263 Gallery, which opened in October in Nashua, is located on the second floor of an old Victorian home on Main Street, where it joins hair stylists, a nail salon and a massage therapist as part of a house of beauty. This concept of combining art and commerce is in vogue and is spreading from America’s major cities.
The gallery began when Pong Maynard, an entrepreneurial business owner, realized how many talented artists there were in the Nashua area. Unfortunately, as the economy staggered along, Maynard found that these artists could use another venue to display their work. She decided to open the Victorian home she has owned since 1994, which already has hair stylists, a nail salon and a massage therapist working in it, as a gallery. Thus 263 Gallery (www.263artgallery.blogspot.com) was born.
“In big cities like New York, the combination of art and boutiques is very popular,” Maynard said. “People come in and get their hair done and they can look at art.”
“It is a lovely new concept to mix arts and beauty of all kinds, while creating an opportunity for artists to show their creations,” wrote artist Marilene Sawaf in an e-mail.
Maynard did not always have such an appreciation of art. This didn’t come until she tried it herself. Before she began painting in 2006, she would look at works of art and assume she could create the same beauty. Then she tried and found out how difficult it really is.
“I do paint now, although I am not as good as these artists,” Maynard said. “But I do appreciate that there are so many talented people in this area who work very hard. Art is so beautiful and creative”
Maynard has put the gallery in the hands of the artists, who organize monthly exhibits, network, promote the gallery and even decide how the paintings are hung. This is not new for Maynard, as everyone who works in the building is the owner of their individual business, whether it be the nail salon or the massage therapy spa.
Such autonomy is greatly appreciated by the artists.
“Pong is a great patron of the arts,” said artist Jacqui Hawk, who has exhibited at the gallery. “She is also an avid promoter of women in the workplace.”
In the gallery, people will find a mix of fine art in a variety of media, as well as a boutique, which features jewelry, pottery and scarves.“There is something for everybody,” Hawk said. “It is truly a house of beauty.”
This is in part because the house itself, located at 263 Main St., is so beautiful. Hawk, who is originally from England, said the architecture is classy and the building has an ambience clients love. Adding to that atmosphere is a sweeping spiral staircase. The art is hung in the gallery but also throughout the building in different rooms where business owners are working. When people get their hair or nails done, they can look at art.
It seems like a win-win situation. Artists know their work will be seen by people, some who might buy their pieces, and customers get to enjoy art, while they’re doing something they would do anyway.
Such a concept is not unknown in Nashua, where Mogi’z Hair Salon & Art Gallery (204-5690) has been operating for more than a year. There has been no shortage of artists willing to have their work on display. Many well-respected local artists have already shown at 263 Gallery, including Steve Previte, Hsiu Norcott, Alene Sirott Cope, Albine Vermot Gaud, Sandy Peters, Hawk and Sawaf, who was critical in getting the gallery off the ground.
Having art shown in such a gallery also eliminates the misconception that art is stuffy or elitist.
“You feel like you’re looking at art in home, not a stuffy gallery,” Hawk said.
Hawk said the concept embraces the two worlds of art and cosmetic beauty. She said art and massage therapy have more in common than one might think. For many art is a type of mental therapy that allows artists to coax out the things they have going on inside, Hawk said.