Monday, February 01, 2021

­The Parma Chai Out of the Blue Art Gallery Has Moved to Somerville


­The Parma Chai Out of the Blue Art Gallery Has Moved to Somerville

By Off the Shelf Correspondent Parma Chai

****My friend Parma Chai notified me that the famed "Out of the Blue Gallery" has moved to Somerville-housed in the Arts Armory. The Out of the Blue has a long history, and I have had a long history there as well--like many local artists in our community. Although I haven't attended an event for a while--I have rich memories of the poetry readings, barbecues, and all the poets and writers I met over the years there. Probably 15 years ago the gallery put out an anthology "The Out of the Blue Writers Unite" edited by Timothy Gager and Deborah Priestly, which I was proud to be part of. I am so glad they have found a new home...

--Doug Holder

Out of the Blue Art Gallery & More has existed in Cambridge, Allston, Everett, Medford, and Somerville in various spaces for about 30 years. First founded in Chinatown in the form of house art parties curated by its founders, Sue Carlin, Tom Tipton, and Deborah Priestly, it then operated for many years solely in Cambridge, on Prospect Street and then on Mass Ave at Central Square. Tom Tipton spearheaded this beloved gallery for many years before I came on to help with its development and expansion throughout the Greater Boston Area.

About 6 years ago, the Out of the Blue Art Gallery moved from Prospect Street to Mass Ave. Our landlord at that time was kind enough to let us build up financial infrastructure on a month-to-month basis. Working alongside founder Tom Tipton as his volunteer business manager, I helped to make sure rental spaces were paid for, artists switched up their works, and generated a working rental agreement with the landlord. Long term, a small business like the Gallery had its difficulties keeping up with increasing rents right on Mass Ave, so it eventually was gentrified out of Central Square.

This is when I brought the Gallery into my own home in Medford, MA. We returned to the early days of the Gallery with home art parties in Chinatown, and continued to deliver smaller shows, art parties, and paint nights. I discarded many of my personal items, including personal furniture, and began accumulating large folding tables, speakers, mikes, turntables and other essentials to keep local art alive. My vision manifested and folks across Boston came to attend these creative gatherings and listen to art talks. Food, drink, and entertainment were provided for each of these gatherings.

Eventually, the fruit of Tom and my labor caught the attention of Allston Village Main Streets, the Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge, Everett Chicken & Rice Guys, and the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville. We began to work with various agencies to fulfill insurance policies for shows, expanded our name with the general public and began to flood the place with shows and arts and crafts for 2 years at a new, primary location at 14 Harvard Ave, the Firehouse in Allston. We also began curating art shows at the Middle East where we rotated artwork monthly. We received several awards for being an inclusive small business and were able to reach a point where rent was tenable with a little bit left to survive on. Still, I had to keep up with my other position as a full-time math and science teacher to ensure that I could maintain the costs of performers, technology, interns, and myself. But I was happy to do so, as local art and its expression have always been an essential aspect of my life.

Without shows and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tom and I strained to keep the main Gallery location alive in Allston at the Firehouse. However, I was able to move much of the art into an Allston Village Main Streets exhibit. With the additional support of the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, I was also able to curate 4 floors of art in a living work space. This allowed me to concentrate on promoting artists and maintain the works of the longest-term artists of the collective. The current Parma Chai Out of the Blue Art Gallery at the Somerville Center for Arts at the Armory houses 30 artists, hosts virtual performances by musicians, and supports the arts community in other ways. It also features artists and their works at Allston Village Main Streets and indoor murals at the Chicken & Rice Guys warehouse in Everett. You can view a beautiful 3D virtual exhibit of the Gallery on our website.

Though we had to close the doors to our Firehouse location in July, we feel fortunate to help local art stay alive. We are extremely thankful to the Center for Arts at the Armory for helping to keep our mission alive and are very grateful as well for the businesses that operate here that enjoy the art and want to help sustain it! Like the Out of the Blue Art Gallery, the Arts at the Armory has faced unique challenges during the pandemic, but the Board and Executive Director are working to preserve art, music, and theatre in the Greater Boston Community. I am humbled to be a part of this incredible space and the many other nonprofits it serves.

We continue to sell art, have masked art interviews with the artists, and explore other innovative ways to promote the arts and artists. I would like Boston residents and beyond to know the Gallery as a vibrant place for both artists and academics. As a destination for folks to create magic in a space of comfort, beauty, and collaboration.

Because of the pandemic and a desire to build financial infrastructure for long-term sustenance, I am no longer taking in new artists to promote but I am, instead, working on booking small rehearsal and recording events at the Armory. Please contact me if you are seeking to rent space here for any of your small performance needs. Part of those funds will go to the Gallery and the other part will go to the Armory. I am always available to provide 2-3 person masked tours of the 4 floors of art free of charge. Please contact me with any requests to see the art in person at

The Gallery is incredibly thankful it could continue its mission to preserve local art through the pandemic. It would never have been possible without the generosity of our art-loving community, the artists and their works, and the foundational passion of its founder, Tom Tipton.

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