Connexions Gallery

Connexions Gallery

When Robin Porter started Connexions Gallery in 1990, he couldn’t have known how perfectly it would grow into its name.

From its very beginning, the Northampton Street gallery has connected lovers of contemporary arts and crafts with a varied group of local and regional artists. But over the years, it’s played a continuing and key role in Easton’s artistic and retail renaissance, becoming a cultural hub that offers music, poetry, performance art, workshops and classes, and a place for the community to gather.

“I believe the arts can be a bridge between communities,” says Anthony J. Marraccini, who has been the manager and curator since 2003, when Alice Kwiatkowski purchased it from Robin. “We try to make it more than a standard art gallery. It’s not a static or austere environment. We’re not hyper-elite. I think it’s OK to elevate art in a certain fashion, but I don’t think that’s what art is about.”

Anthony and Alice have stayed true to Robin’s original vision, and Connexions is now the longest-running local, regional contemporary art gallery in the Lehigh Valley. But the pair has really focused on the local aspect, getting involved in numerous aspects of the Easton community, whose parallel arts and preservation movements had begun to coalesce around the time they took over the gallery.

“Right away, we knew that there was a need for the community to get off its feet, so we went head on into every community organization,” Anthony recalls, noting that he served as president of the Arts Community of Easton from 2004 to 2016, while Alice served on the board for 10 years. He was also a founding member of the Easton Main Street Initiative and still sits on the board of the Greater Easton Development Partnership. “We did everything we could to help build up what had been here. The example was set before we got here. We wanted to be part of that change and to help out where we could.”

Easton now boasts several other art galleries, along with eateries, retail establishments, and other venues that show or sell art. Rather than spawning a sense of competition, this hive of creativity instead draws more people to the city as an art destination, fostering an even stronger sense of community.

“If you could convince someone to open a gallery right across the street, I would be ecstatic,” Anthony says.

Connexions features a variety of art, from paintings and jewelry to pottery, glass, and even some smaller sculptures. The gallery is divided into two spaces: the featured artist space, which features the work of one to two artists in a show that lasts four to six weeks, and the group showcase, a longer show that features the works of multiple artists.

“There is a lot of local talent throughout the Valley,” Anthony says. “The trick is creating a space that they can show in. I tend to work with about two dozen artists on a regular basis and still try to create space for new people.”

Some of the artists have been showing at Connexions since before Anthony and Alice took it over. Among the longtime artists whose works are still regularly featured are Nancy Bossert, Danny Moyer, Tina Madonia, Val Bertoia and, less frequently, Isadore LaDuca. Newer artists include Angie Snyder and Susan Washington.

“I have a special spot in my heart for Connexions because it was the first location that took a chance on me and helped foster my growth as artist by letting me express myself,” says Danny, an artist and art teacher from Easton who approached Robin about 20 years ago with several small collages. “I asked him if he’d hang them in the gallery,” he recalls. “He said he’d put them up, but that you never know what will happen. They sold, and he asked me if I had more. I brought in more, and they sold and he asked me if I had bigger ones. He gave me my first solo show there in 2000, and I’ve been showing in the group shows regularly since then, with solo exhibitions about every four years.”

“Anthony and Alice really treat the place as a venue to enjoy and appreciate art, not just to sell it,” Danny says. “You don’t feel like it’s a business when you walk in. No one is trying to make you leave with something. And while they aren’t going to put up inferior work, they give artists an opportunity to put themselves out there. I have a lot of respect for a gallery that’s willing to take chances.”

“They are so supportive of everyone, even of people coming into the community and doing the same thing,” says Nancy, a Bethlehem painter who also sells drawings, stoneware, jewelry, and fiber art at Connexions. “They’re not territorial at all. It’s like, ‘The more the merrier. The better the atmosphere in this town.’ I’ve dealt with a lot of galleries over the years. Connexions has such a positive atmosphere. It’s just a wonderful place.”

Nancy particularly likes the regular Drink and Draw sessions, which bring artists together for an evening to draw the same subject. Connexions is one of several Valley venues to hold these sessions; the sessions at Connexions feature a nude model.

“People come in and sit and draw and bring alcohol if they want,” Anthony says. “It’s not a rowdy thing. It’s professional and casual at the same time.”

Connexions also has hosted literature workshops and poetry readings, offers regular open mic nights, and has become a hot spot for improvisational jazz. “I had some musician friends who wanted to play here,” Anthony says. “We built up a scene just by having gigs all the time. We have had people from Vermont, Iowa, Jerusalem, Germany, and France show up to play. We have locals who play here all the time. There’s an open mic every second Friday. Forty or fifty people will come out for open mic on most nights. Here it’s a performance. It’s not just background music in a bar.”

Connexions’ widespread support for art of all kinds has been recognized by the ArtsQuest Foundation, which will present it with the Linny Award for Small Business Supporter of the Arts on November 1.

“It all goes hand in hand,” Anthony says. “Art is everything. It’s everywhere.”

Connexions Gallery
213 Northampton St, Easton

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