Bret Payne has just been waiting for the right time to open his gallery. But with Richmond's art scene bubbling over and the realization that there is no such thing as "the right time," Payne opened Transmission Gallery this month. The gallery, at 321 Brook Road, sits close to the hub of the Broad Street scene that includes ADA, 1708, Quirk, Gallery5 and other galleries that have begun to revive the area. Though a late arrival to gallery row, he's quick to name names.
"We are lucky to be a part of New Richmond," he says. "I'm going to go ahead and change the name of the city to one that is more indicative of our nearly achieved potential." Potential that he says has been pushed forward by the mix of galleries on Broad and Main, and those in Manchester.
Payne has been a part of the art scene off and on since 1994. In that stretch, he has worked for the private collection of Rachel "Bunny" Mellon (heiress to the Listerine fortune and widow of billionaire Paul Mellon), dealing with auction houses, museums, private dealers, conservators and scholars. This experience led Payne back to Virginia Commonwealth University and into the museum studies program, "which was nixed the semester after I had gotten back here," he says. "I decided to go back to what I loved sculpture." While pursuing his B.F.A. in sculpture, Payne has also worked for VCU's Anderson Gallery.
But Payne sees VCU's major role in the city's art scene as a mixed blessing. "I want students and staff to be able to take part in and/or experience what is going at Transmission, but I'm also fearful of the power of the school's sprawl," he says. "Thirteen years ago, I was firsthand witness to the city shutting down a friend's artist-run gallery due to some minor code violations. Months later, the space was property of VCU."
While his plans include tapping into the readily available talent in Richmond, his schedule includes artists from around the country. The gallery will run mixed media work from painting, printmaking and sculpture to video and sound installations.
Payne has booked shows through December 2008, but also plans to open the gallery to guest curators, as well as other programs, including readings, yoga, movie screenings, music and discussions. Payne intends to explore these features to see what sticks, what generates interest from the public. While most of the Broad Street galleries offer more than just art, Payne seems determined to provide in his space an eclectic mix of programs that branch out beyond the standard gallery show.
"I aspire to be the dealer/gallerist that I would want to deal with as an artist, visitor or dealer," he says. "Fortunately, I've had a good amount of experience, so the growing pains will be minimal. I've seen it done well and I've seen it done poorly." S
Transmission's inaugural show, "Dear Dead Person," features work by Brooklyn artist David Cook and Richmond artist/cartoonist/toymaker Oura Sananikone, through September. 200-9985.