After Bruno David opened his gallery in Grand Center 11 years ago, he was a cheerleader for the area’s emergence as a major arts destination. Now Grand Center is so successful that David has to leave.
In late October, David is relocating his namesake gallery to Clayton, to a spot on Forsyth Boulevard near the St. Louis Artists' Guild. The move comes a month after inspectors deemed his Washington Boulevard location unsafe. A regularly scheduled assessment revealed that concrete walls in the back of the building were crumbling.
When he got the news, David had just completed a renovation that cost $10,000 and hours of his own labor. He had an exhibition opening in two weeks. He began looking for another Grand Center location. But ...
“There’s nothing available" David said. "And if there is, it’s extremely expensive.”
‘I find it sad’
When David moved to St. Louis from New York City and debuted his Grand Center gallery, there were plenty of storefronts available for rent in the area. He picked a place across the street from the 4-year-old Pulitzer Arts Foundation and the 2-year-old Contemporary Art Museum.
With The Sheldon, Powell Hall, Jazz at the Bistro and other venues close by, and the support of the Grand Center organization, the district began to bloom.
“I loved being one of the people who carried the flag for Grand Center,” David said.
Bruno David Gallery drew visitors who came and stayed in the area for an afternoon or evening of art.
“The traffic has been terrific, and you get quality traffic,” David said.
He said he’ll miss the area he helped to nurture.
“I find it sad,” David said. “We all worked very hard for 11, 12 years. I would have thought there would be a space somewhere here. It seems everything is taken or earmarked for something else.”
Dilemma points to need
David is correct in saying property in the arts and culture district is hard to come by, Grand Center President Karin Hagaman said.
“We really do have plans for all the spaces for along Grand Boulevard,” Hagaman said.
Hagaman said she helped David look for a venue off Grand but his need to relocate quickly and the expense of renovation was prohibitive.
“It would have been a fairly substantial investment to get some raw space ready to use for a gallery,” Hagaman said.
She said David’s dilemma brings up the need for spaces off the main strip for art galleries, small retail and coffee shops, which help bring an area to life.
“They give you the opportunity for more places for people to come and gather,” Hagman said.
David, meanwhile, is hoping for the best in his new Clayton location. If all goes as planned, he'll open his next exhibition, featuring Michael Jantzen, Chris Kahler, Kahlil Irving and three others, in early November.
David won’t have nearly the foot traffic as he did in Grand Center but he said sales are rarely the result of drop-in visitors. Still, he’s not sure if Clayton will be a permanent home.
“It could be a temporary move for a couple of years,” David said. “Maybe I’ll have a gallery in Clayton and another one in Grand Center.”
David's additional gallery in The Grove area is still open but by appointment only.
Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL