Today we’d like to introduce you to John & Gillian Ross.
John & Gillian, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Moving from London, England to New England thirteen years ago, it is kind of ironic that we ‘Brits’ can be found living and working just a stone’s throw from Lexington’s Battle Green, site of the first shot fired leading towards American Independence. We love living here. We only occasionally wear redcoats.
We (John and Gillian) are co-owners of Lexington’s gallery twist, (formerly known as gallery blink,) which opened in 2015 – a unique gallery in a home setting. The vision for a new kind of gallery emerged gradually. Gillian was previously a member of the Depot Square Gallery, which was well-known and loved in Lexington center for many years. Sadly, it closed in 2009.
In addition, she served, and still does, as the Gallery Director at Lexington’s Grace Art Gallery and was on the boards of Lexington Open Studios and the Monotype Guild of New England. This experience allowed her to build a network of artists throughout New England. During all this activity, she found herself increasingly drawn to curate and present art exhibitions with the aim of promoting New England artists. She came to realize that the way a show was hung made quite a difference to the viewing experience.
When the co-operative gallery closed, we began thinking about a different model for showing art. At about that time, rather fortuitously, a house that we had long admired on our walks around the neighborhood came on the market. Located on Massachusetts Avenue, this Victorian house with its bridal staircase and many “well-appointed rooms” offered a viewing experience in its own right. More importantly, the house offered a great setting in which viewers could relax, imagine the artwork in their own home and immerse themselves in the art on display.
John’s background is in investment communications, and while his role is partly related to the business side of running a gallery, he has a great eye and is also involved in the curating and hanging process. Gillian’s background prior to moving to the US is in teaching. Neither of us could have imagined that this is what we’d be doing after ten years of living in Massachusetts!
So together, we are delighted to welcome visitors to gallery twist.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s mostly been pretty smooth, thankfully. Running our own business has been jolly hard work, though – and rather a sharp learning curve, especially as we’ve not worked together before. It’s also been great fun, most of the time! One ‘hiccup’ we’ve recently encountered along the way is the need to change our name. Going forward gallery blink will operate as gallery twist.
The original name came about because the gallery was initially more similar to a pop-up gallery in that we originally had just 3-4 shows a year and were open for a briefer amount of time. Hence our tag-line, “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it”. Our name-change was a challenge (and that’s another story!) but one of our regular patrons suggested gallery twist, which we found to ‘check all the boxes’ as we hunted for a new name. And after all, we are a gallery with a twist.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about gallery twist (formerly gallery blink) – what should we know?
We think a number of aspects of what we do makes gallery twist quite unique. We offer five shows a year, each one lasting about 4 weeks. As we are not open full-time, we look at our shows as ‘events’. One or two of the shows each year are like a series of solo shows, with about 8-10 artists each showing their work in their own dedicated room in the house. We have lots of space here!
The other shows tend to be themed exhibitions and typically have a diverse selection of artwork, with over 250 pieces by 30 or more artists placed throughout the house. In spring, we always hang a printmaking show, “Impressions”. This has become well-known among printmakers and local visitors and has been a great means of introducing more people to the wonderful diversity of printmaking.
New England boasts a rich heritage of printmaking and is home to some of the best printmakers in the country. This is one of our signature shows. In December, we offer our annual Holiday show, “Illumination”. We decorate the house in a festive manner, and set the holiday season rolling! Various other themed shows have been enjoyed too over the years. (See our website for more details). Each and every show brings a completely new selection of work and always introduces at least a few new artists. In this way, we keep things fresh for our many regular visitors.
The way we hang the art also adds to our uniqueness. We have perhaps become best known for offering what many visitors call ‘an art experience’. This is because of the attention we give to each piece, and the extra touches we place around the gallery which encourage visitors to engage with each artwork as they peruse a show. We do our best to make each artist’s work feel at home in its spot in the gallery, and take care that works placed near each other ‘talk’ together nicely!
Displaying art in a home means that in this way visitors can also imagine what it is like to live with great art around them and can envisage what a piece might look like in their own home or workspace. It gives ideas for placement of work too. Of course, as the gallery is in our home, we hope our patrons feel especially welcome and comfortable when they visit.
We offer guided tours of the gallery for groups, artist studio visits, art demos, and anything else that might be of service to our visitors. As we have become more well-known, we have increasingly undertaken in-home or office consultations to chat about the selection and placement of art. We offer artwork on 24 hour trial for those who live locally and want to try before they buy.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
It’s the way we display the work that seems to resonate most with visitors:
-We think it is the sensitive way that we display the art that keeps people coming back for more. These are just a few of the comments or feedback we have had from visitors:
“The extra touches and carefully chosen objects placed around the gallery/house intensify the experience and somehow make the art sing!”
“Seeing the artwork hung ‘in context’ makes the viewing experience so much more meaningful. The work is technically great, but the focus here is so much more on the heart and soul of what the art is about.”
“Always a lively show that encourages interaction with the work. Wit and humor abound.”
“Incredible. This has been a totally immersive experience.”
“I want to thank you for making the art ‘come alive’. I don’t even want to leave.”
- Our offerings are diverse in every way, including the price-point. There is something for every taste and every budget. Our visitors often comment on the excellent value for money they get at the gallery. The majority of our artwork is in the $300 – $3000 range, but we regularly have work for $5000 or more, also less than $300.
- Address: 1963 Massachusetts Avenue,
Lexington MA 02421
- Website: www.gallerytwist.com
- Phone: 781-698-9994
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Laukkanen, Sharon White