New Galley West Community Art Gallery Opens In Orleans

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

Calling all artists! There's a new community art gallery in town.

The Galley West Art Gallery, a new venue on the Orleans campus of the Church of the Holy Spirit, is seeking online submissions from Lower and Outer Cape artists through Monday, Sept. 20 for its second show, titled “Holiday – Winter – Wonder,” planned for Nov. 20 through Dec. 23. Any physical, two- or three-dimensional art in any medium will be considered, including paintings, sculptures, wood, metal, ceramics, stained glass, jewelry, fiber arts, quilts and more.
          The new gallery's debut open-themed exhibition, appropriately titled “In the Beginning,” will open on Saturday, Oct. 16 in the newly restored Galley West. The gallery will be a unique and welcoming destination for residents and visitors to enjoy and buy work by local artists in a variety of media. All shows will be curated by Cape Cod art professionals who will select the participating artists. The show calendar and art entry information can be found at galleywestartgallery.com/call-for-art/.

Susan Sasso and Sharyn Laughton, the local artists behind the project, said that Galley West will be a volunteer-run community gallery. Artists selected for shows will pay a $25 annual fee, receive 75 percent of the selling price, and will be expected to volunteer at the gallery.  

Sasso said that since 1940, the Church of the Holy Spirit maintained the Galley West Craft Shop, which was operated by the ladies of the church.
“Back in the day,” Sasso said, “in the Episcopal church, women did not traditionally have full-time jobs, but they did have full-time capabilities to do things. The women would form guilds, gather together and make beautiful things to sell in the craft shop.”

In the 1940s, the proceeds from the craft sales augmented the minister's $400 annual salary, Sasso said, and it also had a philanthropic focus.
“Most of the money from the sales went to support families in need and local charities,” Sasso said. “They would also make a small pledge to the church, because they didn't pay rent. My generation, working full time, didn't have time to do guilds and things like that, so the guild aged out and in 2019 there were only three or four ladies left trying to keep the shop going. Eventually, they said 'uncle'.”

Sasso said she approached church leaders, explaining that she had been a hobby potter for 30 years. She sold her pottery at the church bazaar, and for a few years she occupied one of the Artist Cottages at Orleans Market Square, but she didn't wish to make her hobby into a job.

“Sharyn Loughton and I, and another woman who has since stepped back, said what if we turned Galley West into a community gallery where members of the church could sell their work? We have quite a few artists in our parish,” Sasso said. In time they decided to open the submission process to local artists from the Lower and Outer Cape
(Harwich, Brewster, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown). They intend to organize two art exhibitions this year at Galley West, with the ultimate goal of six completely original gallery shows per year. The next show, titled “Holiday – Winter – Wonder” is planned for Nov. 20 through Dec. 23, with a submission window of Sept. 20 through Oct. 20.

The new gallery consists of two small, joined structures with a fascinating and important local history. Around 1850, part of the Higgins Tavern and Inn (Thoreau once stopped there, according to his travelogue “
Cape Cod”) was moved from Old Kings Highway to the current location at 204 Monument Rd. In 1894, when the occupants needed more space, they salvaged the galley of the 1857 shipwrecked cargo vessel Orissaand attached it to the tavern – complete with the wrecked ship's cook's cleaver still securely stowed in the ceiling – eventually giving the structure its unique name. In the 1930s, the home was used by the church’s first rector and his wife, Richard and Florence Kimball, who named it “Galley West.” Later, it was a craft and gift shop for many years. Recognizing its historical significance, the Orleans Community Preservation Committee approved two grants to support the building’s restoration.

The Church of the Holy Spirit has a long association with Orleans art and artists. The noted painter and woodcarver Vernon Smith, a founding member of the church and the subject of a 2017 retrospective at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, painted a full-wall mural in the Galley West that has been carefully removed and is currently being restored by Art Rescue of Dennis. Smith’s grandson, Dan Joy, designed and crafted the signs for the new gallery. 
For more information about the gallery, volunteer sign-up and/or contribute a gift to the gallery’s mission of supporting local artists, future art programs and scholarships, visit galleywestartgallery.com.