Perry Automobile dealership, Senator Jeffords’ office, private residence, performance space, and quietly vacant landmark, the iconic brick building at 58 State St. in Montpelier has had an eclectic past. Now, just over a century old, it is about to begin a new chapter. On Friday, The Garage leaps into its new era with a public reception and grand opening 5 to 8 p.m.
Renovated, refreshed and redesigned inside, the historic structure is opening as a dynamic creative space, The Garage Cultural Center. In fact, the building is becoming home to two endeavors — the airy Cultural Center on the second floor and a new veterinary hospital on the first, the combined project of Jodi Kelly and veterinarian Dr. Dan Kelly.
The Garage Cultural Center’s inaugural exhibition, “UNbound! Four Women Sculptors Let Loose,” features large-scale sculpture and performance art by four women artists: Hasso Ewing, Sande French-Stockwell, Amber Geneva and SXC. Every weekend in May, “UNbound!” has public events including demonstrations and participatory workshops and a panel discussion of “Art that Matters in Vermont.”
The Garage’s new life is the product of the vision, passions, and careers of Dr. Dan and Jodi Kelly, who live in Bradford, but have long been eyeing greater involvement in Montpelier. Along with Dr. Kelly’s busy veterinary practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire, he has many central Vermont veterinary patients. Jodi, a longtime photographer who has also specialized in food photography, has long wanted a place to collaborate with other artists, showcase work of fellow artists, and work on her own creative projects.
As their children are now adults, Jodi Kelly explained, the time was right to take on a new project. As they got serious about Montpelier, The Garage beckoned. Not only did they love its history and design, it offered a unique opportunity for both of their interests.
“It’s quirky, because we have a veterinary hospital on one floor and an arts center on the other, but its quirkiness fits Montpelier,” Jodi Kelly said.
The Kellys entered into a long-term lease of the property and have extensively renovated it for its two uses.
For the Cultural Center on the second floor, renovations included opening the space, installing new level floors, gallery lighting, and a spectacular high-end kitchen for culinary events, food photography and more. With its high ceilings, airiness, views of the river, and open floor plan, it’s a lovely and versatile space.
Their vision is that the Cultural Center, “will host a platform for an exchange between multidisciplinary artistic expression, and a venue for a variety of creative and cultural experiences. Our mission is to educate, inspire, create, and stimulate the community in all forms of art, food, lifestyle and culture,” explained Jodi Kelly.
She noted that taking the building into a new era is especially fitting given its creative past. In the 1980s, The Garage served as an arts venue with plays, poetry readings, performances and exhibitions. At that time, though, the main floor provided the space.
The Kellys see the Cultural Center as an opportunity for diverse uses, that is not narrowly defined. As the Farmers Market opens, they see tie-ins with food vendors and culinary experiences. The Garage Cultural Center will organize and host some events, but renting the space is also a main component of the project. With the 1,500-square-foot exhibit hall and a 15-person conference room, they can accommodate events from fashion shows to photo shoots to meetings.
The exuberant opening exhibition, “UNbound! Four Women Sculptors Let Loose” is especially fitting for the new energy of The Garage.
Sculptors Ewing, French-Stockwell, and Geneva came together through a year long intensive critical arts study program with Art Matters, led by Dr. Siouxsie Cooper, who works under name SXC.
“It is titled ‘Unbound!’ Because all of us are bursting out of whatever cocoons we were in and all of our work has gotten so much more profound and exciting than it was before we started working with Siouxsie,” said French-Stockwell.
The four artists bring a range of their new large-scale sculpture to the exhibition. All four have been working in an all-weather type of plaster, Pal Tiya Premium, well suited for large works and also for either indoor or outdoor exhibition. The artists will be discussing their work and process in workshops on Saturday. A performance piece by SXC will be presented at Friday’s opening.
The garage will present complementary events, discussions and workshops, open to the public. For information, go online to https://garageartsvt.com.