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Meet Christine O’Donnell of Beacon Gallery in The South End

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christine O’Donnell.

Christine, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Beacon Gallery is both the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and the product of a “lightbulb moment.” After having lived abroad for 12 years, having had two children along the way, I had the opportunity to think about where I wanted to go professionally upon my return to the United States. Professionally, I had worked as an educator as well as in marketing and advertising. While I always enjoyed my career and remain dedicated to the ideals of education, I always felt like a certain level of zest and passion was missing from my career. Part of it was that I had always wanted to run my own business. Furthermore, the idea of curating art has been a dream of mine for at least twenty years. However, moving every few years, living in Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore had meant that there was never time to get established and even consider such a step. While on a long walk one day, I thought about how starting an art gallery would allow me to share my knowledge and my passion for art, and take my entrepreneurial dreams, and combine it all.

Once I had my idea I immediately got to work and started putting together a business plan. I recruited an amazing Head of Marketing, Rachel Legault, and a fantastic Bookkeeper and Administrator, Jennifer Condensa-Garcia to join my team. I also started seeking out both local and international artists, leveraging contacts from my time abroad as well as those in the US. I’ve started with a roster of six artists, all of whom I’ve selected because of their inspiring art and dedication to their craft. My goal is to both attract current art collectors and to bring more individuals into art collecting.

Today, we have our retail space as well as a full-service website that also features our art for sale. We’ve just opened our show, entitled “First Look – 2018 Artists.” Our opening was on November 2nd and goes until December 15th. I’m extremely proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in the time I’ve spent launching this business. I’ve also learned so much that the education in itself has been worth the effort. It’s also been more fun than anything else I’ve ever done – I really feel like I’m following my dream.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?While it’s easy to imagine that “following one’s dreams” means that everything has been simple, that’s certainly not the case. I’m a married mother of two young children, so even juggling my home and work life has caused struggles.

At one point, before our gallery space at 524B Harrison Ave was ready, the inventory for the gallery was taking over our home. I had framed art stacked all over the dining room, in addition to boxes of my art books. That lack of physical separation between my home and work life is mirrored in the fact that I often find myself working non-stop on the business whenever I have a moment free at home. I make time to focus on my family and put business aside as it’s so easy to get caught up in work. Being able to set my own hours at Beacon Gallery has allowed me to do things like continue to drop my sons (ages 3 ½ and 6) off at school and be there for dinner and bedtime. Still, balance is hard to achieve, particularly in the early days of getting a business off the ground. Having our First Look opening required that I skip my days off and work late into the night which meant missing my usual routine with the children – that was hard. Luckily, I have an incredibly supportive husband, great parents, and in-laws and an au-pair who all help me to make sure the children are well cared for.

However, in general, I feel like the road has been surprisingly smooth, but part of that has just been a mindset rather than reality. We’ve had our share of hiccups as we attempted to open. For example, the floors had to be refinished and in the end, that meant that I wasn’t able to get into the gallery for 10 days just before the opening of our show. Still, putting in a couple of long days we managed to hang the show and everything came out beautiful. It would have been nice to be less rushed, but in the end, I didn’t let it bother me too much. I tried to see the time at home as a gift and be present in the moment, knowing it would all eventually get done. I don’t think that I would have been able to open so quickly had it not been for the indefatigable help I received from so many sources: my marketing director, bookkeeper, and contractor, as well as my parents and husband, have been behind me every step of the way.

Beacon Gallery – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Beacon Gallery strives to enhance access to emerging and established contemporary artists for those in the greater Boston area. We feature local artists as well as those from around the world. We focus mostly on paintings, mixed media, and sculpture. We show both abstract and figurative art. I show artists not only from around the Boston area but also from abroad. I currently have a painter from Paris, I also have work coming in from Italy, and am also importing sculptures from Singapore. I’m hoping to bring something new to the Boston arts scene.

In addition to putting on traditional exhibitions, Beacon Gallery will also be pairing up with nonprofits to do fundraising work. In January we are planning on doing a show focusing on the plight of Syrian refugees in Europe, working with Leslie Meral Schick. Leslie is a Newton native and her work in Greece has been featured on Chronicle and in the Newton Tab. We will be showcasing her photographs as well as artwork by refugees, amongst other items. I came up with this idea and approached Leslie with it because the Syrian refugee crisis is a cause that I have worked for in various capacities in the past, and I feel very strongly that it needs more attention.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me, success can be defined in so many ways. I feel like I have many different separate measures of success: first, am I having fun? If I’m not enjoying myself running the gallery then I’m not going in the right direction and I’ll need to reevaluate how I’m managing my business and my time. Work/life balance is part of that equation for me as well.

Second: am I promoting our artists and getting their names out there? I feel strongly that art needs to be more appreciated in our society. If people are coming in and appreciating the art on the walls, that is certainly a measure of success. I love seeing people come in and engage with a piece of art: to talk with them and try to see the piece of artwork through their eyes is a thrill. And finally, I also measure success by longevity: will I still be around in 5 or 10 years? Unfortunately, most galleries don’t make it over the long term. If I can stand the “test of time”, as I believe I can, and make my mark on the “art scene,” then I will believe I am successful.


  • Most of our artwork is priced in the $500-$5,000, although some small pieces are sold for less.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jeffrey Poole, Lori Mehta

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