Tonawanda News

March 15, 2014

Project 308 Gallery highlights artists

By Amy Wallace
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Despite the blustery weather outside, things are heating up inside at the Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda this month.

The gallery at 308 Oliver St., is hosting a solo art exhibit by Buffalo artist Elise Kohler through March 20.

The abstract paintings feature acrylic on plexiglass and rubber stretched over canvas.

“I recently decided to delve into the world of abstract,” Kohler, 23, said. “Coming from a background of realistic art, working primarily with graphite pencil; I found myself tired of black and white and being confined to the constraints of a realistic image.”

Kohler said she had worked in graphite pencil for a long time but has only been doing abstract paintings for about seven months.

“I wanted something more exciting,” Kohler said. “I found abstract extremely appealing. I started experimenting with an array of colors in acrylic paint. Completely enthralled with how the colors popped on various surfaces, I started to paint on plexiglass and rubber. Satisfied with the outcome, I could not stop the urge to keep painting. Every new creation is a freeing experience for me, a perfect creative outlet.” 

This is her first solo exhibit at a gallery. She has been doing art as a hobby with her artwork found in restaurants, bars and the College Street Gallery in Allentown, but her success with the show has made her think about it more seriously.

“I would describe my abstract paintings as fun, promoting a good feeling,” Kohler said, adding that she chose to use plexiglass and rubber because they are recycled materials.

“The opening was great. I didn’t know what to expect. North Tonawanda isn’t known as art central but it has been better than I expected and I’ve gotten a lot more exposure being at the gallery.”

Giving local artists exposure is exactly the goal of the Project 308 Gallery.

Founded by University at Buffalo graduate student Natalie Brown, the gallery opened its first show back in August of 2012. What started out as a project for school turned into her life’s work.

“At the end of school we had to do a project based on remaking something from the 70s,” Brown, 26, said. “Art galleries and shows were a big thing in the 70s so I thought I would do that.”

It was Brown’s professor who encouraged her to move the idea from just a college project to a real gallery.

“For a project we were allowed to do whatever we want and I turned it into a career move,” Brown said. “I never thought I’d have a gallery but I am very glad I do.”

Project 308 Gallery has showcased a variety of art styles and subjects even featuring classes and workshops in other mediums in the year and a half since its opening.

Kohler started off finding friends and students from UB to exhibit at the gallery and now she has artists coming to her to exhibit or finding local talent at shows and events. It was at one of these art fairs where she found Kohler.

“I met Natalie at Winterfest in Amherst,” Kohler said. “I was packing up my exhibit and she asked to see some of my work. Then she asked me if I wanted to exhibit at her gallery.”

The gallery has held 35 shows since its opening with everything from photography, sculptures and multimedia artworks on display to dance classes.

The next show will be a Terrarium Workshop taught by Sara Johnson, founder of Sylvatica Terrariums at 7 p.m. March 22. 

And beginning April 11, artist Matthew Palmo will present his “Indicatorart” show consisting of abstract oil paintings on canvas. 

“I am really excited about the show in April,” Brown said, who met Palmo at a juried art show at the downtown library and the two had wanted to work together ever since.

“The point of having the gallery is to expose artists and allow them to sell their work.”