Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bon Voyage, Mes Amis

Bon Voyage, Mes Amis

By Tom Wachunas

   “We lit a spark. Now the torch gets carried.”  - Todd Walburn, co-owner of 2nd April Galerie

    After I moved back to Ohio from NYC in 1992, with the exception of my “annual edition” of original Christmas cards for family and a few friends, I stopped making art altogether. I had much to say, but neither the wherewithal nor the sobriety to say it. And that’s all I’ve got to say about thaaat (thank you, Forrest Gump).

    Everything began to change by early 2000 or so, when I began making lots of small-scale, mixed-media wall pieces. Then I eagerly set about looking for a place within Canton city limits to show them. Little did I know at the time just how terribly arid the gallery scene really was. My optimism faded fast, and it finally, absolutely negatively hit me. I wasn’t in New York anymore. 

    So it is that I liken my discovery of 2nd April Galerie in 2002, located in a basement at the corner of Cleveland Avenue NW and Woodward Place, to that of a haggard desert traveler finding an oasis. This one was tended by the eminently sympathetic and pioneering souls many of us know as Brennis Booth and Todd Walburn. After they moved their gallery to a more spacious downtown storefront on Sixth St. N.W. in 2003, I fully realized that they weren’t just remarkably gracious and unpretentious gallery proprietors, but visionaries of the sincerest kind as well – the first to occupy, anchor, and nurture what would later be acclaimed as “The Arts District”.

   The top photo above is of an article I wrote back in 2007, reporting on the gallery’s move to its current location at 324 Cleveland Ave. NW. It’s something of a bittersweet if not ironic memento now. The headline reads, “A new chapter unfolds for 2nd April Galerie”.

   New chapter indeed. And so, Todd and Brennis, thank you for being my oasis way back when, and for those ensuing years when you let me plant my art in the downtown garden you have so lovingly tended. I’m sure I can speak for too many local artists to count in wishing you both great peace and success in all your future endeavors, whatever they may be.

   To my readers, what follows is a re-print of the July 6 press release from ArtsinStark regarding Todd and Brennis’ new chapter.  

 The Founders of 2nd April Galerie Are Off to Cleveland

(Space To Become New Gallery Run by ArtsinStark)

   After fourteen years, Todd Walburn and Brennis Booth, the owners of 2nd April Galerie in Downtown Canton have decided to step away from The Arts District’s very first art gallery to pursue new opportunities in Cleveland.  The gallery, which opened in 2002 with the goal of featuring and selling the work of Stark County artists, has been a mainstay of The Canton Arts District --- even before First Fridays were started.  “The gallery has been as much a part of our lives as our families and our own well-being” says Walburn, “and it was important to us that what we created with the help of so many wonderful people over the last fourteen years would continue in some way.”  To make sure that happens ArtsinStark has signed a new lease with building owner Michael Whitmore so that 324 Cleveland Avenue NW will continue operating as a gallery.  “Under the dedicated leadership of Todd and Brennis, 2nd April Galerie has become the flagship of the Canton Arts District,” says ArtsinStark CEO Robb Hankins, “and we can never thank them enough.”  ArtsinStark is going to meet with tenants to figure out what the new gallery will look like and what it will be called. 

   Ten years ago there was only one art gallery in downtown Canton.  That was 2nd April Galerie.  Today there are 26 art galleries and artist studios.  Many of those spaces are or have been associated with 2nd April or have grown out of artists who started at 2nd April.  “It has been the incubator of so many creative ideas and it has been both nurturing and demanding,” says Walburn.  “For fourteen years it has held us and we have held it.  Now it is just time for us to find out what our next chapter is.  We have always said that 2nd April will tell us what it wants to do or become if we listen to it carefully enough.  This just feels like the right thing to do at the right time.  We are sad to leave something that has meant so much to us as well as so many wonderful friends, but we are also excited about our new jobs and a new life.  This feels like our next step.” 

    As downtown living and tourism continue to grow, ArtsinStark wants to transition 2nd April into an arts gallery space that is ready for the next decade, and continue the legacy that Brennis and Todd have worked so hard to create.   “This has never just been about Brennis and me,” says Walburn.   “This has always been a collaborative effort and the continued life of 2nd April, in whatever form it takes, is a testament to this community and it’s incredibly talented, generous artists.  We lit a spark.  Now the torch gets carried.”

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