Lenox — A group of friends had lunch after not seeing each other for several years. They had a lot of catching up but also agreed that what happened in the future was important. They each wanted to do something they all loved and to work together. They quickly settled on opening an art gallery. Ute Steibich with Akkie Martens had a very successful gallery in Lenox for many years, as did Jane Kasten in Great Barrington. Liz Thompson was from the performing arts but had also worked with visual artists.
Within three weeks they had secured space and reconnected with artists. They opened the weekend of July Fourth. The gallery is located at 53 Church St. across the street from Zinc and next to Scoop. The hours are 11-5 daily with the partners alternating coverage of the gallery. The name 4forART is derived from the passion and commitment to artists the four partners share.
The gallery is eclectic showing quality art of well-established contemporary artists as well as folk and outsider art, textiles and baskets from around the globe.
The four partners are either in or about to be 70. It is their hope the summer is successful so they can remain open year-round demonstrating that with conviction anything is possible at any age.
When Jane moved to Nantucket in 1971 where she worked with a German tailor and began working as a seamstress and clothing designer. It was through this work in clothing design that she met Billy Baldwin. She made clothing for and collaborated on many projects including designing tabletops and custom-made appliqued table runners and tablecloths for Billy’s projects at Tiffany. During this time Jane met Bunny Mellon and made several trips to her various homes where they spoke endlessly about art and design. Seeing great works of art in a home setting inspired her to read about art and visit museums whenever possible. The love of art stayed with her and has become a lifetime interest, which led to opening a very successful art gallery in Great Barrington in an old railroad station.
Ute studied history of art at The Institute of Fine Art NYU, worked as an independent curator for museums such as the Brooklyn Museum, Milwaukee Art Museum as well as museums in New York, New Orleans, Pennsylvania and Haiti where she also served on the Board. She was on the acquisitions committee of the Berkshire Museum and on the Board of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
When she moved to the Berkshires she opened an art gallery in Lenox based on the idea that all art is connected through quality. She made her point mixing folk art, fine art, craft and outsider art. The selection came from all over the world and together a harmonious picture evolved. The Berkshires are known as a cultural attraction with locals and visitors alike understood and welcomed the idea. The gallery was extremely successful. When her husband became ill she had to close the gallery. Since he passed, the idea of opening another gallery along the same lines but with partners became a reality in July.
Akkie grew up in the Netherlands with parents for whom art was extremely important. That led her to studies that included a six year art history curriculum and a year at the Sorbonne, Paris where she studied French Art history. Akkie lived in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong. In addition she has traveled extensively. Her husband always said about her many trips “you leave like a lady and come back like a gypsy…with all the extra bags and boxes “. Buying and collecting art for her was very simple. Good quality of course, but as important loving it and understanding the creative process of the artist. Akkie also attended business school in the Netherlands and worked for the Department of State for various Germany companies in The United States and Germany. She worked with Ute Stebich for a dozen years in her Lenox gallery.
Liz has always served diverse artists and audiences. Currently she is co-founder of THE DIVERSE FUTURE, promoting the aspirations of those critical to America’s multi-cultural future. At the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, where Liz was Executive Director she supported “World Views”. Fifteen up and coming artists were chosen by panels of well known curators, and established artists for six month residencies in empty spaces at the World Trade Center. When at BAM as Vice President/Director of the Next Wave Festival she commissioned Martin Puryear to design sets and David Hammons to create the artwork to represent the Festival. Liz served on the founding Board of Friends of Education formed at MOMA to bring attention to artists and audiences of color and had the privilege to help craft the précis used in the competition to select an architect for the World Trade Center Memorial.
Other experience: Artistic and Executive Director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance, Executive Director of First Night Boston, consultant with in Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and in the U.S. with Olympia and York/The World Financial Center and the Harkness Foundation. She and Merle Brockway created programs for the first iteration of CBS/cable. Her choreography credits include The Electric Company for TV and as associate with Patricia Birch, the original production of Grease.