“There’s got to be something that’s passionate about it,” she said.
That passion could come from someone who is new to art, someone who has been practicing for years but has yet to display their works, or from a more experienced artist. But even then, being featured in other shows doesn’t guarantee an exhibit at the Field Gallery.
“I have turned people away … I’m not going to take every single person who comes in,” Morgan said. “I don’t want hobbyists. I want people that are really serious and passionate about their work.”
Morgan, a former magazine editor and photographer, takes her own position at the gallery seriously. She lives in Peekskill and works as a circulation clerk at the Field Library, which opened the gallery in 2007. Morgan started curating shows—something she says she picked up as she went along—on her own in 2008.
Since then, Morgan has organized a show about once every two months. She aims to feature artists from Peekskill and Cortlandt as often as possible. Sometimes she goes with an artist from the greater Hudson Valley region, and, on rare occasions, one from New York City.
In certain instances the artists find her, via email or popping into the library with a portfolio. Other times Morgan reaches out.
One of her favorite shows featured photography by Charles Ruppman, a photographer with The Daily News. His work was so powerful, "not just in a documentary way, but in an artistic way, too," Morgan said.
“There's a photo of the bank robber, the real guy, from the movie Dog Day Afternoon, the part that Al Pacino played,” she said, referring to John Wojtowicz, the man who attempted to rob a New York City bank in 1972. Ruppman was on assignment that day. “He caught the moment that he was peering outside of the curtains there. It’s an amazing shot and compositionally it’s beautiful too.”
Seeing the reaction of artists, like Ruppman, after all the preparation is done—the selection of the pieces, the physical setup, the press releases and more—is one of the best parts of the job for Morgan. She loves witnessing the look on an artist’s face during an exhibit’s opening.
Openings sometimes draw scores of people whose reactions to the art vary. They come from as far as New York and as close as the local neighborhood.
“I think we've established ourselves as a gallery to be seen in Peekskill now, not just a gallery in the library but a gallery in Peekskill,” Morgan said, adding that she believes it’s important to have art in public places. “As far as our gallery goes, its located in the library, which gives it I think an extra plus. You can come upstairs, look at art and then you can go downstairs and browse books. It’s sort of a one-two punch.”
Opening at 1 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 5) is an exhibit spotlighting Charles McGill, a Peekskill artist who's been talked about in the New York Times, The Village Voice and Art in America. McGill’s featured paintings deal with race and identity, and Morgan expects the show to be “hard-hitting.”
To library Director Sybil Canaan, the gallery is a place that highlights “the distinctive points of view and talents of our local artists, both established and newcomers.” She spearheaded the effort to turn the space, which previously housed law books, into today’s intimate art area.
“Reactions from local residents who attend art receptions, book-signings, or meetings, has been uniformly positive,” Canaan said, “and we look forward to many, many more years showcasing the local arts community in the gallery.”
Admission to the gallery is free. It's open during library hours. The library is located at 4 Nelson Avenue in Peekskill.