Nave Gallery Annex announces closing, following departure of Out of the Blue

Crowds pass through the Nave Gallery Annex near Davis Square, Somerville, at the May opening exhibit of the #RESIST show. (Photo: Allison Rabin via Facebook)

The second art gallery closing in two months was announced Thursday by the Nave Gallery Annex just outside Somerville’s Davis Square, following the December closing of Out of the Blue Art Gallery Too in Cambridge’s Central Square.

The Nave Gallery Annex, at 53 Chester St., will close at the end of the month, said Susan Berstler, director of the Nave Galleries. The original location at 155 Powder House Blvd., near Teele Square in West Somerville, will remain.

Art ridiculing President Donald Trump is displayed at the #RESIST show at the Nave Gallery Annex. (Photo: Marc Levy)

“We are grateful to our landlord, Michael Ahern, for supporting the Nave throughout the years and generously providing the space to us at a reduced rate. However, the constant struggle as an all-volunteer organization to program the space, envision ways for a sustainable infrastructure and figure out how to meet the monthly rent on the gallery has become an impediment to us growing as an arts organization,” Berstler said in a letter to the community.

The first floor of Ahern’s property was “an unexpected opportunity” in 2013 that Nave couldn’t resist. “Our heads said that we would probably only be there for six months. Our hearts wished for a least a year,” Berstler said. “Jan. 25 will mark our five-year anniversary.”

The Annex was also intended originally as just a special projects space, but by the end had hosted 51 exhibitions and other performances, artists talks, fundraisers and – since the inauguration of Donald Trump as president – several political action events.

Things had slowed over the past year while use of the space was reassessed, she said. The closing allows for a reorganization, creation of a formal board, filing for nonprofit status, a focus on programming the Nave Gallery for the rest of the year and continuing “to advocate for accessible visual arts space in Somerville.”

Financial pressure on artists and arts organizations has been a growing issue in Cambridge and Somerville for years.

The Out of the Blue Art Gallery Too is packed up Dec. 15 at the end of its run in Central Square. (Photo: Dug McCormack via Facebook)

The nonprofit Out of the Blue closed Dec. 1 after 21 years in the area, like the Annex unable to sustain even reduced rents in an overheated real estate market.

It was the Cambridge gallery’s second such closing; it opened at 106 Prospect St. between Central and Inman squares before a rent increase forced it out in June 2014. The gallery landed at the former Blockbuster space at 541 Massachusetts Ave. with a lower than usual lease for the prime real estate. “We can’t afford this, but he’s given us a chance,” Tipton said at the time, referring to Landlord 3MJ Realty and its principal, Morris Naggar.

The rent, however, rose over time in Central Square, and the gallery could not keep up.

Gallery founder Tom Tipton said in October that Out of the Blue was exploring new spaces in Cambridge and Somerville, but this week gallery business manager Parama Chattopadhyay  reported progress on negotiations are underway in Malden.

The same month Out of the Blue announced its closing, Cambridge arts officials revealed the results of a study showing arts and culture as a $175 million industry for the city, supporting the equivalent of 6,129 full-time jobs annually.

Yet the City Council has stumbled in concrete efforts to support the arts, and the municipal Cambridge Arts office was most recently given $785,680 in annual budgeting.

“I was shocked at how low the arts spending is in a city that used to be, but no longer is, a world capital for the arts,” said Nadeem Mazen, who emphasized arts leadership in two terms on the City Council starting in 2014, commenting at the time of the report’s release. “And when I saw this data, I realized [there’s] an enormous amount of dynamism in our arts economy … just not a proportional government interest in fostering it.”

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