NoMa: another art market |

NoMa: another art market

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The hotspot for fine art this weekend will be on Main Street, where big crowds are expected to gather for the Kimball Arts Festival, one of the summer’s signature events.

The galleries on Main Street, the biggest concentration of art sellers in the area, typically draw in some of the crowds as well, offering their paintings, sculptures and other pieces as alternatives to what is for sale at the festival.

Just outside the Main Street hubbub, though, there is a fledgling gallery scene that art sellers in what is known as the North of Main district are promoting as another place where buyers can find fine pieces of art.

The district, dubbed NoMa, does not offer as many galleries as Main Street does, and it is not nearly as well known as Main Street. In the past few years, though, there has been interest from gallery owners seeking an alternative to Main Street, long the most popular shopping, dining and entertainment strip in the area.

Rent per square foot is lower than what they would pay for street-level space on Main Street, and gallery owners say the NoMa buildings provide them with ideal space for a gallery.

"It’s sort of like mini-Main, in a more industrial way," says Karen Alvarez, who owns District Gallery on Iron Horse Drive in the NoMa district.

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Opened in June in space where another gallery once operated, District Gallery affords Alvarez enough space outside to display giant wind sculptures, some reaching 23 feet tall. There were not spots on Main Street that could offer her the same display area, and she said she did not want to locate the gallery elsewhere, such as at Redstone Towne Center close to Kimball Junction.

Alvarez, who holds a long-term lease, says she is "happily surprised" with her sales since she opened. Artwork at District Gallery ranges from $100, which buys a piece of glass art, as an example, to wind sculptures, which can range up to $20,000.

Businesses in the district and some property owners in NoMa envision the area, which is centered along Bonanza Drive, as someday becoming a place full of restaurants, boutiques, galleries and loft-style living. There has only been scattered progress, though, in the few years that the ideas have been widely discussed. A dispute involving the figures in a key partnership in NoMa, which was resolved in late 2008, entangled much of the prime land in the district, with little progress made during that time.

But the ideas that the partnership spoke about beforehand likely were encouraging to artists and gallery owners. The NoMa figures had unveiled plans to turn the district into a hip area that could be an alternative to Main Street for Parkites and visitors. Galleries, it seemed, would be welcomed into NoMa as a way to attract the crowds.

"It’s a little more industrial, but it’s still savvy," Alvarez says about NoMa, adding, "For me, it’s more of a neighborhood as opposed to an actual retail street. I think your neighbor helps you with your business — word of mouth."

Nearby and also on Iron Horse Drive, Julie Nester has her eponymous art gallery, choosing the NoMa district as the best spot for her place. The Nester gallery, which opened in 2004 in a building across the street and moved to the current location in 2008, and District Gallery are the only two in NoMa.

Nester, though, says there remain attractive spaces nearby for someone interested in opening a gallery. She says she would like other galleries, as well as interior designers and retailers selling creative goods, to open in NoMa.

"I don’t think it’s an art destination yet, because there’s only two galleries," Nester says, describing sales as being "solid" since she opened the gallery.

The NoMa galleries are cooperating with their counterparts on Main Street, and there does not appear to be cutthroat competition between the two districts. The Park City Gallery Association, an umbrella organization that organizes a monthly gallery stroll, includes the two NoMa galleries in its advertising.

Connie Katz, the owner of Coda Gallery on Main Street and a member of the gallery association, says the association remains heavily weighted toward Main Street, with 21 of the galleries in the group being there.

But Katz also sees NoMa as having some prospects for a gallery owner. She says she considered moving Coda Gallery to NoMa as her Main Street lease was expiring, but she kept the location on Main Street. She says she was "semi-curious" in NoMa.

"North of Main helps because it’s another section they can go," she says about people in the art market, adding, "It gives you another area but keeps them in Park City."