The Hippo


Oct 16, 2019








Sarah Chaffee and her dog Henry at McGowan Fine Art. Kelly Sennott photo.

McGowan Fine Art celebrates 35 years

Where: McGowan Fine Art, 10 Hills Ave., Concord
Exhibition: On view April 28 through May 29
Reception: Friday, May 1, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Contact:, 225-2515

Birthday bash
McGowan celebrates with show and party

By Kelly Sennott

When McGowan Fine Art turned 30 in 2010, Sarah Chaffee wasn’t in the mood to celebrate. The gallery was waist-deep in the recession, an issue that not even the gallery director’s splendid party-throwing skills could overcome.

But that was five years ago. Things have turned up since then, so for McGowan Fine Art’s 35th birthday, Chaffee and the whole McGowan gang will be celebrating with a month-long exhibition, starting with a reception Friday, May 1.
During an interview at the gallery last week, people were coming in and out to drop off work for the show, which will comprise 2D and 3D pieces by about 30 artists McGowan has represented throughout the past 35 years. The door was propped open, wind whipping inside, and Chaffee had just gotten back from a walk with her dog, Henry.
For the show, Chaffee asked her artists to bring in something new and interesting, and in response, some brought in work so new she had to lay it on wax paper. One was a river landscape by Sally Ladd Cole. Another was “Ibis,” an oil painting of a bird flying through clouds by Adelaide Murphy Tyrol.
“This one came in this past weekend. It’s actually still wet. You might be able to smell it,” Chaffee said, gesturing to “Ibis.” “She literally just finished it, and I love that. … I get so excited when new work comes in. I really love my job.”
The gallery, founded by Mary McGowan in 1980, began as a consulting service. It didn’t have a full-time home until five years later when it moved to 10 Hills Ave. When Mary McGowan stepped down in 2011, Chaffee, a self-described “little girl from Goffstown,” took over and expanded reach by attending national trade shows and partnering with local organizations and businesses like LaBelle Winery, which regularly shows art curated by Chaffee. Today, McGowan Fine Art represents more than 70 artists from around New England. 
She talked about and showed off a few pieces during the gallery visit, including those by Gary Haven Smith, Bruce McColl, Lucy Mink, Amparo Carvajal Hufschmid, Susan Wahlrab, Catherine Tuttle, Ellen Davis and Bert Yarborough. 
Some artists in this show have been with McGowan longer than Chaffee, who started 18 years ago. One is her old high school art teacher, Becky Darling, who’s been around since 1990 and stopped by mid-interview last week. The piece she’ll show is a big, bright watercolor landscape of a lake. Chaffee said it was Darling who inspired her start in the art world; she required her students to write critiques of one another’s work, something Chaffee discovered she excelled at.
“In fact, I think I was probably a more perceptive viewer than I was a creator. And she really encouraged me, and told me I was good at that,” Chaffee said. “I think that requirement — of writing about art — was really a big thing for me. It’s something that, when I moved on to become an art teacher, I required.”
Today, Chaffee’s primary focus is adult education. She thinks McGowan holds an important presence in the downtown.
“I think a lot of people, even people who don’t come in here, love the thought that a gallery’s making it here. I think it adds a certain cultural flavor to the community you can’t always put your finger on,” Chaffee said. “When people come through the door and they are uncomfortable with an art gallery or art and are not sure what they’re looking at, there are very few questions I’m offended by. And I hear it all. Why is that so expensive? I could do that!’ But that’s part of my job, and I really enjoy that.” 
As seen in the April 30, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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