When we heard that Spring Street gallery Eye Level Art was slashing prices on paintings, we called owner Mike Elder to find out why. He said that, due in large part to the economy, he’s closing the gallery at the end of the year and moving to New York.
“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile,” Elder says. “If things had changed and the market was better and I wasn’t working as hard for basically nothing… Everything’s telling me to get out.”
Elder started the gallery in a small Queen Street space in 2002, quickly establishing it as a destination for contemporary art lovers. After a brief stint in a warehouse on Heriot Street, Eye Level relocated to the warehouse at 103 Spring Street. The gallery branched out to include diverse concerts and events as well as art shows in an attempt to raise more funds.
“Art is why I got into it,” Elder says. “I was kind of getting away from the path I was going.”
He adds, “I’d have an art show five years ago and sell $5,000-10,000. Now I do an art show and I sell $2,000, and I have to give half of that to the artist. A thousand bucks does not fly, especially when you do an art show once a month.”
Elder also cites the neighborhood as a factor in the downturn.
“The area around Spring Street is cool, it’s up-and-coming, but it’s not exactly what I thought,” Elder says. “It’s not as progressive as I thought it was going to be.” He says the area is mainly populated by college students — not your typical art buyers — while many older folks are uncomfortable stopping by the gallery.
The gallery has a number of events planned through the end of the year, including the Brian Bustos show, which opens on Thurs. Nov. 10, as well as two more Holy City Artists and Fleas events, several concerts, and one final group art show on Fri. Dec. 16.
Elder hopes to sell everything in the gallery, including furniture, frames, and fixtures. All art has been reduced 50 percent; Elder says he’s giving the artists 90 percent and keeping 10 percent.
Although he’s not sure who will be taking over the space, Elder says the landlord plans to remodel it.
“I have no regrets,” Elder says. “I feel relief after making this decision because … after meeting the artists and having all these shows, I’ve been blessed to be able to do this and not have any majorly bad things happen.”