As an artist and art therapist Deanna Miesch had long wanted some direct and tangible way to help other artists. A licensed practicing counselor, Miesch has operated her therapy practice out of a small ground floor suite in the East Village Lofts building on East 11th and Lydia streets.
She had used the small but high-ceilinged space, with its sleek wood floors, for the occasional exhibition, often during the East Austin Studio Tour, and so it occurred to her: Why not host a regular exhibition program?
“I noticed how there was a dearth of spaces and support for mid- and late-career artists in Austin and decided that opening a commercial gallery was a way of helping artists,” Miesch said in an email.
Then a year ago, in what turned out to be the last time she’d eat in a restaurant before the world went into lockdown because of the coronavirus, she was having dinner at a nearby Thai place that passed out fortune cookies.
“Unfortunately, I lost the fortune, but it said something like, ‘Now is a really good time to open a gallery’,” Miesch said. “It blew my mind. Normally you might get something like, ‘You’ll be going on a journey,’ or ‘You have the answers within you’ or some ethereal, vague statement. I took it as a sign I was headed in the right direction.”
But then, well, COVID-19. When the pandemic hit, like many therapists Miesch moved her professional practice online. So did the therapist colleagues who share her space.
Yet the pivot to online therapy sessions made it even easier to re-conceive of her workspace as a full-time gallery. Miesch opened Lydia Street Gallery in January with a solo show of Steven Daly`, a longtime Austin sculptor.
“It might seem strange to open a gallery during a pandemic, but for me, it made perfect sense,” said Miesch. “Visiting a gallery is usually a more intimate experience anyway. I’ve outfitted the space with a virus-killing filter, and with limits on capacity, masks and temperature readings. I’ll continue following CDC guidelines, regardless of whatever the governor dictates.”
On March 18, the gallery’s second show, “Kathy McCarty & David Thornberry/TWO” opens. Kathy McCarty — of the legendary band Glass Eye — will exhibit her grackle paintings while her husband, David Thornberry, will be showing paintings he makes based on individual movie stills or video images from pop culture.
McCarty and Thornberry perform together at a COVID-safe reception on March 26, from 6 to 9 p.m., with Kathy singing new songs and David reading his poetry. And for the duration exhibition, which continues through April 28, McCarty will be in residence using the gallery as her painting studio.
Miesch has lined up other artists she plans to show.
“Amy Scofield’s sculptural work and installations use discarded materials, evoking beauty in unexpected ways. Steven Bernard Jones’s work is often political/social commentary in sculpture/assemblage, but has moved into more personal realms in recent years with his map drawings. Benné Rockett makes paintings, encaustic work, and sculpture, often so luscious you want to eat them. Ric Nelson works with a variety of sculptural materials, including glass, photography or video and language. Brooke MacKenzie works in a wonderfully intuitive, dreamlike manner with drawing and painting media. Jennifer Prichard’s ceramic installations create patterns often mimicking the natural world.”
Said Miesch: “I’m choosing artists who I know and admire and I feel like I can get behind.”