Blackbone Gallery 1 in Mt. Airy has announced it will close at the end of this month. This will be the third gallery to close or downsize in the Mt. Airy commercial corridor.
Artista is also closing by the end of June. Earlier this year Jean Jacques Gallery closed its door and is now sharing rent with One Salon & Boutique across the street. All three galleries are within walking distance of each other.
Blackbone opened four years ago at 7117 Germantown Ave. It’s co-owner Sherrie Nix says there’s just not enough business to keep going. “I think as a result of our unfortunate economy, sales just weren’t there,” Nix wrote in an e-mail. “[It’s] sad to say, but art is not a necessity, and in these trying times, there are quite a few things that take priority over one’s wants.”
Although Blackbone is closing its store, Nix says she plans to migrate the business online. “It’s just an unfortunate sign of the times; however, I’m looking forward to blue skies,” she said.
David Fellner, local landlord and owner of the Sedgwick Theater, says that change is often healthy for a shopping district. “There’s flux,” he said. “People are born. People die. People move in. People move out. That’s part of the life cycle.”
Fellner also says just because these art galleries are having trouble doesn’t mean the demographic makeup of the retail corridor is changing.
Nix says it’s more a statement about economy than anything else. “There are companies that have been in business for many, many years that are barely hanging in there,” she said. “I simply can’t afford to wait for the economy to turn around.”
Other galleries, such as October Gallery, are just getting started in the neighborhood, according to Fellner. October Gallery showcases African American artwork, and Fellner is working with the business to begin holding events at the location of what was once North by Northwest.
Mt. Airy has always been proud of its status as an integrated neighborhood, according to Fellner, and said that that integration has become part of the shopping district’s identity.