By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
— For Gerald Mead, professor of art at Buffalo State College, collecting art is about more than just adding pretty things to look at on his walls at home. Sometimes it’s about even more than celebrating and supporting Western New York artists.
Sometimes it’s about the kids just getting started.
“When I was a younger, I benefitted from mentorships from artists that were further along in their career,” Mead said. “I found that to be helpful.”
“It’s incumbant upon established artists to give that same mentorship to younger artists.”
Through his years as an art professor, collector, curator and all-around in-the-know guy when it comes to Western New York’s cultural scene, Mead has had plenty of opportunities to mentor artists who have just gotten started.
To that end, an exhibit of artworks he’s collected by area artists who have been featured over the past 10 years in the Castellani Art Museum’s TopSpin series — exhibits featuring emerging artists — will be on display at the Carnegie Art Center in North Tonawanda.
The show, “Castellani TopSpin Artists: Works from the Gerald Mead Collection,” will coincide with the Castellani’s “TOPSPIN 10,” a 10-year retrospective of the 29 artists who have had a TopSpin exhibit since the series began 10 years ago. Mead, himself once a TopSpin artist, has works by 21 of the 29 artists in his personal collection.
“The intention of the TopSpin series it to very practically help artists with their careers,” he said.
“My TopSpin experience was in 2004 and since that time I’ve been encouraging artists to apply because I know that I’ve benefitted a great deal from it,” Mead said. “I can literally point to the fact that a number of opportunities came as a result of having that show.”
For emerging artists, the ability to put a solo exhibit on their resume and have a professionally produced catalogue to go along with it is invaluable, Mead said.
“It shows a museum has taken interest in your work,” he said.
For Amy Greenan, an artist who lives in Niagara Falls, it meant even securing an exhibit France.
Greenan said she was encouraged by Mead to apply for her 2009 TopSpin exhibit shortly after she finished graduate school.
“It just really gave me a lot of confidence,” she said of the experience. “It certainly made my work and my name more visible to the community at large and it looks great on a resume to have a a solo exhibit.”
She credits the half-dozen solo or two-person shows she’s had since then to being featured by TopSpin. She’s also sold numerous paintings to museums, individual collectors and even First Niagara bank is currently working on securing a large piece to hang in its downtown headquarters.
Greenan said it’s been a lifelong dream of hers to be an artist, and says “I feel completely comfortable calling myself a professional artist,” due to her success.
Greenan, who works mostly in acrylic, currently focuses on painting abandoned or dilapidated buildings. Mead, though, owns a piece from when she was mostly doing portraiture. Her self-portrait, “Study for Lady Godiva’s Operation,” is on display as part of the Carnegie exhibit.
She said she credits not only her TopSpin exhibit for her current success, but also says Mead deserves accolades for his involvement in the art community.
“He’s really sort of like a shepherd to new artists ... he’s really encouraging,” she said. “I really can’t give him enough credit for being a big part of the Buffalo and Niagara region art community.”
Running concurrently with Mead’s TopSpin-themed exhibit at the Carnegie is a recent-acquisitions exhibit in an adjoining gallery. Some 36 works he’s collected over the past year will be on view through Sept. 8.
The Castellani’s TopSpin 10-year retrospective will be on view through Feb. 17.
Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.