How does a New York artist open a gallery in Tampa Bay?
Long before I’d fired my first kiln or showed in my first art show, I began my professional career in public radio. I was hired as a producer and on-air reporter at WAMC in Albany, NY. This public radio station was not far from where I earned a Master of Arts at The State University of New York (SUNY) Albany. What began as a professional exploration on my part turned into a decade of journalistic work. I worked in radio for two years and network television for eight years. My love of the written word propelled my journalism career forward from there, leading to positions at the NBC and ABC affiliates in New York's capital city.
My newsroom years were the perfect grooming for a life of art.
Though I found great pleasure in the written word, the reactive world of newsroom journalism ran its course. I decided to explore other options, taking temporary jobs to find a path that would fulfill me. During one of these jobs, I enrolled in a pottery class to fill my increased spare time. After the first night, I had my Eureka! moment. This class ignited my passion for a life of clay and art, which I live and love to this day!
For 24 years, I sold work I was creating in New York, first regionally, then nationally and finally internationally. In 2007, my ceramic career landed me an exhibit in Thailand. I won a New York State Grant to pursue my ceramic work, helping make the exhibit happen. I knew I was on the right path and believed the destination would reveal itself in time. In 2008 I moved to Gulfport, showing work created in my seaside studio throughout the state and country.
After two decades selling my work 'on the road' I was ready for a change.
By 2013, I’d taught my first of five international workshops in Italy and in 2019, my love of clay and contemporary craft called me to open a Gallery. I searched throughout St. Petersburg, into the Warehouse District and beyond, but to no avail. Then a set of magical circumstances aligned to bring me to what would become my current professional home. Two weeks after a national magazine erroneously reported that I had a gallery in Gulfport, I was walking down Beach Boulevard and saw a ‘for rent’ sign at 2901 Beach Boulevard. I knew I had found my professional home and immediately signed a lease. That was Valentine’s Day of 2019. Two full months of renovating and designing the inside with my collaborator, friend and business partner, Cathy Fahey, led to the Brenda McMahon Gallery grand opening in in May, 2019.
A Gallery is a new twist on a familiar artist life.
After a highly successful launch, It was a slow start through the summer months. Just as February 2020 rolled around, we’d gained significant momentum. On March 13th, 2020, just 10 months after opening the Gallery doors, the world changed. COVID ran rampant across the nation and in our community, life and business as I knew it, stopped. Though the Gallery did not shutter its doors until March 20th, we knew there was a lot of work to do to prepare for what would turn out to be a new business model.
Making the best of the situation, I took the time to create our Online Gallery. Here I showcased the work of our 12 Gallery artists. I offered free local delivery and secured ceramic commissions. The dramatic changes around us forced me to figured out how to create a strategy for the newly changed economy. I developed and began promoting 'Taste of Art' one night Workshops. During these events, we invited residents to get out of the house, social distance and make art. The initial success of this workshop series is felt today, as it still sells out, two years later, sans masks of course!
I’ve come a long way from newsrooms in New York to a gallery in the Tampa Bay region of St. Petersburg. I’m grateful for the help I’ve had along the way. It’s been a great gift to succeed through challenges and to have people around me who help me to do this. I’ll consider it a great gift as well, to greet so many of you who’ve kept up with my journey at our upcoming 4th Anniversary Celebration at the gallery on May 5th!