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Dimensions Gallery does it New York style
A talk with Cryselle and Warren
Left, featured artist Sonny Wallace; at right, gallery owner Cryselle Stewart and manager Warren Smith

Gleaming white walls and the faint smell of fresh paint greet visitors as they step into Dimensions Gallery, the storefront gallery on MLK Jr. Blvd. that opened in June.

“We repaint for every show, so the walls are always white,” says Warren Smith, 23, gallery art director and general manager.

With new shows opening two to four times each month, that’s a lot of touch ups. Such attention to detail is one way Dimensions’ owner and curator Cryselle Stewart, 24, is setting her gallery apart from other art spaces in Savannah.

Emerging or student artists are the raison d’etre for Dimensions Gallery, providing unknown painters, photographers, potters and the like with a sophisticated space to showcase their work and a menu of services to gain exposure and experience navigating the art world.

Pre-event flyers and postcards, press releases, catered opening night receptions with a jazz DJ or live music, and online sales via the gallery website are among Dimensions’ offerings to their artists. At other galleries these tasks are often the responsibility of the artist, especially for those whose work isn’t yet in high demand.

“For a lot of people it’s their first show,” says Smith. “They don’t know how to do it. They kind of need their hand held.”

Stewart launches each exhibit with a “New York style” opening night reception, an idea she picked up during internships and employment at four galleries in New York.

“During the reception, we do a short Q&A with the artist and why they do their work,” says Stewart.

“A good mix of people comes to the show,” says Smith. “Once they hear the artist they get a better appreciation for the work.”

Dimensions exhibit space consists of two rooms. “The big room is all about the reception,” says Stewart. “Depending on the artist we can have a causal show or an upscale show. We can do everything.”

The airiness of the main gallery’s long narrow space belies its size—less than 1000 square feet, divided by a low central wall that doubles as a bench where guests can perch while sipping wine and sodas.

“Other spaces cram their space with stuff,” says Smith. “We like to give the art room to breathe.”

Photographer Sonny Wallace, at the opening of his one-week show last Friday, was upbeat about his work and his relationship with Dimensions. They helped him with media outreach, promotion, and with “hanging, displaying the work. I asked a lot of questions.”

Consignment work is showcased in the storefront window gallery, roughly 100 square feet featuring a mixed bag of paintings, turned wood, color photography and ceramics. The small space feels full but not cluttered.

“In the smaller room a group of artists come together to do the work,” says Stewart.

“It’s to give people a variety of art to choose from,” says Smith. “In that room the work stays up for two months.”

Stewart selects the artists who are featured at Dimensions, with input from Smith. Stewart’s organizational bent, business sense and participatory leadership style are evident in Dimensions’ non-traditional fee structure, extensive internship program, membership plan and the menu of services--all part of her fifteen page business plan which she co-wrote with a friend. The gallery functions like a cooperative but is a private business owned by a group of investors, including Stewart.

“We have a small rental fee with a low commission,” says Stewart. This formula, along with fees for additional services, provides both the gallery and the artist with an upfront understanding of the financial impact the show will have on both parties.

Stewart is the only paid staffer, juggling the tasks of gallery ownership while pursuing her BFA in Photography at SCAD. Volunteers and participants in Dimensions’ student intern program providing the remainder of the staffing.

“We have nine interns” in marketing, PR and graphic design departments, says Smith.

“PR is the biggest one. We have one of them working every day. They can get school credit if they need it. We help them with their resumes when they leave.”

Smith, a 2007 SCAD painting graduate, is a volunteer who started as an intern. “After a couple of weeks I was promoted to marketing and then general manager.” He’s scheduled for 18 hours per week, but spends many more hours pitching in.

“There’s days that I just show up. I like it here.”

Dimensions Gallery, 412 MLK Jr. Blvd., 236-4993.

Next Show: November 2 – 14. Loop, Link and Tangle, a mixed media group show featuring SCAD students. Reception Friday November 2, 7 – 10 p.m.