Cracks have appeared in the splintering Portland art scene this summer. The latest aftershock is the closing of 3Fish Gallery in November. “It will be sad,” said owner Ron Spinella, seated in his Cumberland Street art space Wednesday announcing the news. “A number of people are disappointed.”
The last show, featuring the work of painter Britta Bruce, closes Thanksgiving weekend.
Opening 19 years ago on the edge of the Portland Art’s District, before Congress Street had a creative pulse, the gallery Spinella runs with his wife Christine appealed to all walks. Shows ranging from the sculpture of MECA students to art collectives from Waterville, experimental music weekends and everything in between gave 3Fish a freewheeling vibe. “There was a mix. A lot of people came by – immigrants, street people, anyone who was interested in the work,” said Spinella, who welcomed them all.
Though 3Fish is a commercial gallery, it operates like a community gathering space. Spinella, who dabbles in real estate, never relied on art sales to make a living. “If I did, I’d be begging in the streets,” he said.
The couple decided to close the gallery to do others things with their time. “We’d like to travel and go to First Friday Artwalks,” he said.
Spinella doesn’t view the recent spate of closings, such as the June Fitzpatrick Gallery and Susan Maasch Fine Arts as negative, but “normal attrition,” recognizing “at some respect you want to see things change.”
But the latest tremor in the seismic shift in the Portland art establishment means one thing: “Exhibition space is in short supply. 3Fish has filled that hole for a long time,” he said.
With Rockland and Biddeford’s art scenes perking up, one wonders if Portland’s singular allure is its glittery and varied restaurant scene.
If Spinella was opening a gallery today he’d do it differently. The scene’s “moving from a big, white box to non-traditional spaces like the Oxbow tasting room, which is a gallery and beer or the other place that’s a gallery and tattoos … that’s where the scene is going.”