Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 26, 2018
gWatson Gallery celebrates milestone
by Monique Labbe
The gWatson Gallery celebrates 20 years this summer season, and for owner Ron Watson, it has come a long way since it opened its doors in July of 1998.
“I remember sitting there that first day on a chair on the sidewalk as people walked past, no one really stopping,” he said.
The gallery was located on the second floor of the building it resides in now, and during those early years, Watson said it took a while for word to get out about the art upstairs.
Some might find it difficult to fathom owning and operating a business like an art gallery without a background in art, but that is exactly what the foundation of gWatson gallery sits on.
“I’m not an artist, in fact this gallery started more on a lark than anything else,” said Watson.
In fact, Watson developed an interest in art only a handful of years before opening the gallery. Living in Stonington, he became friends with artists and developed an interest in art that has now spanned several decades.
Though Watson has developed friendships with local artists over the years, it is the relationships he has made with national and international artists that inspire the art shown at gWatson Gallery.
“We do have some of the traditional Maine paintings—coast of Maine landscapes, lobster boats. But we’re different in that we show art from all over. I have artists from Philadelphia, North Carolina, New York, the Boston area, even as far away as Moscow,” he said.
Part of that diversity has been a personal choice for Watson; however, he also noted that when the gallery first opened, many of the local artists already had representation at other galleries, which forced him to broaden his search.
Watson said that in the last 20 years, businesses in downtown Stonington have come and gone, but gWatson Gallery has remained a fixture in the community.
Watson purchased the building in 2008 and moved the gallery from its second floor location to the main floor for easier access, a decision he said was good for business and the flow of people coming in and out.
Though the gallery has survived 20 years, Watson said it has not been without its struggles. He said that his business felt the downturn in the economy almost a decade ago, and a sharp decline in homes being built on the island has also had an affect.
Through it all, though, Watson said that he has kept a positive attitude and a steady eye on the future, even during times when business felt bleak.
“There are definitely some seasons that are better than others, but you just keep going,” he said. “You have to find new ways, new ideas.”
One of those ideas has taken off over the years. The gallery hosts jazz concerts throughout the summer, with people from around the country coming to play.
“That’s something I really get excited about,” he said. “I think it’s something that sets us apart. Not many galleries do that.”
Now 20 years into an endeavor that started from a personal interest in art, Watson said that while he does not plan on running the gallery forever, he also does not have any immediate plans for retirement.
“There aren’t any plans, no. This is what I want to continue doing for the immediate future,” he said.