RED BANK: GALLERY U CLOSING

Rosemary Bagwell chats with Gallery U manager Bob Langdon at the opening of an exhibit last Friday. Below, a stack of Lisa Bagwell pieces made of container lids. (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

Less than three years after opening on Broad Street in Red Bank, the combination art space/consignment shop Gallery U and Boutique is closing.

An offshoot of Universal Institute, a healthcare provider specializing in services for brain-injured clients, the gallery functioned as a training center as well as a display space for visual artists, musicians and poets.

The gallery is relocating next month to Westfield.

“Good for them, bad for Red Bank,” said local photographer and gallery owner Bob McKay. His mother, Dana, has two photos in a show that opened there on Friday.

“It’s really sad,” said Bob’s wife, Liz McKay.

The venue will relocate to Westfield, to a building four times the size of the space it currently inhabits, with apartments upstairs to enable clients to live on-site.

Since manager Robert Langdon joined the Red Bank staff in February 2012, the gallery has held 50 community events, he said.

Last Friday night, artists, their supporters, and others gathered at the storefront for the opening of a mixed-media show of 20-plus local artists called Vasara – Lithuanian for “in the summer,” said Langdon.

The McKays’ sentiments echoed throughout the expressions of appreciation for the variety of styles on display.

“We’re very disappointed the gallery is moving,” said Barbara Calva, who has two paintings in the show. “Lots of artists don’t have the opportunity to exhibit elsewhere.”

Wherever it is, the gallery provides vocational training in all aspects of running the gallery, including art-making, for clients of Universal Institute, a rehabilitation facility headquartered in Livingston. A second gallery, in Montclair, will also close and be consolidated at the Westfield site.

“It gives our clients a sense of pride and accomplishment,” said Langdon. “to be able to come to work every day, have tasks to complete and get paid for them. They also really enjoy engaging the community.”

“Red Bank and the surrounding communities have been great to us,” he said. “They’ve been so supportive of everything we’ve done, and we’re grateful for that.”

Maintaining the gallery’s connection to the community up til the very end, Langdon is planning a fundraiser for organization Arts Healing Hearts on June 21 and a fashion show consisting of reused materials by Red Bank Regional students on June 28.