When Susan A. Rivers moved to Saratoga Springs and decided to open an art gallery, she wanted it to be a different kind of art space, a “feel-good” place that would give back to the community.
“Each and every show, and the sale of every piece, benefits a charity,” she says. “You support a local artist, you support the charity. And you’re supporting a neighborhood gallery.”
Rivers, a fiber artist and Saratoga Arts board member, opened The Niche Gallery in April 2013, and last summer she was the organizer of Thursday Art Nights, which were held weekly during the racing season at galleries downtown and in the Beekman Street Arts District.
For the next four weeks, the coldest and quietest time in town, The Niche Gallery will be closed, except by appointment. But there are some evening events on the schedule.
This Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m., Niche will host a “salon,” a discussion group for artists and art supporters.
The gallery’s new season will begin Feb. 13, with “Enchanted,” an exhibit that will raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation. The next show, “The Earth Speaks,” featuring photographs by Rudy Lu and opening April 1, will help the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
The Niche Gallery
WHERE: 480 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
WHAT: Third Thursday Art Salon
WHEN: 5-7 p.m. Thursday. The exhibit “Enchanted” opens with a reception on Feb. 13 and runs through March 31. From March through May, the gallery is open from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. In June, July and August, gallery is open daily from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: For The Niche Gallery or Art Allies: 330-5176, Facebook, www.artallies.org or email TheNicheGallery@yahoo.com. The Comfort Quilt Project: greentreefiberarts.com
Niche is a small gallery, about 400 square feet, and it’s tucked behind the Hungry Spot Cafe, so visitors must enter the Collamer Building to see it.
Exposure for artists
Forty artists, including Rivers, have shown their paintings, photographs, fiber art and jewelry here in the past nine months, and many of the artists are her friends that she exhibited with at the Broadway Arts Center.
With other artists, Rivers helped run the Broadway Arts Center, which closed in May after six years in downtown Albany’s Arcade Center.
Schenectady photographer Bradford Smith, painter and photographer Kathe Kokolias and Schodack painter Doug Levey, Matt Chinian, John Bailey, Don Cooper, Frances Gaffney, Gwen Stander and the late Marilyn Ramsdale are just a few of the artists.
The Foal Project by Lisa Miller, large-scale color photos of mares connecting with their foals just after birth, was on exhibit during the summer, and several images still hang in the gallery.
Greentree Fiber Arts, Rivers’ own colorful artwork, is always on view.
For more than 10 years, Rivers has been making quilts for children who are cancer patients.
She is also the founder of Art Allies, a Saratoga Springs foundation that exhibits local artwork in the offices of doctors and businesses to help charities.
Rivers, a native of the Bronx, lives with her husband, Bob, in Saratoga Springs. They moved to Saratoga from Ravena in 2011.
Q: How much money has the gallery contributed to charity?
A: The Art Allies foundation has donated $500 to childhood-cancer related causes. It’s actually called Candlelighters. It’s a group that helps families dealing with children with cancer. Over $800 was raised for The Foal Project. We also gave $250 to The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. We also gave $250 to Saratoga Arts.
Q: Who chooses the charity, and what percentage of an art sale goes to charity?
A: The charities have been my choice. It’s 50/25/25. Fifty percent to the artist, 25 to the charity and 25 to the gallery.
Q: What else happens in the gallery?
A: It’s a meet-up space for groups near and dear to my heart. We’ve been talking about having a demonstration of reverse painting, painting on glass, by Gwen Stander. It’s kind of a lost art. And we have a young woman, Amanda Ervin, who is combining technology with fabric. She’s going to be talking about her techniques. And I’ll be doing some fiber art demonstrations. And we want to push the salon concept, where you can just come and discuss art concepts or the state of the art community, what can we do to keep going strong.
Q: What can you tell me about “Enchanted”?
A: It will be a group show. Our themes are usually pretty loose. Because artists respond in all different ways, their interpretation is always “magical.” That’s the theme of this show. We will be sending out a call for art. If anybody is interested, they can send an email to TheNicheGallery@yahoo.com.
Q: You run the gallery while working full time?
A: I’m an environmental planner, and I’m working for a firm around the corner, Elan Planning, Design and Landscape Architecture. Prior to that, I worked for FEMA. I love sitting here surrounded by the artwork, I love talking to people when they come in.
When I sell something and I can send a check to the artist, it’s all worth it.
Q: When did you become a fiber artist?
A: I’ve been playing with fabric since before I could talk. My grandfather was in the garment business. I started making quilts for friends and people when I was 14, 15. It’s not something you did in the Bronx, so I’m not sure where that came from. By graduate school, I was doing it and selling it as Greentree Quilts. My grandfather’s last name, Grunbaum [“green tree” in German], was my inspiration. . . . I’ve got a thing for trees. I’ve been making quilts for a long time.
Q: And the quilts for children?
A: The Comfort Quilt Project came about when my best friend’s little boy was diagnosed with cancer. I made him a quilt and wanted to make it as special as possible, with pictures of things he missed, because he spent so much time in the hospital. And I developed a technique of printing photographs on fabric, which thankfully has come a real long way now. I started making quilts for other children. I did a lot of craft fairs, and then I stumbled on the Broadway Arts Center when it was in its infancy.
Q: How many Comfort Quilts have you made?
A: Twenty-five or more.
Q: How does Art Allies work?
A: If a doctor doesn’t want to dedicate the walls forever, we can do these pop-up galleries. So we did a show or two at [Saratoga Springs physician] Dr. Ridha’s. Then we did something with [Saratoga Springs realty office] Keller Williams. This summer, we’ll probably go back to different places. We have a [Saratoga Springs doctor] Dr. Matthias Solga who wants a gallery in his office. People can contact us and we’ll do pop-up shows, and they choose the charity to benefit, and we’ll curate the shows.
Q: What do people like about The Foal Project?
A: It’s stunning, it’s compelling. Just the story behind it. This project was done two years ago, so many of these babies are now up and running. I don’t know how much she’s (artist Lisa Miller) raised but it’s many thousands of dollars for equine-assisted therapies.
Q: You have a studio in your home. What’s it’s like?
A: It’s full of fabric. It’s shelves and shelves of fabric. And I have this wonderful rack of all the beautiful threads.
Q: When you do make art?
A: Early morning, before I go to my job. At night, on weekends.
Q: Who runs the gallery when you’re at work?
A: Kathe [Kokolias], Amanda [Ervin] and Gwen [Stander] help keep the gallery open and running. Also, Kathy Ligouri helps out, too. And then I have three interns in the summer.
Q: How would you describe the gallery’s atmosphere?
A: It’s just a wonderful, welcoming space. People don’t have to feel intimidated. We’re always looking for artists. We’re always looking for charities that want to be supported, that will work with us.