From New York newsrooms to a Gallery on the Bay!
Long before I’d fired my first kiln or showed in my first art show, I began my professional career in public radio as a producer and on-air reporter at WAMC in Albany, NY - 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 – 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 of Albany, New York’s capital city.
Though I found great pleasure in the written word, the reactive world of newsroom journalism was bound to run its course – and it did. I decided to explore other options, taking temporary jobs to find a path that would fulfill me. During one of these jobs, I took a pottery class to fill my increased spare time, and…well, that’s where it all started! This class at a local art center 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, where I won a New York State Grant to pursue my ceramic work. I knew I was on the right path and knew the destination would reveal itself in time and in 2008 I moved to Gulfport, showing work created in my seaside studio throughout the state and country.
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, before 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 in the window 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.
After a highly successful launch, It was a slow start through those summer months, but just as February 2020 rolled around, we’d gained significant momentum. On March 13th of that year, the world changed - COVID ran rampant across the nation and in our community, and 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 we were sure would be a new business model.
Making the best of the situation, I took the time to create our Online Gallery, where arts lovers could still shop and purchase art from the artists represented in the storefront. I offered free local delivery, worked on commissions and figured out how to make both sense of the dramatic changes around us and a strategy for how to deal with it. I developed and began promoting Taste of Art Workshops, inviting residents to get out of the house, social distance themselves responsibly and make art. Two years later the workshops are a great success, sans masks of course!
I’ve come a long way from newsrooms in New York to a gallery on the bay and 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. And 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!
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