Production and exhibits happen under one roof in this unique space
By Anne Tate
Burlington, Vermont native Lindsay Metivier (left) was 25 years old when she opened her first gallery, Aviary, in Boston in 2011. Aviary showed a diverse range of pieces made by artists – many emerging and mid-career – working in all mediums. “One wonderful thing that came from my time at Aviary was all of the relationships that were fostered and the creative network that was built,” she says. “And I learned how hard it is to run an art space when you aren’t a business- or money-minded person.”
Five years later, Lindsay moved to Chapel Hill to attend graduate school at UNC. She graduated with a master’s in studio art with a photography concentration and went on to become an adjunct photography professor at UNC and UNC Greensboro. The combination of long-distance management, rent increases and the onset of COVID-19 made Aviary difficult to maintain, so Lindsay closed up shop after nearly 100 exhibitions. But she wasn’t done encouraging artists and fostering art in local communities.
“I’ve seen a lot of great art spaces close” during her time in Chapel Hill, she says. So she set out to fill the void and opened Peel, a space similar to Aviary, in Carrboro on March 5. “Opening an art space during a pandemic when the pandemic closed your other art space seems a little risky,” Lindsay says. “But it just felt like something the neighborhood could use.”
As a photographer, Lindsay has collected and captured images of oranges and their peels her entire life. It was only natural that while landing on a name for her new gallery, she took inspiration from her own artwork, plus the variety of artists she hoped to attract and the type of space she dreamed it would be – an art gallery, digital photography lab, community event space and retail store promoting contemporary art. “I wanted some name that would reflect the layers that the space was going to be,” she says. “And it also doesn’t hurt that it exists in Orange County.”
Its opening was not the grand event Lindsay imagined and was instead gradual due to the pandemic. She figured out new outreach approaches, like virtual tours and outdoor events, to connect with audiences. When money got tight, Lindsay started a fundraiser and raised more than $31,000.
“It’s really exciting to be part of a community that’s so heavily invested in the arts,” Lindsay says.
Peel’s spot on West Rosemary Street is 2,000 square feet, nearly four times the size of Aviary, with a designated gallery, retail and lab space. It provides artists with a place to meet, attend workshops and have their work photographed. “The hope is that we’ll promote accessibility, inspire creativity and enable and empower the whole community,” Lindsay says. “We’re hoping to attract every medium and artists in all points of their careers.”
The gallery is doing well in its first six months – 187 masked visitors came to Peel’s first opening reception for its debut exhibition, “Local Produce,” in May. “There hasn’t been a single day that somebody hasn’t emailed or come in with work for me to look at,” Lindsay says. “I didn’t even realize how necessary this space was until the day that we opened the doors.”
Upcoming exhibitions include printmaker Bob Goldstein and painter Chieko Murasugi. Peel will also host an orange-themed group show beginning in November, filling its walls with peel-related artwork. Lindsay hopes to host an outdoor art fair in the parking lot, and the gallery is already booked for exhibitions through the end of 2023.