Walking into The Evolution Gallery, the space feels right at home in Peekskill: The walls are strung from floor to ceiling with local art from oil and canvas to photography and mixed media, interspersed with large cabinets and display cases for jewelry, journals, books, and bric-a-brac. Refinished tables and dressers (also for sale) covered with handcrafted leather goods, felt pieces, pottery, soaps, essentials oils, and the like dot the floor space, encourage a slow, meandering path through the storefront. It’s hard to imagine that the gallery practically appeared overnight.
Housed in the recently constructed Lofts On Main building at 922 Main Street, The Evolution Gallery is something of a confluence of events, testament to the town’s revitalization efforts. In 2016, gallery owner Evelyn Lee found herself suddenly single and jobless at age 60, downsizing her apartment as a cost-saving measure.
“My financial situation changed radically,” she says. “I was certain, though, that I would find a job, and was shocked when, for the first time in my life, nothing materialized. People started to tell me I had to ‘reinvent’ myself.”
“I had always joked that someday, when I retired, I would teach yoga and own a shop, a place where I could sell all the fabulous art that my friends created.”
A former art director with 20-plus years in the consumer products business, Lee lucked out when friend and Peekskill local Tom Walsh — owner of Pedal Peekskill and Yorktown Cycles—mentioned that Lofts On Main was soliciting businesses to move into its ground floor. She pitched her gallery idea and within a few weeks they were up and running.
To stock the gallery, Lee contacted the many artists she’d met throughout her career, most from Westchester and the greater Hudson Valley area, but others spread as far as upstate New York, Connecticut, Western, Pennsylvania, and then some. Trips to craft fares at Lyndhurst, Rhinebeck, and Peekskill’s own Open Studios program forged an ever-growing list of connections that will comprise both regular exhibits and periodic “trunk show” artist showcases.
In addition to the art and locally crafted products, Lee plans to host yoga classes, kids crafts, reiki sessions, and other small events in the gallery’s back room. Guests are welcome to pop in any time to view the artwork, picture the revamped furniture in their own homes, or even just say hello to Finn, The Evolution Gallery’s unofficial mascot pooch. Defying comprehension, Lee seems to be intimately familiar with every single artist whose work is displayed: she can tell you the story behind every photo, the exact Peekskill street depicted in a painting, even the process for felting. (You didn’t know ‘felt’ was a verb, did you?)
“Radiant Buddha” by Wayne Marcus. Feltwork by Erin von Holdt-Gilbert of The Modern Dream
“I was born here in Peekskill. When I was a little girl I came up here every weekend; my aunts and uncles lived on Furnace Dock Road and Furnace Brook Drive.” Despite a few decades spent in Connecticut, Lee seems right back at home running the gallery. “I’ve always loved it up here,” she says.
“There’s a warmth and friendliness to this city, a ‘school spirit,’ to quote a woman who was just in the gallery, that is hard to find anywhere else in Westchester or Fairfield County. I’ve been here less than two months and everyone that steps into the gallery has been welcoming and so excited that I’m here. The artists have been so grateful. The chamber of commerce, the [Business Development District], the city, the restaurant owners, all have been so kind. I’m so grateful to all of them.”
The Evolution Gallery is already open for business, but guests are invited to join the chamber of commerce and featured artists for a grand opening ribbon cutting at noon on Saturday, September 22. Snacks, libations, and special 10%-off coupon will be available.
The Evolution Gallery
922 Main St., Peekskill