On May 7, 2022, Toledo-area artists and community members gathered at Main Street’s newest addition, River East Gallery, to celebrate the grand opening of what is sure to become a staple in the local art scene. When Chris “Chilly” Rodriquez, Con-Tron and Luke Stoeckley discovered the bones of an old, abandoned tattoo shop, they saw more than another empty building. They saw an opportunity to make their dreams come true and add a splash of color and vibrancy to the neighborhood in the process.
After Chilly and Con-Tron’s prior lease ended in 2021, they found the space and with the help of longtime friend Luke began to remodel, tearing out ugly flooring and breathing life back into the once-neglected building. We spoke to Stoeckley at the gallery about being able to work so closely with good friends. He said, “It’s been amazing and a blessing. The way we all formulate as a team here just makes everything easier, it seems like stuff just flows.” The journey has been ideal for the owners, but it is also a step in the right direction for the neighborhood.
One of the location’s big attractors is the fact there is nothing art-related other than some murals. While the East Side may be assumed to be a scary place, the guys do not see it that way. They are thrilled to be able to bring positivity, to show people there are possibilities for the neighborhood if people are willing to collaborate. In the next ten years, Stoeckley sees Main Street becoming “the next downtown Toledo” with people walking around, food trucks, mom and pop shops, and more art venues, including a revitalization of Frankie’s.
Chilly Rodriguez: Chilly is a father, artist, muralist, left-hand amputee and well known around the Toledo area and beyond for his bold, street art-inspired work. His paint can be found on food trucks, inside gyms and restaurants, on giant canvases, and on grain silos overlooking the Maumee River.
: Con-Tron is a painter and muralist. He has had solo shows at local establishments like The Switchboard and painted murals at large-scale events like Infrasound Music Festival in Minnesota. His work plays with texture and contrast, and he utilizes mixed media and a variety of materials for “canvases.”
Luke Stoeckley: Out of the three co-owners of River East, Luke is the only one who is not (yet) a full-time artist. He is a cook at Bubba’s 33 and like many artists, does whatever he can to find time and energy to paint. When he creates, he finds deeper meaning in the subjects that become hsi projects’ centerpieces.
Locals Only Art Exhibition
River East Gallery will host Locals Only: A Group Exhibition through August 23. This show includes 25 local artists, with each contributor displaying one artwork. These pieces will be available for sale, but they will remain in the gallery for a month following the opening reception which took place on July 23. Musician David Kevin Adam also performed live during the event.
Leading up to the show, owners made a list of local artists. There are so many talented artists in the Toledo area, and it became a matter of who was available. “We counted how many paintings we already had hanging. So, we can comfortably, probably, fit around 20 to 25 artists,” Stoeckley said. “With that many different artists displayed, it’s going to be crazy for viewers to come in and see that many different styles.”
River East Gallery
601 Main St.
East Toledo, 43605