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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Garage-turned-gallery is the 'incubator' for local talent

Owner Meredith Garniss refers to Willoughby & Baltic, a commercial art space in Davis Square, as "an incubator for artists." Based on the impression that it gives upon entering, it must be a kind of hangout for them as well.

From the quirkiness of the space, which is a garage turned studio turned gallery, to the nude model who was wrapping up his session before it opened at noon on Sunday, the place screams "character." Tucked into a small alleyway off of Elm St., it is at this point frequented only by those who are in-the-know: Somerville's ample artist population.

Every two weeks, a Somerville artist displays his or her art for viewing, and hopefully, to sparks buyers' interest. Garniss wants the space to be a comfortable environment for both the artist and art appreciator. Artists who have just a few pieces, or who don't necessarily have an official r?©sum?© are welcomed to submit their work for the gallery. At the same time, people who may not feel comfortable walking into a gallery on Newbury St. and dropping their life savings on a painting have the chance to casually view artwork and buy it at a more reasonable price.

On display now is a collection of Garniss' works, in preparation for the upcoming Somerville Open Studios weekend, when artists throughout the city open their doors and invite the public to view their work.

Her pieces range from older portraits and paintings of objects to her more recent work with landscape. These landscapes are not overly concerned with structure or accurately depicting a certain setting, but are more tonal and indicative of Garniss' mood. They do not portray specific scenes, but rely on contrasting colors and a wax and oil color combination to bring out the mood that she was in while painting it.

An earlier painting, entitled "Woman #1" is part of a series of three. It is done entirely with a pallet knife, which gives it an abstract feel. Next to it hangs a painting of buildings in the North End, made up of warmer colors than those in her landscapes. This painting, as well as a portrait of a construction worker, is representative of Garniss' earlier style. A common characteristic in many of her paintings is the use of contrasting colors, which gives her work a unique depth and vibrating quality.

Garniss stressed that Willoughby & Baltic is heavier on the commercial side than other galleries in the area. The artists on display can see which of their paintings sell, and are then able to produce more work in that vein. The gallery also offers a space for people to work. On Sunday mornings, Garniss hires a model so that aspiring artists can come in and practice.

Garniss is in a perpetual state of preparation and progress. She has recently founded the Somerville Center for Adult Education, holding fine arts classes in the Willoughby & Baltic gallery. This collective hopes to eventually include a variety of classes and possibly spread into Medford and Arlington as well.

For Somerville Open Studios, Garris is finishing up some of her work, as well as continuing to make improvements on the relatively new gallery space. "I often say that I have two projects; my paintings and the gallery."

In the corner sits a long vertical canvas, primed for a painting of Willoughby and Baltic, who, until the painting is completed, do not actually exist. This is just another interesting touch to this artist's haven.