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The Griffin Museum is adapting with a wider view

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  March 5, 2009 08:29 AM

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Backyard Toad
"Backyard Toad"
Photo by Suzanne Revy, at the Atelier Gallery at Stoneham Theatre

Partnerships are bringing photography new fans

By Terry Byrne
Globe Correspondent

At a time when most businesses are cutting back, Winchester's Griffin Museum of Photography is expanding.

"We want to grow," said Paul Tognarelli, executive director at the Griffin, "but we don't want the public to take on a capital campaign right now to expand our building, so we're reaching out to different communities to feature more photography in different places."

For the past year, the Griffin has taken over curating photography shows in the Atelier Gallery at Stoneham Theatre, and last month took on the Aberjona River Gallery, based in the Aberjona Nursing Center, also in Winchester. Tognarelli said she hopes to expand into Boston and Cambridge, too.

"We're not opening new galleries per se," she explained. "We're partnering with existing galleries, and the synergy that comes from the collaborations benefits both organizations. We've already found that people who go to the Stoneham Theatre don't necessarily come and visit the exhibits at the Griffin, but now, when they see the photographs at the Stoneham Gallery, they have begun to seek us out."

Matt Chapurin, the general manager at the Stoneham Theatre, says the theater's relationship with the Griffin has been tremendous.

"We're a theater and we know how to present performances, but we don't have the expertise in curating a gallery," he said. "When we produced 'The Grapes of Wrath' a few years ago, the Griffin Museum provided some of Arthur Griffin's Depression photographs, which made a wonderful companion piece to the production."

Chapurin said when the theater agreed to have the Griffin take over curating the gallery, Tognarelli was given carte blanche, but he's been impressed with the connections with the work the theater is producing.

"When we presented 'How Many Miles from Basra,' the gallery had a wonderful photography show of families from Afghanistan," Chapurin said. "Now we have 'A Year with Frog and Toad' and the gallery has 'Small Wonders,' a great show of children at play that fits well with the innocence of our musical. Our audiences say they enjoy having a glass of wine or a few minutes before a production starts to go into the gallery, and say their experience at the theater is deepened by seeing the related art."

Tognarelli said she tries to augment what the theater is showing, but it doesn't always fit perfectly. "I have a plethora of photographs I'd like to show," she said, "but we try to link it with what's appropriate for the audience that will see it."

At the Aberjona River Gallery, Tognarelli curated the first show with "Arthur Griffin's Singular Vision," photographs by the photojournalist who founded the museum (184 Swanton St., through March 29).

"I struggled with whether or not to include a photo of burlesque girls in the show," said Tognarelli, "because I didn't want to offend anyone and I wondered if this is a photo this population wants to look at, but it has turned out to be one of the most popular images in the show."

The Aberjona's Beverly Stoebel says she's thrilled by the new relationship with the Griffin.

"We have had local artists show their work at the gallery in the past," said Stoebel, who is the director of marketing, "but the Salter family [which owns Aberjona] has been supportive of the Griffin's programs for years, and owns some of Arthur Griffin's photos. The response to the show from the residents and staff has been tremendous, and we've also gotten a lot of visitors from the community to come here and see the gallery."

Upcoming shows at the Aberjona will include "After a Certain Age," photographs by Marian Goodman, and an exhibit of photos by John Rich of senior athletes.

"The Aberjona is a nursing facility," said Tognarelli, "and we want to show work that benefits their clients. Lots of people have come to see the current exhibit from outside the facility, but I want to be respectful of the people who live with the photos every day."

While a nursing facility doesn't seem like the most likely place for a photography gallery, Tognarelli said Aberjona had sponsored some programs the Griffin hosted, including Senior Sundays, "so the relationship developed naturally."

The Griffin Museum's home gallery, on Shore Road in Winchester, has three galleries. One has been devoted to Arthur Griffin's photographs, while the other two host a variety of work.

"The Aberjona River Gallery will be devoted to local photographers," said Tognarelli, "and I'd like to get more locals into the Griffin. Then the satellite galleries can reflect the interests of the audiences in that community. I'd like to reach out to some younger audiences and tourists, too."

People still want to go out and see things, said Tognarelli, "But they're hunkering down, and want to stay closer to home. I do think people want to support the little guys right now. By reaching out and acting as a facilitator for existing galleries who need some help, we're doing them a service and servicing ourselves."

Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.

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