gives you a better idea of what looks good, what looks bad.”
Over the course of an hour, Cherry transforms the canvas from a flat sketch of a ship to a multidimensional rendering of a moment in time, while impressing on the audience the importance of composition, value, and quality of materials.
This is the monthly meeting of the South Boston Arts Association, a collective dedicated to showcasing and promoting the arts in South Boston. Cherry, a charter member of the Association and a captain on the Boston Fire Department, is this month’s guest artist. Over the next couple of months, the Association will feature a number of local artists at their meetings, including pianist Peter Golemme and photographer Judith Sweeney. Beginning May 1, pieces by member artists will be on display at the Medicine Wheel on K Street through May 31.
Painting by Tommy Cherry
The South Boston Arts Association was founded in 2014 by Dan McCole, a painter who felt there was a lack of space for South Boston’s artist community to gather and bring their art into the light of day.
“We convinced people to come out of their kitchens and their dining rooms and their attics, and come and talk to someone else who came out of their kitchen or their attic,” says McCole, who is also the chairman of the Association. “Everybody feeds off each other and that’s the best part of this. You fill yourself up with what the others do.”
Painting by Dan McCole
The Association meets monthly at the Labouré Center on West Broadway, and also maintains The Arts Around The Corner Gallery at 317 E Street, directly behind Neatly Nested. The tiny but packed gallery showcases the work of over a dozen local artists, including Cherry and McCole, and features oil paintings, photography, literature, textile art, and pottery.
Nancy Maggs, manager of the gallery for more than two years, used to live down the street, and was always intrigued by what might be inside. After joining the South Boston Arts Association, Maggs replaced Pat Steiner, a featured artist at the gallery, as the manager in 2016, and is focused on bringing in new, fresh talent, as well as increasing awareness about the gallery itself.
“It’s been my goal for the last couple of years to get people in here,” says Maggs. “I’ll do whatever I can to get this place known.”
Painting by Deb Putnam
For the last few years, the South Boston Arts Association has been attempting to find space for a permanent arts and culture center in the South Boston neighborhood. After bids for space at the police department on West Broadway and St. Augustine’s church were knocked down, the Association set its sights on the currently defunct Edison power plant property on L Street.
“These are our main points,” says Maggs. “Preserve our history, showcase our talent, and support our community. [The arts and cultural center] wouldn’t just be for us. It would be for everyone, by everyone. It would be really great for the town, for everybody.”
That pervasive sense of community is what keeps the South Boston Arts Association going. For almost fifteen years the Association has created a space for South Boston’s artists and creatives to flourish in a peer to peer environment, and a place to showcase and sell their work.
“We give them a venue where they can show their work to people and get it out,” says McCole. “Artists are kind of funny – painters especially – because they do things out of their own brain, and it’s hard for them to understand that anyone else would like it to begin with. Now we bring them out into the world and say, ‘Let’s share it with your neighbors,’ and go from there.”
The Arts Around The Corner Gallery is located at 317 E Street. It is open Friday 3-7, and Saturday and Sunday 12-4. www.southbostonartsassoc.org.