Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

March 14, 2011

The heart of local art

The Market Street Art Center is a Lockport gem

By Phil Dzikiy
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

LOCKPORT — “Can regular people come in here?”

That was the question posed to Sally Bisher by a man who visited the Market Street Art Center not long ago. Bisher, assistant executive director at the center, wrote in an e-mail to the Union-Sun & Journal that the question “almost made me cry.”

Yes, “regular” people can visit the Market Street Art Center. Anyone can visit the Market Street Art Center. And more people probably should.

Now, the first time I walked into the center, I didn’t know what to think, either. I anonymously walked down the hall, peeking into various art-filled rooms along the way. I almost felt like I was intruding.

I soon found out that I wasn’t. Far from it. But could this really be? A place in Lockport where you can just hop in and out of artists’ studios, browse the artwork, chat up the artists and buy art, at your own leisure? Every day?

Bisher believes many people are intimidated by art spaces. Perhaps that unnamed visitor thought he should have an expansive knowledge of art before walking through. We know this doesn’t have to be the case, of course, but that perception does exist.

“People say, ‘I don’t know anything about art.’ ” Bisher says. “You don’t have to know anything about art.”

Once you get in the center, though, you’ll find the worries of stuffiness disappear. There are three galleries in the building, but the majority of the space is dominated by artists’ studios. Most of the studios are usually open. Step inside, take a look at the work. If you like something enough — and if it’s got a listed price — take it off the wall, bring it downstairs, buy it and bring it home. It’s really that easy.

The center exists for the artists, as well as the people, and those artists can often be found in their studios, working on projects. Now, you don’t have to disturb them. But few artists mind discussing their work.

There’s a real sense of community at the center — on my most recent visit, I chatted with noted Lockport painter Joseph Whalen (who has a permanent rotating exhibit at the center) — but no one’s forcing you to talk to anyone. The vibe is laid-back, and really, it’s a good starting point for people who want to get into art.

Currently, you’ve got a few days left to see Andy Russell’s “Extended Realism” solo exhibition, which ends Tuesday. The name of the exhibit suits Russell’s body of work — the West Seneca artist paints scenes that may only appear in his dreams, or some other dazzling alternate reality.

In the upstairs gallery, something completely different: “Observations — A Photography Exhibition.” That exhibit, which features the photography of more than 25 artists, ends later this week.

Coming soon to the center are the DeSales student art exhibition and “Landscape: Exploration and Expression,” an exhibition featuring the Niagara Frontier Plein Air Painters.

If those don’t catch your interest, perhaps the studio art will. And a few new exhibits will be on the way soon enough.

The next time you find yourself looking for something to do in the middle of the day, drive down to Market Street. Take a look at some local art. It may be your first visit, but it probably won’t be your last.