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After Chas Carron separated from his wife last year, he bought a town house at the corner of Arlington Ridge and South Glebe Roads in Arlington. He didn’t know quite what was going to happen next, and he definitely didn’t know it would happen right there above his wall-to-wall carpeting. “When I bought the town house, my friends would come over,” he recalls, “and several said what a great gallery this would make. High ceilings, good light…it’s so reminiscent of the little galleries in New York.”
Soon Carron contacted everyone he knew who was even remotely involved in the arts: He’d decided to set up a home-grown art gallery. “My plan…was to make it a venue for local artists, like a public exhibit,” he says. “It’s my contribution to the arts. I have the ability to do that. This is my home; it doesn’t matter if I don’t sell one painting ever. It’s not like a storefront gallery paying $5,000 to $10,000 a month. They have to sell well-known artists just to cover their overhead.” Those constraints, Carron says, make for few venues in the Washington metro area for undiscovered artists.
So after Carron announced the opening of the Arlington Ridge Gallery, you would expect that artists would jump at the chance to show their works there. Not so: When Carron set out to find artists, he found that no one wanted to take the risk of displaying his or her work in an unknown place. “All the artists I contacted seemed to be very interested but were reluctant to be the first,” he says. “People would make tentative plans and then stop.” Carron says he set dates for show openings with a local cartoonist, a photographer, and then a sculptor. All three pulled out before he could print the invitations for their openings.
“I think some of these artists who had never shown before liked the idea of no structure,” Carron says, before explaining that they balked at the practicalities of designing invitation postcards or contributing to a mailing list.
Between July 1999 and March 2000, Carron sought in vain for an artist who would exhibit in his house/gallery. “Nobody local would do it,” he says. “Finally, I contacted a friend who was from Philadelphia, and she began networking and found artists in New Hampshire, Toronto, and even the Ukraine for my first show.”
Later, he met local curator and artist Jeanne Chitty, whose decoupage plates now grace Arlington Ridge’s second floor. Chitty was able to persuade several artistsincluding some from the D.C. areato join her. She also suggested that Carron use his garage to display “Hydro-Motive: Fountains Marrying Nature and Machine,” an exhibition of kinetic water-and-automobile-part sculptures created by local artist Mark Pruett.
“I’d like to have an opening at least six times a year, have a different exhibit. It’s fun taking things down, installing new things, constantly having different art here,” Carron says. And he gets to enjoy a benefit you and I, sadly, cannot: “When there aren’t patrons here, I get to live in an art gallery.” Robin Bingham
“Hydro-Motive” is on view at the Arlington Ridge Gallery, 3068 South Glebe Road, Arlington, through Dec. 31, by appointment only. For information call (703) 838-0321.