Pop Goes The Art Gallery

It’s a familiar scene on Main Street: A tenant moves out. Landlords leave the space vacant for a long time, searching for the perfect replacement. Or at least, someone willing to pay the sky-high rent.

But take a look at #1. One of the most visible properties downtown — it’s in the old library building, at the Post Road intersection across from Taylor Place — it was formerly the site of Calypso. The “luxury lifestyle brand” moved out more than 2 years ago.

The space is still available. But for the past few months, it’s been occupied — very vibrantly — by a pop-up art gallery.

#1 Main Street

Pop’TArt is the brainchild of Mark Yurkiw. A longtime Westporter and physicist by training, he spent his career helping Fortune 500 companies launch products and services. Part of that involved creating story-telling sculptures for media outlets like Newsweek and Fortune.

His works include a rendition of the Capitol. Commissioned by the George W. Bush White House, it was signed by 256 members of Congress.

In 1995 Yurkiw created a piece of a real estate developer named Donald Trump. He had bought a hotel on Columbus Circle, and wanted to brand it with his name.

A few months ago, in a conversation with fellow Westport artists Miggs Burroughs and Amy Kaplan, Yurkiw learned that Rick Yarmy was looking for a way to champion local artists.

Yarmy’s is the longtime property manager for Win Properties. They handle #1 Main Street (and many other retail spaces across the country).

Yurkiw called. He told Yarmy his idea: a gallery with works that would push visitors to think about current news and headlines.

Yarmy said “sure!”

Yurkiw found a curator. Jennifer Haviland was working in Southampton. But she took a leap of faith, and moved here.

Together, they set out to find local artist who could create or re-purpose pieces to fit a theme.

The current show — called “Words Matter,” because each work’s title is important — includes some of Yurkiw’s own previous efforts. His Capitol sculpture, for example, is called “Re-Birth of a Nation.” Recalling D.W. Griffith, with an egg shape that suggests birth.

Mark Yurkiw with “Re-Birth of a Nation.” Behind him is another work: “New National Bird.” It’s a monarch butterfly.

Yurkiw froze his own passport. He calls it “Passport on ICE.” It’s provocative. But — as with every piece in the show — Yurkiw says, “people can decide how or what to feel for themselves.”

“Passport on ICE,”

Another example: a monarch butterfly, called “New National Bird.” Some people may look at it and think about all the birds that are disappearing. Others might say, “They migrate from Mexico.” Or, “Oh, we now have a monarch.”

Chris Calle — who has designed 32 US stamps, many relating to space — contributed a diptych. Titled “Fragile,” the two parts — “Climate” and “Change” — show the earth from space, in two very different forms. One is lush; the other, arid.

Reaction to Pop’TArt has been excellent, Yurkiw says. And Yarmy — the landlord’s representative — is so excited at the chance to showcase art in an otherwise empty space that he’s talking with Yurkiw about moving the show to other properties.

The storefront is still for rent. But, Yurkiw says, Yarmy sees the gallery as an asset. Potential tenants are excited to see foot traffic, and can envision their own store there.

Curator Jennifer Haviland, with Steven Goldstein’s Paul Newman art.

Meanwhile, Yurkiw forges ahead. He’s spoken with Westport poet laureate Diane Lowman about doing readings at Pop’TArt.

“We want to bring as many artists here, of all kinds, for as long as we can,” he says.

And when #1 Main Street gets rented — well, there are plenty of other vacant storefronts downtown.

(Pop’TArt is open Thursday through Sunday, from 12 to 6 p.m.)

8 responses to “Pop Goes The Art Gallery

  1. Well, Mr. Yurkiu may be a genius sculptor, but the name Pop’Tart trivializes the works that are displayed in what I’m sure is intended to be a serious gallery.
    A shame.

    • “Words Matter” is but one of already three monthly themed shows in what will be a parade of shows to help support Local Artists and bring original art to the homes of Westporters at affordable prices. I’m hoping you will make POP’T ART a monthly destination to see whats popped up. This month’s show is called “Denizens” people of a place. “Words Matter” is destined to be a travelling show to help people decide what they want their world to look like perhaps making them smile or even laugh. Mr. Katz, it’s meant to disarm you from the polarized atmosphere we live in so you can ponder important issues from a completely different perspective. To quote Margeret Mead-“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”…..seriously 🙂 Hope you make it to the Gallery before the “Words Matter” show leaves to travel the country.

    • David J. Loffredo

      Haters gonna hate.

  2. Good job‼️‼️‼️⭐️🌈

    Sent from my iPhone Bobbi


  3. Great article for Mark and the town. Let’s see if some other real estate people are willing to share the vacant spaces (Remarkable Books is now remarkable for having been vacant for … how many years—at a minimum, 15?) to enliven our Main Street of Memory and enrich the town as Mark and his partners have done. Pop’T Art Gallery is a catchy name and does not trivialize any of the efforts put into making Main St. a nicer, more warm and welcoming place. It’s high visibility conjures up whatever the passersby want to imagine and what curiosity will bring them in. Wonderful! Thank you, Mark, partners, and Dan for making it more visible.

  4. Dan, Thank you for spotlighting Rick Yarmy and WIN Properties. Over the last couple of years, I’ve approached many downtown landlords and leasing agents with proposals for pop-up events, and Rick is the only one who has responded. Rick is aware of the fact that arts events in Fairfield County produce an average of $34 of ancillary economic activity per attendee, which is obviously helpful to local businesses! (Arts & Economic Prosperity 5: The Economic Impact of NonProfit Arts and Cultural Organizations and Their Audiences in Fairfield County, 2017) Beyond that, arts activations provide interest and diversity to a street of retail, banking, and vacancies, creating a reason to visit downtown instead of the mall. Higher foot traffic helps sustain other businesses, and ultimately, helps landlords keep spaces filled with rent-paying tenants. Rick’s support was also instrumental last May when Darcy Hicks, Liz Leggett and I produced and curated our show, “Uncovered; What She Hides,” in that same space at 1 Main Street. He has also allowed us to use the space at 47 Main Street for pop-up shows, including this holiday season, when I produced and managed a Pop Up holiday shop filled with artisan and hand-made products from Westport’s Artists Collective members. During these pop up events, people often comment on how enjoyable it is to have shops and exhibits like these on Main Street. We’ve even been able to harness some synergy, and send customers down the street to the Pop T’Art Gallery, and vice-versa. The reality is that without Rick’s forward-thinking, there is no way that we could have brought any of these experiences to life. It’s my fondest wish that other landlords with vacant properties would see the benefits of allowing their spaces to be used for activations like these, and that our town could begin to engage and promote this by offering a variety of carrots and sticks in the form of tax incentives or penalties. To my mind, there’s is certainly room for public/private partnerships to sponsor not just arts events, but incubate other local entrepreneurial businesses. In the current retail climate, what brings people out of their homes and off their computers is experience- something that cannot be transmitted digitally. Partners like Rick Yarmy and WIN Properties are to be commended for recognizing that, and for helping to foster an environment for that to happen.

  5. Dorothy Robertshaw

    Fabulous space , wonderful Energy …bringing Art back to downtown Westport love it as a local artist and designer…. The light show at night is fabulous … Jen is not only knowledgeable and curator but very welcoming .