If the thought of contemporary art conjures up images of soup cans and blank canvases, drop by District Arts Gallery on Market Street and get a glimpse of the fantastic work happening in the contemporary art world. And while there, meet Stacy and Bill McLauchlan, whose experiences showcasing their art at festivals make them uniquely suited to be gallery owners.
Stacy's background is in using textiles in artistic ways with a focus on creating intricate quilts, which they sold at art festivals around the country. Later, they began featuring Bill's digital art that focused on an aspect or square of Stacy's quilts.
"We had a dream to travel and sell Stacy's quilts, so we sold our marketing firm, along with most everything else, and moved onto a boat. We lived on it and traveled up and down the coast selling our quilts at art shows," says Bill. "Selling them was difficult, but I saw an opportunity to take advantage of her creations. I digitally manipulated the images of the quilts in such a way that I could then print the image on aluminum to sell as wall art."
"We had two objectives in doing the art shows," says Bill. "One was to cover the cost of the diesel fuel in the boat, and the other was to cover the wine budget! That's how we got heavily involved in the art scene. Not through a traditional approach of studying the great masters. And we did that for 12 years."
Traveling from Florida to Cape Cod and even out to the Midwest, they would stop in Frederick for the art shows, and each time they came, Bill and Staci saw the community's commitment to supporting the arts. They noticed the Frederick Arts Council's various promotions to develop interest in the arts, loved the art galleries and the arts festival itself.
"We really loved it, and so we said when we finally sell the boat, let's put Frederick on the list of places to live," says Staci. "We ultimately decided this was where we wanted to live and open a gallery so we could sell our work, bring in successful artists we had met doing the art shows, as well as local artists."
"We didn't know much about the local art scene concerning artists, but when we put a call out for local artists, we found out every other person in Frederick was one!" says Bill.
"In the art world, contemporary means the artist is still alive. But that's not the way people typically use it," explains Bill. "They usually mean it to refer to modern art or neo-modern art, abstract or bright colors and that's what we were looking to do. There are some nice galleries in Frederick, but they feature more traditional art such as landscapes and spires. So, there was a niche for contemporary art."
Bill says, "We researched how to run a gallery by reading books. We were familiar with galleries because we were working with those that were exhibiting our work. We saw what they were doing and what could go right and wrong. We knew how to run a business, but the things about which we had reservations were—what if people did not want to be in our gallery? We wondered if people would want to do this with us, and we found out way more people wanted to do this than we could possibly accommodate! And as far as types of art, we look for bright colors, maybe abstract, a variety of media like sculptures and pedestal art, and wall art. We started out saying we'll only get art we like and thought, that's a stupid idea! We have sold a lot of work that isn't our preference, but the artist is respected and talented, and we know they have a following, and we respect that."
"We opened March 2019 and have been ecstatic about the reception that the gallery and our artists have received," says Bill.
The McLauchlans are looking forward to a return to pre-Covid days.
"Prior to the pandemic, we would host monthly exhibitions in which we would feature an artist from outside of the gallery and showcase their work on the back walls. We also hosted themed exhibitions and invited the artistic community nationwide to submit work that would be independently juried with winners receiving prizes for Best in Show and Award of Merit," says Bill.
"In the past, we would host a canape reception with several hundred people in attendance, and because our space is so large, we could feature these other artists and would not need to disturb the other represented artists' work. It is a bonus for our artists because their work can be seen by many more people attending the reception," says Staci.
"We love art, and we fell in love with Frederick. It was the best decision to move here. We live downtown, we walk to work, and couldn't be happier living here," says Staci. "The amazing support of the arts and the community make it the perfect place for us." DistrictArts.com
"The amazing support of the arts and the community make it the perfect place for us."