By James Carsey—
On any given day we make small talk with strangers. It’s usually inconsequential and helps us pass time, fill voids of silence, and show politeness in social situations. On rare occasions, the conversation alters the future. That’s what happened with Jane Kang Lawrence, an art teacher commuting from Tarrytown to New York City on a Metro North train two years ago. She struck up a conversation with a man, whose wife, it turned out, also happened to be an art teacher.
Lawrence eventually met the man’s wife, Monica Carrier, and they quickly became friends. The women have a lot in common. They are both New York City transplants. Carrier teaches art at Hackley and Lawrence teaches art at a Manhattan international high school. They both have 8-year-old daughters. They both recognized the need for more art in their community. Soon after their friendship blossomed, the art gallery idea grew, and the two became business partners and formed Peep Space, a contemporary art gallery in Tarrytown.
Fast forward to March 2020. Just as Carrier and Lawrence were moving into the newly leased space and starting construction, the pandemic began changing the modern world. Both women admitted to having reservations about the endeavor and wondered how the virus would impact their new business. “We used the gallery construction to work through all the uncertainty of things,” Lawrence said, referring to the dark cloud of the pandemic that had descended on everyday life.
Carrier and Lawrence pushed through the uncertainty together. In June 2020, the duo opened Peep Space on 92 Central Avenue. Bringing contemporary art to a small, suburban community during these unprecedented times is a feat in itself. But the two artists also see it as a healing gesture that brings people together and allows them to escape the surrounding chaos for a few minutes. Carrier says they have received a warm welcome from the community. “Local folks are walking in and buying pieces from us. It feels good when you see them excited about the art,” Carrier said, adding that many are first time art buyers.
Besides benefiting the community with thought-provoking art installations, Peep Space also serves the local artist community with its unique gallery philosophy. Peep Space is artist run, which means it is directed and curated by artists. Generally, artist-run spaces are more experimental and do not have administrative constraints normally found at public art centers, museums, and commercial galleries.
According to Carrier, Peep Space does not charge artists a fee to submit their work, which helps artists gain more exposure without having to spend money to do so. Depending on the gallery or art space, submission fees can be quite costly for artists.
Carrier and Lawrence practice a hands-off approach when it comes to their curators. “Just run with it,” Carrier said. Based on the current show, it appears that they listened to her guidance. Spending a few minutes listening to Jeff Dietz, a guest curator and artist, talk about his new exhibit, “The Family Of,” provides a deep insight into his life and family connections. “We all have family, either biological or the ones we create ourselves,” Dietz observes. “How do they fit into who we are?” he asks a few masked Peep Space patrons as he guides them through the exhibit.
The theme of the show, which opened January 15th, is “the photographic interpretation of family.” Once the open call went out, submissions poured in from emerging and established artists. According to Dietz, the selection process was the hardest part of the show. Dietz painstakingly narrowed the submissions down from over 250 photographs to 50. Common themes run through the photographs in the most nonlinear of ways. Part of the experience comes from finding and analyzing the common thread between the photographs.
In addition to “The Family, Of,” patrons can browse a flat file of works from previous shows and purchase them during regular gallery hours.
Anyone looking for a socially distant art experience without traveling into New York City should visit Peep Space. Leave your preconceived notions and art sensibilities at home and visit this local contemporary art space. it’s well worth it.
If You Go:
92 Central Ave. Tarrytown, NY 10591
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