In March of 2020 I was about to sign a lease on a space down on the Bowery. I was pretty far along in the process until I realized it was a bad idea to start paying rent on a space while a global pandemic was unfolding. Maybe it was a sign from the universe? Safe Gallery was never meant to last as long as it did. At the onset I had meant to only do one exhibition. I had access to space and didn’t want to waste it so I decided to show the work of a friend who had never shown their work before. The location had a whole lot of character, wood paneling, brick arches, and there was also a turn of the century safe. Safe Gallery was born and I was hooked. It turned out I love to curate, collaborate with artists, and help develop community. It was a true labor of love and all worth it. We had 30 exhibitions with over 60 artists, along with performances, poetry readings, live music, drawing parties, a cabaret, poker tournament, and a comedy night. We often kicked a whole keg barrel at the openings… Safe Gallery wasn’t just an art gallery, it was a place to congregate.
When the Covid restrictions hit it didn’t make sense to keep carrying on as normal, to have artists make all of the sacrifices to make work only for it to be viewed online. It was around this time I retreated with my husband and 6 yr old to a mountain forest in upstate NY. The break was nice, no more emails from artists, collectors, and writers to wade through. It was very refreshing to wake up to tall trees and the sound of a rushing stream nearby. I’m a nature person at heart, but even then it made me long for the pulse and energy of the city, the art openings, the live music, the camaraderie, the creativity. I started to have dreams of all the exhibitions I wanted to create. Then I dabbled in real estate listings…. I just couldn't keep away. One space caught my eye, it was a large second floor space that had an elevator to bring up work, and even an outdoor yard with built-in seating and a bar! It hit all my marks and it had an added feature: the iconic round window, like a bat signal on Division St. I called up the broker and not long after the space was mine. Inspired by the oversize moon window, I reinvented the gallery as EUROPA, named after one of the many moons of Jupiter, the only one that has water under its crust, or so my son tells me.
EUROPA was a natural progression from Safe Gallery, in keeping with the past but taking on a fresh vision into uncharted territory. People keep asking me, “what’s Europa’s mission statement?” I relish in not knowing the answer. As an artist, the greatest magic of making a painting is being a vessel for the unknown, to allow the art to guide you and grow itself organically. I don’t think art is ever as interesting when it becomes a strategy. Running a gallery is the same way… you have to find your truth and let it guide you, to allow for things to evolve organically. Aki Goto and I serendipitously met on a hiking trail upstate and a year later we ended up with a striking video and drawing exhibition full of heart. I learned about my 79 year old Brooklyn neighbor Lorenzo Pace’s historical legacy, and then found myself planning a show of his work. Through a friend I was able to invite Marshall Allen from Sun Ra Arkestra (a great inspiration to Lorenzo when growing up in Birmingham Alabama) to play magical live jazz in front of his work. Later, it felt necessary to use the space in our program to address the protests in Iran. I am of Persian descent, and this felt like a timely way of honoring the expression of other Persian women, and especially of artists I was already admiring. These are the things that make it worth it to me, to share these discoveries and chance encounters with the public, to be open to shifts and responsive to things, to change our orientation and direction, the way definitions and missions statements don’t allow. I have so much respect for my peers, especially the ones here in Chinatown; and what I love most of all is everyone is being themselves. We are all here finding our niche point of views and I feel lucky to have found a home in part of the city where I can be myself and continue to discover who that is.