After the housing bubble burst and the economy began to weaken in 2009, many would question if opening a new retail business during that time would be the best idea. Let alone an art gallery. Fast forward ten years and Fore River Gallery, in Portland has new art in the windows and an open sign still hanging on the door. “I never thought about still being here selling my artwork when we opened ten years ago,” says Liz Marks. “During the beginning it was less about long term goals and more about sustaining year to year and trying to build a clientele and a customer base.”
Founding members and married couple Mike and Liz Marks, made some adjustments to the business model that has made it possible for them to survive this long in the ever changing retail landscape in Portland, in particular galleries. After the first two years of running a typical gallery model of showing different artists every month or two, they came to the realization that not only would it be difficult to make ends meet but they were not utilizing a retail space to show their own work. “We are both artists and we weren’t regularly showing our own work. We had to adapt or else we would’ve become another shuttered storefront,” says Mike. Knowing they needed to make some changes in operation, they teamed up artists T.J. McDermott and Elizabeth Prior and added a couple of local artists they represent; currently blacksmith Jason Morrissey and jeweler Tegan Curry.
They also created a larger range of goods in to also make the work accessible to most people in terms of affordability. One might find a pair of leather earrings for ten dollars or maybe a small oil painting of a foggy island for fifty dollars. At the other end of the spectrum there are paintings priced over $5000. “We are selling the work that we make. There’s no overhead or middleman selling our work. We’re selling direct to our customers so it allows us to keep our prices down while still creating locally made, high level pieces of work,” said Mike. “The fact that we are here to answer questions and talk about the work we’ve made with our own hands is also what makes it special for people coming in as well,”added Liz.
Walking into their space, they have a diverse range of pieces they have created. “We’re not what something thinks of when the hear the word gallery. There’s a lot of different artwork here that varies from subject matter or style, but somehow it all just seems to mesh well,” states Mike. With walls filled with highly photo realistic oil paintings, sculptures of flashy golden fish, gold and silver jewelry or abstract ceramic adornments there is truly something for everyone here- even insect art. “Only now am I looking ahead and trying to determine what I’ll need to tweak so I can continue doing what I love, and that’s making art. That’s pretty exciting,” Mike said.
During the June 7th First Friday Art Walk from 5-8PM they will celebrate their Tenth Anniversary. New works of art will be displayed as well as some bargains on “Studio Seconds” to help them make room in the studio so they can continue to create new work for the future.
Fore River Gallery is located in Portland’s Old Port at 87 Market Street.