Columbia’s art scene is creating a big splash at home and in the big, neighboring city as West 7th. Co. gallery kicks off a partnership with York & Friends of Nashville for a special gallery crossover exhibition.
The new “Galleries Supporting Galleries” exhibit debuts Thursday at the downtown Columbia gallery, just in time for the upcoming First Fridays later this week, and will run through June 20. The exhibit is not only a twist on the typical pop-up gallery concept, but more like a “two-for-one” where visitors have the opportunity to experience both galleries at once.
West 7th Co. founders Kim Hayes and Joel Friddell said the crossover event was first considered after a mutual friend introduced them to York & Friends owner and artist Ronald M. York, who has operated the Nashville gallery for more than a decade. York also recently became a Columbia resident.
“Ron is a vintage photography nut, collects vintage photography, prints, Daguerre types, and so he loved our collection,” Hayes said. “He was a fan immediately.”
York said the exhibit will captivate spectators.
“The black and white vintage photos and the stories behind them are a treasure of Americana that I found completely captivating,” York said. “After talking with co-owner Kim Hayes, I knew that there was a kinship with someone who truly appreciated art as well as the shared experience of being a gallery owner during this difficult year.”
Galleries Supporting Galleries is also one of the first major art exhibitions West 7th Co. will debut after a troublesome 2020, in which many galleries were forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to being the owner and curator, York is also one of the exhibit’s featured artists, whose paintings are inspired by vintage postal stamps. As a recording artist, York will also have multiple CDs for sale at the gallery.
The exhibit also includes works by seven regional artists whose styles range from abstract to acrylic, contemporary landscape and portraits. These are artists typically featured at the Nashville York & Friends gallery, located at 644 Iris Drive in Nashville.
Several photographs selected from West 7th Co.’s vast Orman Collection will also be on display. The original Orman Collection contains thousands of historic Columbia photographs, dating from the 1870s through the 1970s, which have been carefully restored.
Partnership extends beyond borders
The collaboration, they said, will be a great opportunity to experience what both galleries have to offer, as well as share them with a wider audience. Between the paintings and vintage photographs, the Galleries Supporting Galleries exhibit showcases a unique contrast of color and black-and-white artforms.
“These artists are all regional, and what we are showing are Alabama and Tennessee painters,” Hayes said. “We planned it so it would hit two of our First Fridays events, so it will be open this week and in June, trying to get more people in to see it while it was here.”
In addition to what is featured at West 7th Co., York & Friends will have many of the Columbia gallery’s photographs on display at its Nashville location during the Galleries Supporting Galleries run.
West 7th Co. is also planning a celebration showcase event from 4-7 p.m. May 22, which will include food, wine and other refreshments for guests.
“It’s a great opportunity to provide a different experience for Columbia, and we also want to show in Nashville,” Friddell said. “We really want to be able to show in different areas so people get a chance to see the scope of photos that we have.”
Friddell added that part of the joy in running an art gallery is meeting visitors who aren’t necessarily from the area, gauging their reactions to the photographs and how each one tells its own unique story, while representing a key piece of vintage Americana.
“Most of our traffic in the last year has been people visiting Columbia, trying to get out and away from places like Knoxville or Nashville, and just be normal,” he said. “We had an art collector from Texas come in the other day and was looking at pictures, and before Kim finished telling him what we do he said, ‘This is Americana, and this is amazing.'”
Columbia an art town
All art pieces featured at Galleries Supporting Galleries will also be for sale, offered at a range of prices starting at $60.
“It was important for us to have art at all ranges of price, starting at $60, and then they go up,” Hayes said. “Everything is for sale, and we would love to sell some of these things. We need to let Ron know that Columbia is an art town, that people will buy art.”
For locals, Hayes said the exhibit will be another chance to introduce Columbia residents to new art, and will hopefully continue the city’s efforts in curating Muletown’s ever-expanding arts scene.
“We’re trying to expose Columbia to more art,” Hayes said. “Is Columbia ready for something like this, or will they purchase art? I don’t know, but I know they will enjoy it.”
West 7th Co.’s business hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, or to view photos from the gallery’s Orman Collection, visit www.w7thco.com.
For more information on York & Friends, visit www.yorkandfriends.com.