November 16, 2023, 2:15 p.m. • Last updated: November 16, 2023, 2:15 p.m
Marvin Espy (submitted)
Marvin Espy (submitted)
Marvin Espy at work (submitted)
Artist Marvin Espy opens his own gallery on State Street in New London, and this is how it all began:
Espy traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to pick up his art, which was featured in an exhibition there. His show “Context” was named “Best of the Best Solo Exhibition” by Carlotte Magazine. (He formerly lived in Charlotte before moving to New London in January 2021 after his wife Tracy Espy became president of Mitchell College.)
“On the same trip, I had work from two other exhibitions that were not on view due to COVID. … They were hanging right at the beginning of the year, but were then put into storage. So I brought all the work back with me with no room for storage,” he said.
Espy has a studio in the Dewart Building on State Street, so he asked owner Mel Foti if there might be storage space in the same building he could use. Foti said he would walk Espy through the site to show him what was available.
When Espy saw the space that has now become his gallery, he recalled, “I managed to keep a poker face and thought, ‘This must be my gallery.'”
The site was divided into several small offices for a former tenant. Any of these rooms would serve perfectly as an intimate gallery space.
“Because (the Dewart Building site) has four different rooms, I can present a different story in each room,” said Espy, whose art is broad in style and subject matter.
“Maybe it’s ego, but I think I’m different from a lot of other artists in some ways. I admire some of my friends who paint forest scenes and paint beautiful forest scenes, but that’s exactly what they do. (As an artist) I love oil, I love acrylic, I love watercolors, I like figurative work, I love cars, I love cities. So my work covers all genres. I think it’s a bit unique to me that someone who paints cities also paints people and also paints watercolors (etc.).”
When he first walked through the place, Espy said he already had a suggestion written down in his head. He said he knows businesses on upper State Street are trying to bring more commerce to the area.
“This corridor has so much potential to be a bright spot in New London in addition to Bank Street,” he said.
He said, “It’s just magical.” So I really want to help bring great commerce and culture back to this corridor.”
As for Espy’s artistic background, he studied with the late Henry Koerner at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where he was a 1985 graduate. He worked as a fashion illustrator for three years until photography replaced illustration in this world. Espy eventually worked in business development and then marketing consulting. During these 27 years he scribbled and painted, but did not pursue art seriously.
When he was laid off as one of about 900 employees at a workforce development program at the University of Phoenix, his wife encouraged him to take some time to relax, paint and think about what he wanted to do next. She ended up showing some of his ballpoint pen sketches to people at the Shane Gallery in Charlotte. They were so impressed that they gave him three months to create paintings for a solo exhibition.
That was the beginning of his re-entry into the art world. Espy’s exhibitions in New London included “Patina,” focusing on his city-inspired paintings, at Thames River Gallery in 2021 and another solo exhibition titled “context NL” at Hygienic this fall.
After the official opening of the Marvin Espy Gallery of Fine Art on Friday, Espy isn’t sure what the hours will be. He thought he would sit in the gallery for about a week and count how many people walked by. Based on this research, he will set a schedule for the gallery. It could be that these are mainly weekend hours.
He said he was also developing “a great partnership” with the Guard. Espy believes there is a crossover between the Garde audience and people interested in buying art. If the Guard hosts a show at 8 p.m. on a given night, Espy plans to hold a wine reception in the gallery at 6:30 p.m.
Espy has also encouraged organizations to hold meetings at the gallery.
“It’s really important to me to have people in this space, so I invited the New London Arts Council to hold some of their team and committee meetings here. I invite different groups to consider this as a meeting place,” he said.
He is also creating a small space in one of the gallery spaces that could serve as a conference center.
For the gallery’s first year, art will consist exclusively of Espy’s work. That’s partly because of how much art he has that hasn’t yet been seen in public. Another reason, he said, is that he can control the visitor experience until the gallery becomes firmly established.
“So for the first year it will only be mine. If I feel like I have some legs under me, I would like to invite another artist to perform,” Espy said.
When you go
What: The Marvin Espy Gallery of Fine Art
Where: 308 State St., New London
Where: Opens Friday at 7 p.m
Future opening times: To be determined