When they first purchased a nearly 3,000-square-foot Jewelry District converted mill space in 1999, Michele Aucoin and Nick Paciorek didn’t know that it would one day become the popular gallery ArtProv – but they had some clues. Paciorek is a painter known for colorful, broad-stroked landscapes and cityscapes. His paintings depict local and faraway places like Block Island, Chicago, and St. Petersburg. Aucoin, meanwhile, is a graphic designer (and occasional painter) who always dreamed of having a gallery. Her goal was partly inspired by Teresa Level, longtime manager of legendary Leo’s restaurant, where Aucoin once had a show in her twenties. Now, she is living her dream of “mix[ing] both my worlds” in a 100-percent working art space.
The building at 150 Chestnut Street also happens to be where the couple originally met at the Last Call Saloon, located downstairs in the late ‘80s. For many years, their third-floor unit served as their office space (and still does), living space, and Paciorek’s showroom; during that time, they took part in art shows in Miami and New York City, meeting artists from around the globe. Four years ago, they opened their own gallery.
ArtProv has three separate rooms and a hallway for showing art, making it an ideal spot for multiple shows. Although group shows do occur (such as the current exhibit, “Head Space,” with works by eight artists), the couple ideally prefers to show more than just one or two pieces by the same individual. The reason is that an artist’s work is often diverse within their own portfolios. ArtProv takes a similarly eclectic approach, introducing new artists whenever possible. Many are local, while some hail from places like Indiana, Istanbul, or India.
In terms of a unifying theme, ArtProv originally sought out “color, texture, and expression,” but found over time that they were especially drawn to artists who show “an intensity of creating that is ‘obsessive,’” says Aucoin. The couple admires passionate artists who are driven by the creative process to develop their artmaking; it’s an approach they share.
ArtProv represents 15-20 regular artists who rotate through showings, and also showcases guest artists. Three regulars will be featured in “Head Space”: Judy Volkmann, Ted DiLucia, and VF Wolf. The gallery shows mostly painters, but works by sculptors like Sean James Harrington or ceramicists like Suzanne Hill also appear in the curatorial mix.
The vibe of the space, with its colored walls and hardwood floors, is friendly, low-key, and approachable. Artwork prices typically fall between $500 and $5,000, and ample storage space allows for regular artists’ work to be brought out and shown even if it’s not currently exhibited.
“We’re not all white walls and pure white,” Aucoin says. “We wanted to make it more homey, like ‘this is your loft space; imagine this art on your wall.’” Rather than being intimidated by the art gallery experience, Paciorek hopes visitors will feel comfortable dropping in and starting a conversation about what they see and how they feel about it.
Thanks to the amount of space, “we’re able to show younger artists – not just established ones,” he adds. Having brick-and-mortar space to show is especially “important to artists starting out,” whose work can get lost on the internet.
“Head Space” opened on June 6 and runs until July 21, with a closing reception to take place Thursday, July 19 from 5-9pm. ArtProv is open Tuesdays through Fridays 11-5, Saturday from 12-4, or by appointment. The couple also does in-home shows.
150 Chestnut Street