River House Arts celebrates 10 years
Paula Baldoni can hardly believe that the calendar is rolling around to the tenth birthday of her Toledo gallery, River House Arts. But, she is ready to celebrate. “The ten years have flown by. It feels like it was 5,” she quips.
Baldoni recalls opening her first exhibition space in Perrysburg in 2009 in an unused portion of her photographer husband Bill Jordan’s studio. She explains, “I knew that there were artists living in the area and working here, who didn’t have a place to show their work. They were showing in Europe and Asia— everywhere but home.” She adds, “We thought that if we could make our mark during the worst part of the Great Recession, then maybe we had something.”
Expanding in The Secor
A decade later, River House Arts occupies a newer, more spacious venue in the historic Secor Building in downtown Toledo. Baldoni has expanded from her original main floor gallery to fill several new exhibition spaces on recently renovated upper floors of the building, filling those spaces with art from Toledo and beyond. And in 2020, Contemporary Art Toledo, a non-profit arts organization that she founded in partnership with Brian Carpenter, an artist and University of Toledo professor, will open the doors to its new gallery for the first time. She gives ample credit for the expansion to building owner and longtime Toledo arts supporter Jim Zaleski. “He did a lot of work on the new space— he’s been extremely generous. We would not be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for Jim Zaleski,” she says.
Reflecting on the past ten years, Baldoni describes herself as a hunter gatherer of artists’ private obsessions, which she then introduces to the larger Toledo arts audience. “There has to be a place to show cutting edge and experimental work. The more people become accustomed to seeing contemporary art, art that they might not have in their living rooms, the more they are open to other [new] ideas.”
A celebration with Cake
Baldoni views the upcoming River House Arts anniversary milestone as a birthday celebration for a ten-year-old child. The exhibit, entitled Cake, is not intended to be a dignified affair. It’s meant to be “a show of fun, light work (with possibly a dark side because we don’t know how to do it without having a dark side). It will be light with depth…much like a cake!”
When asked about lessons she has learned and her plans for the future, Baldoni responds, “The trajectory of a gallery is the same as that of an artist— you have highs and lows, good times and bad times. We are really not that different, we have the same struggles. This is such a crazy business, and it’s not even a business, it’s a life.” She continues, “I think I’ve hit my stride. I still have goals [for the future]. I want to continue to show work by emerging artists, promoting them to a broader audience. As we move forward one of the opportunities we’re looking at for artists is working more with businesses, both in terms of bringing corporate people in to see our collection and also introducing artwork to their locations. I’m still committed to glass [as a medium] and to showing glass work that we don’t normally see, like the work we recently showed in JB Squared, by Brooklyn glass artists Jane Bruce and John Brekke.”
But in the future, she adds, “There must also be cake!”
Cake is on view November 21 through January 19, 2020.
River House Arts is located in the Secor Building.
425 Jefferson Ave. | 419-441-4025
Exhibiting artists include Joanna Manousis, Boryana Rusenova-Ina, Loraine Lynn, Alli Hoag, Madhurima Ganguly, Katy Richards, Crystal Phelps and others.