By Joseph Kellard
“Oh, when did this open?” a woman asked with pleasant surprise while biking past a West End storefront two Saturdays ago. Her discovery was of a rare species on the South Shore: an art gallery.
“Today at 11 o’clock,” answered Scott Evers, owner of Evers Place, sub-named “A gallery by the sea.”
“It’s beautiful — I’ll have to stop back when it’s not so crowded,” the cyclist said. Sept. 20 was the gallery’s grand opening, and it was abuzz with caterers, curious art lovers and artists eager to sell their works. An estimated crowd of 450 passed through the gallery’s doors that afternoon, some 300 more than Evers had bought food and drink for.
Despite the initial excitement, however, Evers said he understands the risk he is taking in transforming his late father’s home-improvement repair shop, Dan Evers, a fixture at 949 W. Beech St. since 1949, into the first West End gallery in memory. Recent history shows that art galleries have had a short life span, at least in some neighboring towns. Around mid-decade, an Oceanside gallery devoted to Southeast Asian art closed its doors after about two years in business, and a studio in Island Park, which featured local artists, opened last December but is already out of business.
Evers, however, expects that his gallery will avoid the endangered species list. Since it is smack in the middle of the West End’s booming restaurant and bar scene, and with a wealth of artists living in town, he believes he’ll have no shortage of either customers or artists willing to display their paintings, drawings, photographs, collages and sculptures. It also helps that there are a few local groups that promote the arts, including the Long Beach Art League and West End Arts, both of which Evers belongs to, as well as other smaller, niche organizations such as the Artist Mothers Group.
“We have almost an art underground here in Long Beach,” said Evers, a native who was inspired by his father’s World War II snapshots to pick up his first camera at age 6. “We have so many good artists.”
Artists are attracted to the city by its lengthy stretch of seascape as well as Reynolds Channel, which is an “undiscovered country,” Evers explained. Landscape artist Kathleen Regan used to visit a friend in Long Beach and set up her easel on the beach before she moved to the West End 12 years ago and joined the local art group.
At Evers’s grand opening, Regan displayed some of her paintings, including one of a sand dune on the Georgia Avenue beach in 1980 titled “Chauncey’s,” named for and featuring the legendary former bar. “I feel that this is such a blessing for us,” Regan said of the gallery. “I mean, we have so many artists on this barrier island, and this is the first fine arts gallery that I know of.”
Regan and many other local artists have displayed their work in the halls of the Long Beach Public Library or at local gift shops and restaurants, as well as at annual arts fairs around town. When they do get an opportunity to show their work in galleries, typically they have to trek to Manhattan or the Hamptons.
At the grand opening, Michael McLaughlin, a native West Ender who often paints Southwestern scenes, displayed a painting titled “Mermaid,” which shows the sea creature lounging on a crescent moon with a star in hand.
“We’ve never really had something where the artists had a venue to promote their work,” said McLaughlin, whose works have been exhibited in restaurants. “We artists feed off each other, and with Scott doing this it’s a really great endeavor.”
By day, Evers is a corporate consultant who travels nationwide. When his father died last year and left him the shop, he finally had the opportunity to pursue his dream of opening a gallery. He renovated the 1,200-square-foot shop and opened Evers Place with Amy Castillo, who owned Listen To Your Art, a gallery and picture frame shop on Park Avenue.
The works on display range from $40 to $7,500. For $750 a customer can own an impressive piece by Long Beach photographer Jonathan Spector, a poster-size image of a boardwalk bench looking out onto a gold-tinted, desolate winter beach and ocean illuminated by a bar of sunlight piercing through clouds as icicles form on the guardrails.
Evers has also hung some of his own pieces, including “Wharfside,” a digitally enhanced photo of fishing boats lined up at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Also on display are the collages of Long Beach resident Veronica Schliemann. One consists of torn colored paper in the form of a muscular man lying by a river, titled “Sleeping Giant.” Another, “Nature And Her Vista,” shows a similar giant sitting in a gorge that was created by puzzling together sectional photos of Utah’s Bryce Canyon.
And what would a West End gallery be without an artful surfboard on display? One board sports a painting of a tropical beach, a typical scene by Dan Macken, an international artist who collaborates with Brian Wilson of Beach Boys’ fame. Evers met Macken at an art expo at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan last year, and invited him to his grand opening.
That kind of networking is part of Evers’s long-range plan to keep his gallery not only breathing, but thriving. He also hopes to attract more Manhattanites, who come to Long Beach on the Long Island Rail Road, to the West End. “A lot of them don’t even know the West End exists,” he said. He plans to focus on Web marketing on Craigslist and other sites aimed primarily at New York City audiences.
“Really, one of the big untapped resources out here is the city,” Evers said.
To learn more about Evers Place, visit the gallery’s Web site, eversplace.com, or call (516) 729-3168 or 208-7000.