Coastal Contemporary: Passion, Drive And Faith In Newport

View of opening exhibition at Coastal Contemporary Gallery.

View of opening exhibition at Coastal Contemporary Gallery.


Ron Fortier

It was finally a beautiful day, as you would expect in June. But, being a New Englander, I had my reservations as to how long it would last, considering that it had rained for most of the week.

It was equally pleasant to drive to Newport and to meet Shari Weschler Rubeck, the owner/gallerist of Coastal Contemporary Gallery, the newest art gallery in town. But, the first words out of my mouth as I shook her hand were, “Are you crazy or something?”

After all, with the current trend in the art world of galleries closing by the score, why would she be opening hers? Rubeck, aka Sumo Bunni, her very own persona brand, replied that it was a result of her passion, drive and faith.

No, not the religious kind. Faith, as in trusting oneself.

Or, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Rubeck’s faith also extends to her complete love for the arts, as well as artists, art appreciators and supporters. She has been curating and directing the Coastal Living Gallery located in the harbor town of Wickford Village since 2013. The gallery has hosted dozens of art exhibits by many New England artists.

That space, as well as the new Coastal Contemporary Gallery, is sponsored by the Coastal Properties Group, a boutique real estate brokerage also located in Wickford Village. Having a new gallery space on fabled Thames Street in Newport allows Rubeck and her sponsors to establish a fresh, new contemporary gallery that works with and features a wide range of regional, national and international artists.

The Newport location also reaches a very diverse and expansive audience. As she explained, “We are striving to make vast connections that span a global network.”

Both Rubeck, who is also a real estate agent, and her real estate sponsors see the importance of promoting the gallery with print and social media to build Coastal Contemporary Gallery’s brand. Most importantly, however, establishing direct contact with artists, art buyers, art collectors and art specifiers using good, tried and true, face-to-face time is what they’re all about.

Yet, this seems counter to the almost continual changes in the art marketplace, especially with the increasing emphasis on selling online. So, what does a brick-and-mortar gallery need to do to survive and hopefully thrive? Rubeck said it needs to be stretchy (her term). “We need to extend our reach, be bendable and try new things.”

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