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440 Gallery Stimulates the Art Conversation

By Kelly Church

Brooklyn, NY is home to many art galleries, both old and new, with the intention of selling art to customers. The 440 Gallery is open with a broader goal in mind: to "facilitate a lively exchange, both within the neighborhood, and the artistic community at large." According to Nancy Lunsford, a co-founder of the 440 Gallery, the artist-run space wants to celebrate the art experience not only with loyal patrons and collectors but with the curious observer as well.

"It has always been our policy to welcome visitors to the gallery not only as potential clients but as participants in an artistic experience," says Lunsford. "Some people like to just look at the art undisturbed and we respect that- after all, the viewer's gaze completes and expands the artist's expression."

However, Lunsford says that when patrons come to view the art on display, they often have questions and the artists on duty are willing and able to engage in an open discussion, without inhibiting the viewer's experience.

"Many patrons and passers by ask questions about technique, subject matter or inspiration and we welcome curious and thoughtful discussion," Lunsford says. "Our artists members are usually on hand, tending the gallery. It is our policy to illuminate when we can, but primarily to respect each viewer's take on the work. We are as intrigued by a visitor's impression as they are by the work itself."

Lunsford and her business partner, Shanee Epstein, founded the 440 Gallery together ten years ago. Both are artists who exhibit and retail their work within the gallery walls. Now, the gallery has twelve more artists who contribute to exhibits that range from "painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, assemblage and installation." Lunsford and Epstein also welcome outside artists and curators for unique shows.

"We regularly schedule artists or curators talks or lectures, which attracts art lovers and artists alike," Lunsford says. "We host two juried shows or more a year that feature the work of artists outside our membership. This has proved to be a wonderful expansion of the gallery as we now receive applicants from all over the country and it has been a fertile source for artists we will invite to join the gallery as permanent members."

When it comes to inviting new members to the gallery, Lunsford says they seek artists with "a strong professional practice- and we try to keep a balance of styles and techniques." Additionally, she says the 440 Gallery tries to keep a mix of men and women with a diverse set of backgrounds.

"This is not so much for political correctness as it is for our own stimulation and wellbeing," Lunsford says.

With such a small group of artists and being an entirely artist-run gallery, 440 Gallery relies on the artists for tasks such as public relations, graphic design, social media, installations for shows and even housekeeping tasks such as sweeping the floors. Lunsford says that because of this, it's essential that they find artists who work well with their peers, a quality artists are thought to not have. Lunsford disagrees and her gallery is proof of it.

"Artists sometimes have an unfair reputation as temperamental and narcissistic and although those personalities exist, my guess is that they exist in the same proportion in almost any business," says Lunsford. "Older artists bring professional stability and younger artists bring a fresh energy and new technical skills."

The 440 Gallery's variety of artists produces exhibits with a lively feel. While they hope for patrons to visit and leave with a new art purchase, they encourage everyone to see the art firsthand and develop their own take on the exhibits.

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