Area 61's long-awaited move was longer awaited than expected, but gallery director Keeli Crewe says everything has finally fallen into place for this weekend's grand reopening.
"We are thrilled about our new location in the beautifully remodeled Maclellan Building, where we can call the vibrant West Village and historic Tivoli Theatre our neighbors," she says.
Founded in April of 2009, Area 61 took its name from its original location at 61 E. Main St. in Chattanooga's Southside district. Its earliest incarnation primarily featured the woodwork and handcrafted furniture of its two founding craftsmen, David Crewe and Rudd Montgomery.
Over time, the gallery expanded its focus to include the work of other professional artists and crafters from the Chattanooga area, eventually growing to showcase works by more than 20 professional local artists representing a wide range of mediums, including jewelry, sculpture, photography and paintings.
Keeli Crewe says 20 artists have made the move to the new location at 721 Broad St., and her complete focus is on giving local artists a place to showcase their work.
"My main goal is to sell local art," she says. "This is a commercial gallery for local artists."
She has found over the years, though, that her customers usually come from out of town. In the gallery's eight years on the Southside, consistently 80% of sales were made to visitors looking to take home a meaningful souvenir of their time in Chattanooga.
IF YOU GO
* What: Area 61 Gallery's grand reopening
* When: Friday, Nov. 22-Sunday, Nov. 24
* Schedule: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, reception for artists to debut their work; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, festivities include sculpting demonstration by Bob Fazio and featured works by Allen Hampton; noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Art for Brunch, with complimentary bubbly for browsing
* Regular hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, with open houses 5:30-8:30 p.m. every first Friday; by appointment Sunday-Monday
* Where: Maclellan Building, 721 Broad St., Suite 100
* Phone: 423-648-9367
* Online: www.area61gallery.com
But she wasn't getting the foot traffic she needed. Although the district has expanded its culinary options and evening entertainment venues, daytime foot traffic into the gallery had steadily waned.
"We had great neighbors," she says. "We were in an awesome community, but I was lucky to have 20 people walk through."
One problem was that people going to dinner or to see a concert didn't necessarily want to tote around a piece of art. Crewe, who has worked as a corporate trade show manager and hosted client hospitality events in cities across the nation, wanted to find a place in the central city where Area 61 could draw convention traffic.
"What I noticed is that when people are at conventions, they want to get out and do something after their meetings," Crewe says. "And usually they're on an expense account, so they have a little more disposable income."
The gallery closed in October 2017 on the Southside and was originally set to relocate to the Clemons Building at 730 Chestnut St., a space that would also house the new Bode boutique hotel. But the developers of the property were intent on opening Bode's Nashville location first, she says. When the wait stretched to nine months, it was time to look at nearby properties. They found space in the Maclellan Building, one street over, and signed the lease in March, but it has taken until now to finalize all the legal and creative decisions involved.
Crewe believes the proximity to the Chattanooga Convention Center and several downtown hotels will draw convention guests.
"People who travel for work are more our audience than families that travel to the Tennessee Aquarium," she says.
Crewe tries to augment her visitors' main itinerary with recommendations to local restaurants and attractions.
"They already have a reason for coming here," she says. "They're looking for things to do afterward. ... Hopefully, they'll take home some local art."
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.
Area 61 Gallery artists
David Crewe (co-founder
Janet Campbell Bradley
Rudd Montgomery (co-founder)