Harlem is 4,000 miles away and five hours behind Bristol, England, but for Richard Scarry and his partners, Chippy Coates and Celine Gauld, who just opened up FACTION Art Projects on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, they feel much closer.
“We are based in Bristol in England, and we just felt that Harlem felt more like our city than the Lower East Side and Tribeca,” said Scarry.
Scarry and the other co-founders had looked at those areas as possible locations for their gallery but fell in love with Harlem’s charms. “We had that moment of walking around Harlem and it was summertime and seeing kids getting their fades at midnight at the barber shops. We just felt a kinship with the area.”
It is arguable that the opening up of FACTION is further evidence that Harlem is in the midst of another Renaissance. There are myriad cultural and arts organizations that have sprung up in recent years, in addition to an influx of writers, designers and other creatives who have adopted Harlem as their home. Universities and cultural institutions such as the Schomburg Center in the area that have been beacons for decades are upgrading and expanding and attracting an increasing number of visitors. Also, there is rapid growth in restaurants that cater to diverse food preferences. It is logical that a gallery such as FACTION would want a place in Harlem as well. After all, what would a Renaissance be
without fine art?
FACTION Art Projects functions on multiple levels. “While we do our shows, it’s FACTION Art Projects,” said Scarry. “When we rent it out to other people, it’s Gallery 8. We’re doing five exhibitions this year, with each show running about a month.”
In April, there will be an exhibition particularly relevant to Harlem. All the works will be by artists who live above 110th Street. In the nearer future, Feb. 17, there will be a panel discussion with one of the curators, a writer on Caribbean art and one of the artists whose work appears in the current exhibition.
“We want to bring the neighborhood in,” said Scarry. “I remember being a kid looking at galleries and wondering if I belonged. I want the kind of space where people of all ages feel it’s OK to come and see what we do.”
Though not by design, FACTION Art Projects tends to exhibit a lot of art by women. “We as a gallery work a lot with women, not because they’re women, but because we respond to the work,” said Scarry.
The gallery is currently holding its inaugural exhibit, which runs through March 8. Called “All That You Have Is Your Soul,” the exhibit features works sure to engage and excite both the art aficionado and the art neophyte. All of the artwork is by a group of 17 Cuban expatriates. The theme is one of building identity in a foreign land from a common heritage. It’s curated by Armando Marino and Meyken Barreto, and the work is done in a number of different media, including watercolor, acrylic, ink, wood carvings, porcelain, tapestry, graphite, polychrome and digital print in addition to the standard oil and acrylic. There are also a few whimsical taxidermy pieces.