The Carter-Burden Gallery in Manhattan’s trendy Chelsea neighborhood showcases cutting edge art and targets New York City artists over the age of 60. Its mission is to ensure that older artists are part of a vibrant artistic community, displaying their work and engaging in artistic discourse.
“What happens with older artists parallels what happens in society,”
“It’s hard enough to get a show at any age,” says Marlena Vaccaro, MFA, director/curator, Carter- Burden Gallery. “There are more artists than galleries. We give a wall to older artists.”
“What happens with older artists parallels what happens in society,” she adds. ”Value does not increase with age. In general, the focus in the art world is on younger emerging artist. Carter Burden focuses on reemerging professional artists.”
Part of the Carter-Burden Network, which promotes the well-being of seniors through various services, the gallery opened in 2008 to recognize the cultural wealth of older professional artists The gallery has three distinct spaces: the East Gallery, the West Gallery and a smaller space in the hallway outside the main galleries for experimental public art installation. There is a total of 2000 square feet.
A sculptor speaks
Jonathan Bauch, a sculptor and teacher based in Manhattan, has a long affiliation with the Carter-Burden Gallery, including a solo show and three shows where he shared the East Gallery with another artist, most recently in 2021.
“A gallery like Carter -Burden helps older artists in many ways,” Bauch notes, mainly by providing a place to show–at no cost. (The gallery does get a percentage on work sold.) “Older artists without a big reputation have problems getting shows or they have to pay an expensive fee.”
“Beside making some sales,” he continues, “I became more confident when I applied for grants and artist-in-residence positions. The gallery also provides a place to communicate with other artists at meetings and zoom presentations.”
Bauch describes himself as “an abstract sculptor working in steel. Space and color as well as nature, spirit and movement are important to me.”
A Photographer’s Experience
Manhattan based photographer, John Whittaker (pictured at top) has been in two group shows at Carter-Burden, most recently in 2021. His late wife, Jean Promutico, an abstract expressionist painter, was one of three painters in two shows. (At right, her Vertical Movement.)
When asked if there was age discrimination in the art world, Whittaker says “Definitely,”
When asked if there was age discrimination in the art world, Whittaker says “Definitely,” and added this anecdote. “A friend had an open studio day in her Chelsea studio and hired a young woman to sit. When the visitors found out she wasn’t the artist (who was a senior) they lost interest and left.” (Photo by Whittaker at left.)
Clearly, this beautiful space for older artists plays an important role in the New York art scene. Run like any other gallery, Carter-Burden is a non-profit, not a co-op or membership. The director/curator gets 1000 submissions a year and organizes 30 shows a year with 10 openings. This includes two big group shows with 10 to 70 people and many three person shows.
“Art is looked at as an elite thing,” says Vaccaro, “but it’s made by people who work and we want to make the work accessible to everyday people. We engage in responsible pricing so it’s accessible.”
When asked for advice for older artists, Whittaker says, “Keep at it. Don’t give up.” He recalled his wife was big on showing her paintings in public places- lobbies, banks–alternate ways to display her work.
“Follow your heart,” adds Bauch. “If it’s worthwhile to you, it’s worth spending a lot of time to get it right.”
The Carter Burden Gallery is located at 548 West 28th St. Submission details are on the website. www.carterburdengallery.org
Kate Walter is the author of two memoirs: Behind the Mask: Living Alone in the Epicenter; and Looking for a Kiss: A Chronicle of Downtown Heartbreak and Healing. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, New York Daily News, AM-NY, Next Avenue, The Advocate, The Village Sun and other outlets. She taught writing at CUNY and NYU for three decades and now works as a writing coach.