CHATHAM – There was an empty space at the community center, and George Gatzogiannis wanted to fill it.
The space was on the wall right behind the front desk which Gatzogiannis, a building supervisor at the center, mans most weekdays, greeting visitors and signing in the folks who use the various facilities in the Main Street building. One of those people is local artist Steve Lyons.
Gatzogiannis had tried to find art to fill the space, but the prints he found at the transfer station swap shop had nothing to do with Chatham. The space should reflect the town and its environs, he thought.
Gatzogiannis asked Lyons if, should he be able to secure grant money, the artist, noted for his beach and seacapes, would consider allowing him to choose a large painting to fill the empty space. Lyons, who's been using the community center's fitness facilities since he moved here, said he was open to helping out, and agreed to provide one of his large beach paintings at a discount.
So Gatzogiannis applied for a grant to the Chatham Women's Club, which in the past had provided funds for a new computer for the front desk and a wheelchair for disabled folks. But for whatever reason, the grant wasn't approved.
Gatzogiannis was disappointed and told Lyons that he could release the painting that was going to go in the community center. Lyons said he couldn't afford to donate the painting outright, but he came up with a compromise. Earlier this year he began a line of limited edition prints, and agreed to donate two to fill the vacant spot.
“Seeking Refuge,” a 24-by-48-inch print, and “Solitude,” slightly smaller at 24 by 24 inches, both on canvas, now grace the wall right behind the reception desk.
“It helps the community center,” Gatzogiannis said of the prints, both of which depict sea and beach scenes. “It makes it a little classier.”
“Seeking Refuge” is part of Lyon's sailing series, an important run of paintings that helped him win his first international award. The original paintings are highly sought after, he said.
Providing prints of his paintings have helped open his art up to more people. “It's been a great thing,” said Lyons, whose gallery is located in downtown Chatham at the Mayflower complex. “It's an entry point for them to get great art that they like.”
Lyons was recently named one of the top five abstract expressionist painters in the world by the American Art Awards; that same week his work was featured on the Chronicle TV news program.
“It was a great week,” he said.
For Gatzogiannis, the addition of the prints helps reflect Chatham's maritime environment and makes the foyer of the community center more inviting.
“Before there was nothing,” he said of the space. “Now people ask about [the prints]. It's good for Steve and good for us.”