Provincetown Art News and Information
TownOnline.com | By Steve Desroches
Do you know the way to NOCO?
Probably not, as it isn’t on any maps just yet. But the new name for an old arts district has Provincetown abuzz.
NOCO, or North of Commercial, is the idea of artist Rick Fleury, whose gallery at 268 Bradford Street sits in the heart of the newly defined arts district. While walking his dog Graham last January, Fleury’s thoughts turned to summer and how to get more visitors to his gallery, which is in the old studio of legendary Provincetown artists Ross Moffet. Getting foot traffic off of Commercial Street can be difficult. The challenge, Fleury thought, is describing where his gallery is. Like many Outer Cape residents he curled his arm upward and turned his palm in to make an impromptu map.
“And then it just struck me,” said Fleury. “I’m in SOCO.”
But then he gave it another look and realized that SOCO would be in Provincetown Harbor. He was north of Commercial. NOCO.
The more he thought of the name the more he liked the sound. But he also liked the idea. The NOCO neighborhood includes not only Fleury’s gallery, but at least 10 others, as well as the Fine Arts Work Center and the Provincetown Theater. It also includes the Hawthorne Barn on Miller Hill Road, the location where the Cape Cod School of Art, and thus the Provincetown art colony, was founded by Charles Hawthorne in 1899. For over 100 years, NOCO has been home to the heart of the arts community in Provincetown. It is the epicenter of creativity.
“I would rather be in the heart of something than on the edge of something else,” said Fleury, adding that in NOCO there are still many artists living and working in typical Cape Cod cottage studios. “There’s the old Provincetown thing going on here. This is where artists live and breathe. There is real meat in NOCO.”
The idea for NOCO is not to compete with the East End gallery district, but to compliment it, to provide an alternative. Fleury notes that in other galleries the artists may only be there for opening night, or not at all. But the galleries in NOCO are often adjacent to the artist’s studio. And the artist often works the gallery themselves, giving visitors an opportunity to talk and exchange ideas with a painter or photographer. That’s at the core of the concept of NOCO, said Fluery. The three words that best describe NOCO, said Fleury are accessible, history bound and alive, mixing tradition with innovation.
“We’re creating a forum for the arts to be alive,” said Fleury of himself and the other artists in NOCO. “I don’t think there is enough of that going on anywhere, right now.”
NOCO is about giving back, about engaging the public in the arts. Sometimes museums and galleries can seem elitist and distant. NOCO is about being welcoming and involved with the community and public. With that effort in mind NOCO Studios started Stone Soup, a weekly salon where a guest speakers engages that public in discussions about Cape Cod and the arts.
“Things are always better when we all work together,” said Fleury.
And though it is still a new concept, and name, in Provincetown NOCO is being openly embraced by other arts institutions in the neighborhood as well across town in general.
“I like the idea that there is a part of town that has more edgy work,” said Micah Malone, the director of the DNA Gallery on Bradford Street. “Any town succeeds better when it has different neighborhoods that showcase the diversity of thought, beliefs and work. I’m all for it.”
The Provincetown Theater loves the idea of NOCO, so too does the Fine Arts Work Center.
“The bottom line is that anything that promotes the arts in Provincetown is a great thing,” said Hunter O’Hanian, executive director of the Fine Arts Work Center and a member of the Economic Development Council. “It’s the most important thing we do.”
In a world that is increasingly becoming homogenized and made bland by corporate interests and culture, it is fantastic that the arts can be celebrated so specifically in Provincetown.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have individual designations in Provincetown by neighborhood,” said O’Hanian. “Really all of Provincetown is an arts district. But creating a neighborhood celebrates and creates character.”
More and more galleries are including the moniker NOCO on their business cards and store front signs.
“This is the backbone of the art colony,” said tourism director Bill Schneider. “This kind of organic arts movement shows that the arts are still very much alive in Provincetown.”
Schneider is excited by the idea not just for what it says and means about his home community, but also what it could mean for the expansion of the arts as an economic stimulant for Provincetown. The town’s economic development council has focused quite specifically on promoting and supporting the arts to expand and improve the economy of the town. NOCO is just the kind of buzz the town needs said Schneider.
“Accepting the role of the artists and giving back, that’s what its all about,” said Fleury. “NOCO is more than just art galleries, it’s being open to ideas and exchange. Its about our history and our future.”
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