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Williamsburg Gallery Association
The Gallery Bash - March 8th 2003
By William Powhida

How can Williamsburg possibly compete with the hundred plus galleries in Chelsea for the attention of the art world? Well, you could throw a really big party. On Saturday March 8th, the Williamsburg Gallery Association announces its presence with an inaugural after-Armory show Gallery Bash. All 26 member galleries will be open until midnight with an after party at the Northside Bank, 33 Grand St., in hopes of luring Armory show goers across the East River. The WGA was formed last year to promote a more stable image to the international art community, according to WGA president, Edward Winkleman, co-director of Plus Ultra.

Galleries in the burg have buzz, a Norwegian writer has been asking me questions about its emerging status as alternative to Chelsea, but has anyone seen an advertisement for a Williamsburg based solo show in Art and America? The costs for taking out ads have been beyond the reach of the majority of the galleries. Buying ad space as a gallery bloc allows the WGA to raise its visibility. As Winkleman puts it "there is only one real reason the galleries have formed the association: to increase of the numbers of people who come to see our exhibits. We plan to work toward that through events, advertising. . ."

Promoting stability among the WGA members seems to be one goal the galleries could agree upon, although this doesn't mean galleries have to lose their unique character. Winkleman says " We want people who come to Williamsburg to be confident that the galleries they want to visit are going to be open when they say they are. There's a difference between being "anti-professional" . . .and frustrating people who've made a special effort to come see this great space they've heard about only to find the doors locked." Apparently, the idea for a gallery association has kicked around for years, but there wasn't any consensus on what the mission would be. By limiting themselves to a primary goal of creating a stable and visible gallery district, the diverse members were able to come together. Winkleman confesses " The miracle of the association is that we've been able to agree on a few core goals and always revert back to those as guideposts whenever we get sidetracked."

It appears that Rebecca Smith's persistence and efforts have paid off. The owner of Bellwether was a driving force behind the WGA, according to Winkleman, although
there are some natural and man-made hurdles facing the big party. The L train will be running in stages on the night of the Armory making it a prohibitive choice, although I'm sure most people who attend the Armory show can afford a cab. On this front Winkleman diplomatically states " In general we make an effort to alert all members to issues, and then let them decide how to respond as individual businesses." Ron Segev of Star 67 suggested the association charter a shuttle bus for the evening, not a bad idea.

The weather has also been ridiculously awful for the last month, making gallery-going rather painful. It has slowed foot traffic noticeably, but Winkleman hopes the WGA's efforts can help bring people out " We want more traffic. We all work way too hard to be satisfied with such low turnout."

Having curated a show and watched all of ten people brave the cold and rain for a five-minute look around on a Sunday can be dispiriting, but the weather has been brutal. Fortunately, it has been improving and won't keep people off the streets Saturday night. It'll take a little more than a slow train and some cold wind to keep me away from what sounds like a big around the world party. Wear something warm, put on some comfortable shoes, come out on the 8th, and party Williamsburg style with art.

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