Art — McGowan Fine Art turns 25

McGowan Fine Art turns 25

By Michelle Saturley


Concord gallery celebrates quarter-century milestone


McGowan Fine Art has been elevating the quality of New Hampshire’s art community for 25 years, and will celebrate its birthday with a new retrospective exhibit during the month of June.

When the commercial art supplier, frame shop and gallery first opened its doors in 1980, owner Mary McGowan had a mission.

“I wanted to provide regional artists with a local option,” said McGowan. “Artists had to travel out of state to exhibit, yet there was a viable market here at home.”

During the first five years of the gallery’s existence, McGowan was focused on placing art in businesses, selling pieces to corporations in northern New England, New York and along the East Coast. But she hoped to expand her plan to include a real gallery that would showcase local artists. In 1986, McGowan moved the business to 10 Hills Ave., just off Main Street in Concord, and the viewing gallery became a reality.

“We have had some of the region’s most noted artists, in just about every medium, shown here at one time or another,” said gallery director Sarah Chaffee.

Since then, Concord has become a staple for many local galleries, including Anderson-Soule, Mill Brook Sculpture Gallery, and the more modern Eye 2 Eye, but McGowan is credited as the gallery trailblazer and one of the more prestigious places to be shown. Today, artists from all over the eastern seaboard still clamor to be exhibited at McGowan, considering it a rite of passage.

“Our standards are high, so people know that when we hold an exhibit, the work is going to be of the best quality,” Chaffee said. “I think that adds credibility to an artist’s resume, and it opens doors for them to break out into larger galleries.”

For the last eight years, Chaffee has been selecting the themes and the artists who display their works in the gallery.

“I tend to choose themes based on what excites me,” she said. “Sometimes I will be working with a corporate client and stumble across a theme or an artist that’s exciting and different. When I find something like that, it seems like a perfect base to model a show around.”

Chaffee credits Mary McGowan’s strong business instincts for the gallery’s longevity.

“In a place like New Hampshire., galleries come and go, but I think the fact that this one is multipurpose keeps it going,” she said. “Mary designed this as a business, first and foremost. There aren’t a lot of places in the arts where you find someone with a strong business sense, and that’s very important. Between the framing services, the corporate services, and the gallery, we have been able to make it through the lean years.”

The gallery will celebrate the last 25 years with a commemorative show featuring artists who have been showcased here in the past.

“I’ve asked each artist to provide one old and one new piece. Some of the participating artists have been with us since day one,” Chaffee said.

Many of the artists are expected to appear at the public reception, planned for June 10, 5-7 p.m.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to connect with the artists, especially if you’ve seen or purchased their pieces here in the past,” Chaffee said.

For more information about the upcoming retrospective exhibit, call 225-2515 or visit McGowan Fine Art is located at 10 Hills Ave., Concord. Hours are as follows: M-W, 9-5; Th-F, 9-7 and by appointment.

- Michelle Saturley

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