Celebrating 20 Years
In 1997, Ron Watson opened the gWatson Gallery for its first season on the second floor of an early 20th century building, which began its life as a dry goods store. In 2007, the Gallery moved to the first floor and has continued to be one of Maine’s premiere galleries
Since its inception, the gWatson Gallery has represented a wide variety of artists. The Gallery has often exhibited Maine landscapes but it is not a traditional Maine coastal gallery. A majority of the artists represented are from outside of Maine; among these are some who frequently paint in Maine but are not known as Maine landscape artists. The Gallery has exhibited now-deceased artists who had connections to Maine including Deer Isle artists Karl Schrag, Leon Goldin, Stephen Pace, and William Kienbusch.
Besides exhibiting fine art, the gWatson Gallery presents a series of concerts each season. The concerts are primarily jazz events that feature internationally acclaimed musicians including Greg Osby, Bruce Barth, Dan Tepfer, Arturo O’Farrell, Gary Smulyan, Camila Meza, and Karrin Allyson. Among these musicians are winners of numerous Grammy Awards.
The Gallery has also provided a platform for contemporary writers to read from their new work. Most recently, the Gallery has hosted Ann Beattie and Jonathan Lethem.
Ron Watson grew up in Buffalo, NY, and moved to Stonington in 1970s to open a boatbuilding company. During his time here, he says he went to galleries, met artists, and began to get involved [in the Deer Isle art scene]. As his interest in art developed, he says he wanted to open a first-class gallery space that would be ideal for showing paintings.
AG: Why did you want to open a gallery?
Originally, the gallery was a bit of a lark. I knew some artists, went to galleries. I wanted to give it a try. I have an entrepreneur gene. I was in on the ground level of alternative schools in New York City, I started a boat company…
AG: How do you think the art (gallery) scene has changed, in particular here on Deer Isle?
There are fewer collectors. The boom in home building has slowed, so there are fewer new walls on which to hang art. Younger people (millennials) are not collectors yet. Older collectors want to sell art, not buy art. There’s more competition, including artist websites. On the plus side, there are more visitors to the island.
AG: Your Jazz evenings at the gallery are extremely well attended, and you bring some amazing talents to the island. If I remember correctly, you were part of the original Deer Isle Jazz Festival that happens at the Opera House each summer? Did your Jazz events at the gallery morph out of that?
I was a founding producer of Deer Isle Jazz Festival so, in part, my interest in presenting jazz at the gallery is related to that. But I was interested in presenting jazz years ago while in New York. I talked with Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman, among others, about presenting them at a university venue. It didn't happen but the idea continued.
AG: How do you decide whom to invite to perform?
Most important, I have to like the music. After that it’s a matter of who is willing to come so far. Now I have a group of musician friends who both come and recommend others who want to visit Stonington in July or August. And I get inquiries out of the blue from musicians. Word is out that between the Gallery and the Opera House, Stonington is a jazz town.
AG: Tell me how and why you decided to open your “side business” the Stonington Ice Cream Co. What’s the secret to those much sought after lobster rolls?!
I acquired the ice cream shop when I bought the building eleven years ago. After two years, it made sense to operate it. The secret to the lobster rolls is fresh lobster each morning, carefully prepared.
AG: What is this summer’s lineup of Jazz artists, and gallery artists/shows?
The jazz schedule develops slowly as I wait for musicians to confirm their European festival tours. At this time, I am just not confirming music for the Gallery. Stay tuned.
Art for our 20th Anniversary season will be primarily new work by artists who have exhibited with the Gallery for these 20 years. Plus we will have a two-person show for Tom Glover and the late Art Dimambro, who opened the Gallery 20 years ago.
We will also have a show for three Russian painters, Olga Karpacheva, Irina Rybakova, and Viktor Butko, who painted here two years ago. Their impressionist landscapes of Stonington are terrific.
Check the Gallery website for dates for this summer’s music events and special exhibits: gwatsongallery.com
Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday 11-5; Sunday 1-5.
Contact: Ron Watson, Tel: 207.367.2900