Lunch with Marjorie: A man for the next season

I’ve visited eau gallie Galleries in Rockton several times. I knew owner John Hurley had formerly been superintendent in Harlem School District. Naturally, the question of the transition from educator to art gallery had to be answered.

“You were superintendent for eight years,” I said. “Are you glad that part of your life is over?”

“I think you have to honor the seasons of your life to be healthy, happy and balanced,” he said. “You need to recognize when the seasons are changing and go with that change. I needed to move on to a different season, and that’s what I’m trying to fully embrace now.”

“What season are you in now?” I asked, realizing I had a philosopher on my hands.

“The Next Season. I don’t think I have a name for it.”

“Did you immediately open eau gallie?”

“Yes, I did. I’m not sure why I did that—why I didn’t take time to reflect on that. I seemed compelled at the time to retire on Friday and open the gallery on Monday.”

“Is that characteristic of you?”

“I like to think I’m reflective, I mull things over,” he said. “I think I’m a mulling person. I like mulling people. In this case, I don’t think I was true to my character…I kind of just did it in a hurry.”

John had ordered vegetarian pizza at Backyard Bar and Grill in Roscoe before I arrived. I doubled the order, and we shared two veggie pies—a tasty, light lunch.

“Are you a vegetarian?” I asked.

“I’m not…but I understand the philosophy of those who are. I’m just not.”

“I see your photographs—they’re about seasons, too,” I said.

“I like turnings…to study turnings… fully engage in turnings, in life, business, generations.”

“What about that engages you?”

“I think we aren’t nearly as formative and discretionary as we like to think we are. We are not corks bobbing down on the waves of time. But I think we are more driven by the winds of circumstance than we are successful at determining what happens.

“I consider myself one of the most spiritual people I know,” he continued. “The only person who is really true to their spirituality is one who admits that they’re searching for truth and that search for truth is one of the key elements in my (pause) self-concept, I’m always searching for the truth, the truth in who I am, who God is, or what God is, and the truth in what is the right place to be in social consciousness, who’s the right candidate to vote for, what’s the right way to run a business—all the search for truth.”

“You’re living this—running a business?”

“I am, or it’s running me, I’m not sure. The gallery never covers the monthly overhead.”

“You’re doing this out of pocket?”

“I’m subsidizing it heavily.”

“You can’t do that forever?”

“No, I can’t.”

“Is the gallery like a child?” I teased. “A retirement, mid-life-crisis child?”

“It’s nowhere close to a child. It’s put me in contact with 120 artists I represent now,” he said. “They’re creative, they’re sensitive; they’re just out there pouring their souls on a canvass,” he said. “I love them, and I really like being able to help them connect with the public. But it’s my retirement project. You can spend a lot of money on travel, golf, on a lot of things,” he said. “If you look at what I am doing as my retirement project that is costing me some money, just about every hobby or endeavor you have in retirement is going to cost you money. So far, I’m getting enough, it’s enjoyable enough, I’m learning enough, I’m expanding my base of knowledge enough, that it’s worth what I’m subsidizing every month to keep it open.”

Most of the artists in the gallery are in the book John and Jeanne Coe, owner of Village Gallery, are producing called Art Rockford, a coffee-table book with 130 local artists represented.

“It’s filling a vacuum. Jeanne and I couldn’t figure out why there wasn’t a book in existence—why some agency or organization hadn’t done it, so we did it.”

John likes filling niches.

“Because it’s well received. I mean literally every day I’m open, I will get a contact…from a new artist who wants to be represented. There is such a lack of quality venues for artists in the area. I’m happy to fill that. I tell them, we’ll try to find a place for your painting at some point in time, but this isn’t going to put you in another tax bracket, this isn’t going to sell a lot of art for you. But your stuff will be exhibited.”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years.

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