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Charting a Course

What's in the stars for two new Main Street galleries?



There's no questioning the success of Broad Street's First Fridays Artwalk. Now in its fifth season, the event's popularity lures a once-a-month invasion thousands strong. And several restaurants have opened their doors on that strip thanks to the reliably boisterous crowd.

But just a few blocks south, a different scene is developing.

Restaurants and bars along Main Street between Harrison and Vine already anchor a relatively busy corridor for foot traffic. Established galleries like Artemis and Main Art have stood their ground for years, and grand dame gallerists such as Reynolds and Rentz bracket the blocks with higher price points.

The arrival of two new galleries suggests the district's personality is solidifying into a more mature disposition.

Both Page Bond, of Page Bond Gallery, and Jerry Shapiro, owner of Red Door, say they were drawn to the neighborhood for the tone: not as intense as Broad Street, but more focused than the studio scene in Manchester.

Openings at Red Door and Page Bond will be staggered and may keep interest in the area distributed more evenly throughout the month. They take the arrival of Rostov's Coffee and the Brazier Portrait Gallery as good omens.

But just because the DJs and the fire-spinners have yet to post up on Main Street doesn't mean the area's above a good time. To get to know Richmond's two newest galleries, Style asked that fatal pick-up line:

Hey, baby, what's your sign?

Red Door Gallery

Gallery's Birthday: Oct. 27, 2006

Astrological sign: Scorpio.

Symbolized by: A Scorpion. Although Shapiro has always been an avid art collector, his real day job is managing commercial construction projects. Real scorpions can lose their tails and regenerate new ones, so the shift in fields may seem dramatic, but is not out of character for Scorpios.

Scorpio characteristics: Determined, passionate and compulsive. The look of the gallery will shift from show to show, thanks to movable hanging walls that double as storage lockers. Shapiro is drawn to a wide variety of contemporary work, but especially likes larger, dramatic pieces.

The flip side: Shapiro considered calling the gallery "Abstract" before friends persuaded him it might be too limiting.

Element: Water. Red Door won't be contained in just four walls. Shapiro has plans to open the gallery to the elements and turn the yard behind the building into an outdoor sculpture garden.

Astrological deviations: The gallery has a sitting area in the back to encourage browsing through art books and loitering.

Art stars: The gallery kicked off with a show of paintings from Sharon Shapiro (no relation), and moved on to paintings from Doug Witmer and wood works by J.T. Kirkland. Shapiro hopes to work with local savages like Ed Trask and Matthew Lively.

Shine: $1,500 to $20,000

Crystal ball: Look for a show of VCU grads who have made it big in New York City toward the end of 2007.

Star chart coordinates: 1607 W. Main St., 358-0211,

Page Bond Gallery

Gallery's birthday: Sept. 20, 2006

Astrological sign: Virgo

Symbolized by: The Virgin, though this is hardly Bond's artistic maiden voyage. In a previous life she ran a private gallery in the basement of her home and consulted for corporations and individuals trying to build their own collections.

Virgo characteristics: Meticulous, diligent, analytical and occasionally fussy. The minimalist look of the gallery's concrete floors, high ceilings and spacious floor plan reflect the very-Virgo tendencies of efficiency and attention to detail. As for the art, Bond says she's drawn to work that's "visually appealing, but there has to be another layer of interest … a story to what they're thinking, what informs the work."

The flip side: Visitors ring a buzzer before being let in.

Element: Earth. Bond is especially attached to the space — her architect husband designed it.

Astrological deviations: The gallery breaks from the traditional white-wall presentation and mixes things up with a dark slate wall.

Art stars: Bond says she hopes to focus on emerging and established regional, national and international contemporary artists doing photography, prints and paintings. There's work from heavy hitters, such as Ellsworth Kelly prints and Sally Mann photos, but there's still room for Virginia Commonwealth University grad Dragana Crnjak. And look for a show from Bill Wylie, professor of photography at the University of Virginia and recipient of a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Shine: $5,000 to $50,000

Crystal ball: Look for possible video installations in the near future.

Star chart coordinates: 1625 W. Main St., 359-3633, S

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