The following post was written by photographer Michael Mulley, who has been standing guard over Allentown’s gallery scene for much of his time as a gallerist, and who is now posted up at the Market Arcade in Downtown Buffalo. This is wonderful insight into the life of the photographer, as it pertains to his gallery experience in The Queen City. What is truly fascinating and inspiring is how Mulley came to be a figurehead at the helm of Allentown’s art scene, while always nurturing other artists that showed up on his doorstep. Mulley explains how this all came to pass…
In a few weeks I will be celebrating 20 years as a gallery owner in Buffalo. I never thought that when I opened College Street Gallery (CSG) at 82 College Street in October 1997 that I would be at it 20 years later. I didn’t think opening a gallery was an act of rebellion. I didn’t think what I was doing was anything beyond being a guy who wanted to have a gallery.
You see in the late 80’s & early 90’s I visited galleries in NYC, Buffalo and Rochester. I hit places big and small, got to see the Art World from the bottom up. While I met many encouraging people, ultimately it was closed off to an unknown kid from Batavia New York.
I remembered those “gatekeepers” I encountered and I was determined not to be like them. So I opened the door and let people in no matter where they came from and come they did. It became so much more than four walls and some Art. It was a home to hundreds of events (we had over 200 opening night receptions) from my earliest Neighborhood Art Shows and solo exhibits by many of the most talented buffalo-based Artists, to kids art events; there was so much music and fun it’s hard to believe that it all happened in only 500 square feet.
I’m thankful to all the people came through CSG to exhibit, perform or witness the scene, without you I would not have persevered. My motto: “I’m too stubborn to quit,” still resonates with me. I had seen so many art spaces come and go that I felt an obligation to keep going. When friends suggested opening their own places I would always say “Do it” and if I can help just let me know. I showed them by example what was possible.
When we lost the space on Allen it was crushing. I had worked so long and hard to build this great place, to have it taken away still hurts. Luckily I had the Gallery downtown and even though Queen City Gallery wasn’t on Allen Street it was a great place to be and I have continued on with monthly exhibits and music events. I like to think of it as a little Allentown bohemia downtown.
So as I start this 21st year I would like to thank my Mother (for raising me right), Robert Cooper (my photography teacher at GCC) for teaching me right and putting me on this path. All the inspiring people I met at RIT. Walter and Linda Matt for giving me a place to flourish. Cindy for all her love and understanding, all the Co-op members that help keep the dream going. And of course all the Artists/ performers & people that helped make our scene so special.
Hopefully I get 20 more years.
Please join Michael at the October 6th edition of Art Under the Stars at 64 College Street (as part of First Friday Gallery Walk) and celebrate 20 years.
Lead image: Michael Mulley’s “People That Rock” Herd Fest 2015 @ Sugar City | Photo by Candace Camuglia