Artists Co-op Debuts at LaMantia Gallery

The Observer, Page 2
March 24, 2011, Lisa Mancuso

It was a match made in heaven: a group of artists looking for gallery space and a gallery looking to regularly showcase the talents of local artists. And so, The Firefly Artists cooperative was born. Its new home is LaMantia Gallery located at 127 Main Street in Northport Village.

Eight talented local artists, most from Northport, East Northport and surrounding communities, make up the cooperative They are: Kate Gilmore, jewelry designer; Cathy Nichols, mixed media and encaustic painter, James Johansen, painter; Jennifer Stearns Lau, photographer; Holli Gersh, painter, Justin Mayer, ceramicist, sculptor and painter; Joel Rodgers, painter and Marianne Moreno, painter.

Kate Gilmore, one of the group's principals along with Cathy Nichols, said the idea for The Firefly Artists came about when she and Ms. Nichols were talking one day about the two of them renting gallery space to showcase their work. After they realized it would make better financial sense to work with more artists so they could split the cost of rent, they invited eight artists they knew to join the cooperative. Once all the artists were on board, they started looking for gallery space, but they didn't' have to go too far.

"Northport is a small town. We heard LaMantia was looking to rent out some of their space. They wanted to give local artists the opportunity," said Ms. Gilmore. After speaking with co-owner James LaMantia, they knew they found a home for their new project. "We felt it was such a good match."




Gallery co-owner Robert Bluver agrees. "When we originally opened 21 years ago, we had an art cooperative and we always enjoyed doing it. We always support local artists," he said. But over the years, the co-op left and the gallery's internet business grew to the point where although they were interested in having another artists' group join the gallery, they knew they would not be able to manage the day-to-day business end of such a venture. But when Ms. Nichols and Ms. Gilmore approached them about bringing the artists and managing the business, they quickly agreed to the arrangement.

The Firefly Artists are ensconced in the left-hand side of LaMantia Gallery, occupying one of the store's large front windows and about 300 square feet of gallery space where each artist's work is grouped and showcased on the walls and shelves. From handmade jewelry to black and white photography to vibrant paintings, prints and sculptures, the work of the Firefly Artists are a wonderful mix that shows off the talents of each artist. "They have a great space and we have Cathy Nichols who will manage the artists, which will be a great help. It's important to us to create a local art scene and this is a great way to do it," said Mr. Bluver.

During its business hours, at least one of the artists will always be in the gallery to answer questions, help customers with purchases and perhaps work on their art. As Ms. Gilmore said, they are hoping the Firefly Artists gallery will become a community gathering space "where people can come and see beautiful art and actually meet the artists that are creating that work."

The Firefly Artists cooperative gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 to 4 p.m. There will be a grand opening reception Saturday, May 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. For more information, call 631-974-2508 or visit them on Facebook.