October 28th, 2021
Two years ago, two long held dreams were realized through the opening of Gallery MAR Carmel. Gallery MAR Park City Maren Mullin and then-Meyer Gallery manager Thomas Cushman had both separately dreamed of opening up an art gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. These dreams lived on quietly in their minds until one spring day when Thomas Cushman made a serendipitous phone call to Maren Mullin, seeking her advice. When they realized their shared dream, they sought to transform it into a beautiful reality. Only a few months later, Gallery MAR Carmel was opened and ready to connect fresh artwork with the people who will cherish them. Now, Gallery MAR Carmel is celebrating the start of its third year.
Despite the worldwide challenges of the last two years, we’re happy to report that the dream of Gallery MAR Carmel is still shining strong. We spoke with Gallery MAR Carmel co-owner Thomas Cushman to catch up on these past two years of seaside, art-loving bliss, where we discussed the gallery’s challenges and triumphs and all the excitement and promise that lies ahead for Gallery MAR Carmel.
Gallery MAR: What has it been like moving from a ski town like Park City to a coastal town like Carmel?
Thomas Cushman: Well I moved to Park City from Minnesota, so I first went from very flat land to the mountains. When you live in the mountains, you’re always aware of the mountains. Wherever you go, you see them. I kind of thought it would be that way with the ocean, living along with the coastline. In reality though, you can actually go for days without ever actually engaging with the ocean. Yet it is absolutely as influential, just more subtle. That surprised me.
Gallery MAR: So what do you love most about where you live now in Carmel?
Thomas Cushman: I love the weather. It’s always springtime here. Sometimes it’s more like a March spring and sometimes it’s more like a late May spring, but it’s always spring weather.
“I am so proud that I get to represent this group of museum-quality artists.”
– Thomas Cushman
Gallery MAR: Last time we spoke you mentioned that most of the galleries around Carmel were more impressionist and traditional. How has your more contemporary gallery been received?
Thomas Cushman: I think Gallery MAR Carmel still stands apart. I’ve had people come into the gallery and say, “oh my gosh, this is such a breath of fresh air. I love that you’re here.” It’s just wonderful to hear. They feel like every artist is really high quality and they love the way the gallery is hung and curated. They really like how the gallery feels. That means a lot to me.
Gallery MAR: What are you most proud of after these two years?
Thomas Cushman: I really am most proud of our collections of artists. I just think it’s so strong. I am so proud that I get to represent this group of museum-quality artists.
Gallery MAR: What has been your greatest challenge?
Thomas Cushman: I think the greatest challenge is making this space work for a new gallery. We don’t have a lot of street visibility, so I have to really push to promote to potential new collectors.
There are close to 50 galleries in Carmel, so when people come in, it’s because they want to come into this particular gallery. It seems almost as if people are looking for a reason not to go in a gallery, because you can’t go in every one. You’re going to get a chance to walk into a half a dozen galleries, or on a good day, a dozen galleries, but that means you have to bypass many more than you walk in. So, if you’re gonna make the decision to walk in that door, it’s because you want to see something in that gallery in particular.
“More and more I see Gallery MAR Carmel as a sort of nexus, bringing together collectors and artists and people who love art. Being at the center of that and helping to create that environment is so rewarding.”
– Thomas Cushman
That’s why I try to be very deliberate about our window displays. I want them to be really representative of what we show: much more contemporary art, very fresh, and very current. I also want to leave a lot of window space so that passersby can see in the gallery to see what else we have.
It’s also been such a difficult situation for everyone with COVID, but I think in the long run, this odd time has kind of launched our gallery even faster. People were spending more time in their homes, looking to beautify their space, and we could help them with that.
Gallery MAR: What was one of your most memorable highlights from the last two years?
Thomas Cushman: During the COVID lockdown, I started Zoom studio tours with our artists. I loved having that kind of hour with an artist where they talk about where they work, how they work, and why they do the work that they do. I loved doing that.
Gallery MAR: What has been the most rewarding aspect of running Gallery MAR Carmel?
Thomas Cushman: More and more I see Gallery MAR Carmel as a sort of nexus, bringing together collectors and artists and people who love art. We’re all about making connections among people who are passionate about art and creativity. Being at the center of that and helping to create that environment is so rewarding.
Gallery MAR: What do you hope for from Gallery MAR Carmel going forward? What do you see on the horizon?
Thomas Cushman: Going forward, I want to continue to promote the excellent artists that we have. I want to keep finding more collectors who really appreciate this work. I also want to continue getting more involved in the community of Carmel, the Monterey Peninsula in general, and the art community specifically. I want to keep building that community.
We would like to extend our gratitude to Thomas Cushman for taking the time to chat with us (especially in the midst of an art installation road trip!). We would also like to thank our collectors and the Carmel-by-the-Sea community for making these last two years a gratifying, heartwarming success.
Written by Veronica Vale