Spring 2016 Feature Story: Art

A creative collaboration

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 art gallery, patches holes in the walls while setting up  the space for the gallery’s opening. The gallery, 321 James St., Clayton, was scheduled to open May 6. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 art gallery, patches holes in the walls while setting up the space for the gallery’s opening. The gallery, 321 James St., Clayton, was scheduled to open May 6. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Fibonacci 321 brings 11 artists together in Clayton

By Gabrielle Hovendon, NNY Living

When Kari Zelson Robertson first came up with the idea for Clayton’s newest art gallery, she was thinking all in clay.

Ms. Robertson, a local potter and organizer of the Northern New York Art Trail, had wanted to establish a collaborative gallery with multiple artists paying the bills, staffing the exhibits and reaping the rewards of a common space. At first, she planned to include only clay artists, but she later decided that she — and the public — would be more interested in a variety of art media.

And so Fibonacci 321 was born. Opening May 6 at 321 James St. in Clayton, the gallery will feature finely crafted work in wood, metal, clay, textiles, glass, drawing and painting by 11 north country artists.

“I think this is going to be a unique offering because the variety of artists we have is really interesting,” said Ms. Robertson, who manages and is also an exhibiting artist at Fibonacci 321. “We have around two people for each medium, and they’re local artists who are very committed to their craft. These are people who have extensive experience in exhibiting their work. A few of them are or have been teachers, and they’re generally looking for a way, as I am, to stay in the north country. We like it here, we want to continue to live here, and we’re hoping it will make our work even more worthwhile.”

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 gallery, Clayton, patches holes in  the walls while setting up space for the gallery’s opening. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 gallery, Clayton, patches holes in the walls while setting up space for the gallery’s opening. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Fibonacci 321 is organized democratically around the premise that the 11 participating artists will share equally in the running of the gallery. Although each artist will keep the proceeds from the sale of their own artwork, they will take turns staffing the gallery and divide up tasks like scheduling, website design and grounds upkeep.

Additionally, each artist is responsible for knowing about their fellows’ background, works and processes so that they can explain all the exhibited pieces to interested visitors. Ms. Robertson said she also envisions future collaborations between the artists, and she’s already had one of her clay “fossil” pieces mounted in a jewelry setting by one of the jewelers.

“What I was really looking for were people who were highly accomplished in their field and who were good team players and hard working,” she said about forming the gallery’s roster. “I’m glad for the chance to be able to do this and collaborate with some really interesting artists.”

One such artist, Mary Knapp, is a local quilter who incorporates mathematical patterns such as tessellations — and, fittingly, the Fibonacci series — into her precise, colorful quilts. She’s been quilting for many years, even having one of her designs grace the cover of a mathematics textbook, but she said she’s never been involved in a collaborative endeavor like Fibonacci 321.

“Part of the appeal of the gallery is that it’s a group of 11 different artists and we’re all bringing a little piece of ourselves into the gallery,” she said. “I think it’s just going to be a lot of fun. There’s nothing else like this gallery in Clayton or anyplace along the river. It’s going to be classy, it’s going to be unique, and it’s going to have items there that you can’t find anywhere else.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the visitors to the gallery,” she continued. “I was a teacher, and I love showing people how to do things, so I will really enjoy showing them how I work and how they can do this.”

Owned by the Thousand Islands Arts Center, the gallery’s James Street site has previously been home to a resident potter, arts classes and, most recently, gift shops. Now, it will continue in that tradition of arts education, at least informally: Ms. Robertson hopes to see not only customers shopping for a special gift but also families bringing in their children to show them handmade work. (To that end, the gallery is also planning to host some demonstrations and outdoor activities.)

According to Leslie Rowland, executive director of the Thousand Islands Arts Center, Fibonacci 321 is ideally situated for visitors: it’s both in a desirable commercial space in downtown Clayton and at the entrance to the TI Arts Center campus.

What’s in a name?

Leonardo Bonacci (1170 – 1250) — known as Fibonacci, and Leonardo of Pisa, Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, Leonardo Fibonacci—was an Italian mathematician, considered to be “the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages.”

fib WEBFibonacci gave his name to a sequence of numbers whose proportions echo throughout the natural world. The Fibonacci sequence, which is formed by adding the previous two numbers in the sequence together (for example, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8), has been found in flower petals, pinecones, hurricanes, shell spirals and even galaxy patterns. The Fibonacci sequence is also the foundation for the “Golden Ratio” or “Divine Proportion,” which can be seen in ancient art and architecture.

“Essentially, the idea is that there’s a natural order and beauty that pervades math and art,” Kari Zelson Robertson said about the gallery’s name choice. “And 321 is a reverse Fibonacci number, so it seems to fit.”

“I think there’ll be an organic pass-through of people between our galleries,” Ms. Rowland said. “We always love to collaborate with fellow artists, and we’re really delighted to have this fine group of artisans located on our campus. I think it’s going to be a win-win for us, and I think it’s going to be really good for Clayton, too.”

Ms. Robertson agreed that the location was ideal, with the back of Fibonacci 321’s seven-room gallery adjacent to the TI Arts Center’s pottery studio. Like Ms. Rowland, she anticipates a good flow of visitors between the two sites.

“One of the things that is exciting about being in Clayton is the growth of activity in the creative sector,” Ms. Robertson said. “This synergy is something that our group appreciates and wants to be a part of. …There is enough arts and lifestyle activity going on there that the village has become an attraction. A visitor can eat a fine meal, go to a concert, watch a sunset, and take home a one-of-a-kind piece of art, all in one small village.”

The gallery will participate in the Memorial Day weekend River Open Studio Tour, and it will have its grand opening from 6 to 8 p.m. May 6, with free refreshments and classical guitar music by Gary Walts. That night, the artists will be on hand to discuss their work and show visitors around the space, hoping that people will not only purchase the art on display but also learn something about it.

“I think that when people know more about the arts, they’re more interested in owning a piece of art,” Ms. Robertson said. “A lot of times, people might not know what it takes to create something, and when you learn about the process, it makes you appreciate it more. Regardless of whether there’s a sale, we want to be the kind of place where people can come in and they can learn something, enjoy themselves, and have a nice conversation.”

Fibonacci 321 / Who’s who

Meet The Artists

The 11 artist-hosts of Fibonacci 321 are:
Dave Ciechanowski — clay
Peter Curtis — fine furniture
Foster Holcombe — glass
Ginny Hovendon — painting, drawing
Mary Knapp — quilts
Greg Lago — printmaking, sculpture
Brian Lister — painting
Claudia Loomis — textiles, jewelry
Suzan McDermott — photography
Kari Zelson Robertson — clay
Gina Wells — metals, jewelry.

To Learn More

For more information, visit the gallery’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/Fibonacci321 or contact Kari Zelson Robertson at fibart321@gmail.com or 777-0612.

Gabrielle Hovendon is a former Watertown Daily Times reporter and a freelance writer studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, Athens. Contact her at ghovendon@gmail.com.