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SoWa galleries rebuild after devastating flood damage

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
SoWa galleries rebuild after devastating flood damage
Flooding caused extensive damage to artwork and equipment at AREA gallery. PHOTO: David Guerra

On Tuesday, April 14, David Guerra, owner of A R E A Gallery in the South End, was roused from his apartment at 11 p.m. to some horrifying news. A water main had broken in front of 500 Harrison Ave. and flooded dozens of creative businesses, including A R E A, in the nearby gallery district.

In the weeks since, the already suffering galleries have begun to rebuild. It will be a long, hard road, but they’re not giving up.

“Many pieces, particularly works on paper, were affected or totally destroyed. That was the main loss,” says Guerra. “It was really heartbreaking to see art being lost that way.” Other businesses in the area were similarly affected, including the popular Italian restaurant Cinquecento and the Meichi Peng Design Studio, which specializes in home furnishings. Many of the flooded businesses experienced at least four feet of dirty water in their spaces.

On the web
Donate to artists in need and learn more about the online art fair at:

According to Guerra, the owners of his building on Thayer Street in the south-of-Washington (SoWa) art and design district, will be shouldering the cost of restoring the physical gallery space. Unfortunately, not all businesses will have this assistance, but it has allowed Guerra to turn his attention completely to the artists who lost work.

Via the A R E A gallery website, collectors and supporters can purchase art pieces, invest in a program that will provide early access to artwork later on and donate to a GoFundMe fundraiser. All the funds will go directly to the artists affected by the flood.   

But perhaps the biggest innovation that has stemmed from this tragedy is an online art fair Guerra is organizing, ideally to be launched by the end of May or early June. “The inspiration for that was me walking around SoWa and seeing not just my gallery, but many other galleries, losing pieces, equipment, infrastructure,” he says. “I thought in these times of difficulty, ‘How can we come together, not as competitors, but as collaborators?’ At the end of the day we’re all sharing the same mission, which is supporting the local art scene.”

The art fair will be regional, featuring New England galleries and geared toward the New England collector. Unlike more commercial fairs, this one will be free for galleries to participate in and free for viewers to attend, and unrepresented artists will be able to apply to participate. Each gallery will present works by one artist for a very curated feel. Any revenue generated will go back to the artists.

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