Hey Cities! Got Space? How About a Pop-Up Gallery?


March 5, 2019

Pop-up stores—not a new concept. We’ve seen Spirit Halloween stores come into neighborhood shopping districts, thrill us with their vast assortment, and go. A Christmas candy pop-up surprises you with convenience, a “Bouquets To Go” at Valentine’s Day next to your local grocery store was just what you needed at that moment, or maybe you’ve had a glimpse of an iconic brand testing a new retail concept as a pop-up inside your favorite department store.

What the pop-up brings is an exciting experience that engages us in the experiment and creates a sense of urgency in its “here today, gone tomorrow” concept. So we were intrigued when the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Lafayette embraced the idea of a pop-up and morphed it into an exciting community-based experiential endeavor.

JPG@The Bank, a pop-up art gallery and interactive event space, opened its doors in February to an exciting launch. Orchestrated by Jennifer Perlmutter, founder of Lafayette’s successful Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery, JPG@The Bank is housed in a long vacant Wells Fargo building.

We wanted to know more and took the opportunity of asking Perlmutter a few questions. It’s a terrific story of problem solving and community commitment.

How did the idea for JPG@The Bank happen? What was the impetus driving the concept?

In the summer of 2018, the city of Lafayette held a retail workshop with property owners and business owners to solve the issue of long-term empty storefronts. I was invited to be on the panel, offering my perspective. The city wanted to find solutions to make the downtown area more interactive, give people more reasons to come to Lafayette all days and hours of the week. The property owners and developers on the panel had vacant buildings, both large and small, but were resolved to only lease them to viable tenants. Councilman Mike Anderson suggested the idea of a pop-up art gallery and the empty bank building emerged as a gallery and interactive event space. Working with the city and property owner, Steve Cortese, JPG@The Bank was created.

And there you were with an opportunity. We get it—but you already have a gallery. Why open another one just down the street?

I am an artist. When my family and I first located to Lafayette, I had a studio in Berkeley. I tired of the commute and realized I wanted to connect directly with my customer and offer an experience elevated from a studio visit. I wanted community connection and I knew I could represent myself as an artist. I opened the Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in February 2014. Finding ways to bring art and commerce together for everyone to win is a blast most of the time!

JPG@The Bank is intended to be more that what can be accomplished in my small gallery. There will be community events with music performance, artist talks, wine tastings, collaborative painting, a weekend painting workshop with the Carl Heyward of Global Art Project (GAP), a youth poetry slam, Cal Shakes salon, a speaker night on the art of leadership, and more.

For the last five years, I’ve been having community events in my gallery, bridging culture, commerce, and community. Now, with this space, in the center of town, even more people get to experience the strong creative culture in Contra Costa County. It’s just exciting.

It’s a pop up gallery. What does that mean to you and the community?

Retail pop-ups are becoming a very popular model. Not dissimilar to the art fair model. What it means to me is “make it count”. What it means to the community is they will have an activated, interactive, artful business where they can bring their families. They now have more choices for art without traveling outside the area. It means another empty, sad, dark building will be full of light. Their city becomes a more engaging place to be on the weekends, date nights can last longer than a meal. We’ll host artist talks, demos, concerts, and help local non-profits gain more awareness by hosting fundraisers and guest exhibits.

It may disappear but it will, and it already has, sparked more positive connections in our residents and organizations. Artists will meet more collectors, the gain is tangible. Even the neighboring businesses will see an increase in business on the days and nights we are open.

Is it temporary only?

Who knows? I know my license to the space has an end date on it. I am focused on creating exhibits and experiences to remember long after the site becomes something else. We are taking over the best and most visible building in the city. I intend to make every day count. I have the same philosophy with my flagship gallery as well.

Nothing lasts forever, live every day as though it is your last. Things change and naturally evolve. My nature is not to whine about obstacles or lack. It is to offer something positive. I gave a Tedx talk in 2011 called “Begin Where You Are.” This is my process. Give me an old bank, I’ll give you an art gallery with exhibits, events, music and collaboration. Give me a piece of sidewalk and I’ll figure out a way to bring value to people passing by.

What are your goals for both the Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery and JPG@TheBank?

The goal at JPG@TheBank is to over-deliver on what I promise my artists and supporters. And the goal for the Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery is creating exposure and awareness, leading to increased exposure and sales. All of which will enable us to thrive as a valuable member of the business community in Lafayette.

And for the future?

I am open.

One of the artists Perlmutter represents, Patty Taylor, is excited about the opening of JPG@The Bank. An award winning sculptor, Taylor shares her insight on the importance of the endeavor: “When I think about exhibiting in a gallery, it must be a gallery that represents respected work, with a following of collectors, decorators and designers. It also needs to be a social place where art is not only exhibited, but celebrated. Both of Jennifer’s spaces accomplish this and give back to the community. It’s that big city gallery feeling in Lafayette—exceeding my dream for representation, where I can be proud to invite my collectors, family and friends. I hope it’s a pop-up that transcends the pop-up concept!”

Traffic at JPG@The Bank has been steady, event days are filled with enthusiastic art lovers, and sales have been good. Perlmutter is thrilled: “For the last five years, I’ve been bridging culture, commerce and community in my flagship gallery. People here are thirsty for art and creative connection. Now even more people get to experience the strong creative culture in Contra Costa County. It’s nothing short of exciting.”

It’s a lesson for all of us in expanding beyond perceived boundaries. Step out of the box and see what can happen.

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