The concept is cool: a pay-to-play art gallery on Hull Street where artists, designers, authors and musicians may house and market their work for a monthly fee, with all of the sale proceeds passed directly to the creators.
Manchester Gallery founder and owner Adolphus Ingram says its goal is to expose a wider swath of Richmond talent and create opportunities for artists to thrive and be celebrated in their own town.
“What we were seeing in the city is that a lot of the galleries were not inviting diverse artists to show their work,” he rumbles in a pebbly baritone, seated in a back room of the gallery, which will store the fashions of 10 local clothing designers. “We often see the same names showing their stuff in local galleries, over and over. What [Manchester Gallery] is, is a wider scope of opportunity for artists who can’t get traction in the other galleries around town.”
The space at 1409 Hull St. is primed for its Oct. 20 opening: The pristine interior walls are stark white and lined with the work of dozens of Richmond visual artists. Wilma Flintstone poses in a quirky piece by Ciera Smith. A profile painting of W.E.B. DuBois by Champ depicts the renowned black scholar in deep deliberation, sharing space with a textured, wildly-colored abstract creation by Ingram’s daughter, Nayeli. It’s clear that Manchester Gallery promotes a range of styles, perspectives and experience.
“Some of the local artists with the most talent, larger galleries wouldn’t even give them a glance,” says Ingram, a clothing designer and artist who studied business at the University of Richmond. “I want to kill the notion of the starving artist.”
Ingram says that for $40 a month, the gallery will house, market, ship and sell an artist’s work regionally in Maryland, North Carolina, Washington and Virginia, and the artist will receive 100 percent commission on all sales. Manchester Gallery has more than 50 member artists so far, including Keith Ramsey and Sir James Thornhill. If it seems like a big promise, Ingram believes it’s worth the risk to promote and support new artists.
“We also want the gallery to be a place where creators of all backgrounds can meet each other and network,” Ingram says. “A lot of artists in Richmond don’t know each other, have no idea how they can collaborate and inspire each other.”
Joshua Croft’s landscape photos — moody, desolate and arresting — are among the works of Richmond photographers up for sale. A glass-front bookcase displays the published compositions of local writers such as Ethan Evans, author of “Crossroads” (2017) and CDs by area musicians. “We will feature all genres, from gospel to R&B to hip-hop to rock,” says Ingram. “The only type of music we won’t stock is music promoting violence. There’s too much of that in the city.” Additionally, a back room, dubbed the lunchroom, is stocked with computers and records.
Why Manchester? The Hull Street corridor is on track for a comeback and come-up, Ingram says. “There’s been a burst of millennials moving to this neighborhood, recent VCU grads who choose to stay in town,” he says, and sweeps his hand toward the construction sites dotting the street. “There are, I believe, seven loft buildings here and they’re building more. Those people will want accessible culture near them —restaurants, shops and art.” Manchester Gallery will be the latest on the scene to serve the cultural needs of the community, with spaces like the S. Ross Browne Studio having been established for several years.
After the gallery settles into its routine, Ingram will commence its second phase: displaying the work of its member artists on both coasts.
Ingram says that a West Coast gallery will show insured pieces of Manchester Gallery art and any resulting sales commissions will be given to the Richmond artists. Ingram is also negotiating the same type of arrangement with a gallery in Harlem, New York. Ingram and his team also plan to showcase Manchester Gallery art at the Paradise City Comic Con in Miami, Florida, Jan. 12-14, 2018. S
Manchester Gallery holds a grand opening on Friday, Oct. 20, at 5 p.m. The hours of operation will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays (closed Sundays and Mondays). The gallery is seeking artists as members. For information, call 437-9409 or visit manchestergallery.art.