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Discovery Enlivens Gallery Near Boston

The exhibits often exude whimsy, but matching artist to patron is serious business for owner Meredyth Moses

By Kirsten A. ConoverStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / January 20, 1994


MEREDYTH HYATT MOSES would like people to think of her art gallery as a library, not as a place only for the elite.

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As owner-director of the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Mass., Ms. Moses says that her primary goal is to educate people about art. Her communication skills, keen sense of art, and marketing prowess have made this small gallery in the suburbs succeed during a time when other city galleries have folded under economic hardship.

In an interview, Moses - dressed in gray tones, adorned with art jewelry, and surrounded by furniture designed by craftsman Tommy Simpson - talked about her role as a gallery owner.

Although Moses doesn't like her establishment to be described as a ``suburban gallery,'' but it is, in fact, located in a shopping village in the well-to-do Boston suburb of Lincoln, Mass.

``A mall? ... in Lincoln?'' she says with a frown, mimicking how people first reacted back in the early 1970s when Moses and two partners decided on the space. It was about 15 miles from Boston's Newbury Street, where many other galleries were and still are located.

But they trusted their instincts and opened in November 1976. (Moses bought out her partners in 1983 in an amicable agreement.) Today, patrons come from all over the Boston area to view the month-long exhibits.

Moses says she has always trusted her intuition. She credits her success as a gallery owner to personal strengths such as visual-art savvy, an ability to problem-solve, and ``never letting ego interfere with good sense.'' She and two assistant directors put in many long days. Patrons and the press have been good to Clark, too, she notes.

Trained as a painter, Moses, who is also a mother of three, was a successful fiber artist in the 1970s.

Later, she found that although she loved the process of making art, her strengths lay in organizing installations, matching patrons with artists, and working with people. Now, Moses says, ``I think I'm doing my most creative work.''

During the early years of the Clark Gallery (named after one of the original co-partners, Eleanor Clark; the other was Grace Nicholls), the focus was on blue-chip art, such as valuable prints that were ``in'' at the time. But something was missing, Moses recalls, and ``that was discovery.''

Today, most of her artist base is from the New England area, although sometimes an exhibition features artists from all over the United States.

In its 2,800 square feet, the gallery is currently showing two whimsical exhibits: ``Out of the Woods'' - furniture, objects, paintings, and jewelry by Connecticut-based artist Tommy Simpson (see story, left); and ``Clocks'' by various studio furnituremakers across the country.

Although the years 1991 and 1992 were quite tough economically, 1993 showed that things may be improving, Moses says, keeping in mind that business is unlikely to be as prosperous as it was in the booming '80s. For Clark Gallery, the mid-'80s brought banner year after banner year.

``When the recession hit Boston, it was a nightmare,'' Moses recalls. For support, she and other gallery owners founded the Boston Art Dealers Association; they still meet once a month to discuss problems, consider solutions, and establish a national voice.