The rumors are true: Marshall Gallery will close

by Jim Dowell Jr.

Rumors circulate throughout the city all the time, but one in particular seemed to overshadow the rest: the Marshall Gallery was closing, moving, downsizing, kaput; depending on who told the story, it definitely was not going to be the same again.

I called founder and co-owner Tracey Marshall a couple of months ago and told her the rumors circulating about her business. I said when she was ready to talk, I would be there for her. She called me back a couple of weeks ago and said if the offer still stood that she was ready. As a friend and competitor in business as well, confidences were shared and will be respected.

What follows is an exclusive and completely candid interview that both touched and amused me. We laughed together, and teared up as well, and I came away with a completely different opinion of this woman who has done so much for the arts community of Greensboro in a relatively short time span.’ 

This is Tracey’s story:

What do you consider to be your most important accomplishment so far in life?

Surviving six years of selling art in Greensboro, and being an artist for pay. I started in a small space at Cobblestone, moved after that to a larger space on Market Street, and then in less than a year, representing seventy artists, moved to the Eugene Street location.

What is the source that drives you to do what you do?

(Laughing) Well it’s not the money! I could do work anywhere, but I’d rather do something I like and do it right. I love the artists here and the art community. I have a very supportive family, especially my parents. At this point in my life [she’s 31], there isn’t anything else I can see me doing.

Why is such a large city like Greensboro unable or unwilling to support the arts so that we have more successful galleries and venues?

Fear’…. Fear of original art being too expensive, fear of being uneducated about purchasing art. Also, the aggressive marketing of prints in stores makes it harder for the consumer to choose. There are 34 galleries open in Greensboro. Several will open and close. We have to pay our dues and hang in there.’ The wait is hard and there are many sacrifices; finances are hard.

Who are your biggest influences and why?

Family, because on those bad days they kept me going. Chris Siler [and husband Dan] was my number one artist, and has always been there with and for me. Mary Lester and Mike Murray, Kathy and Danny Roberson, Alexis Lavine’… all did tremendous things for me. Keith Rose was the first to show at my first location. His work amazes me.

In ten years, where do you see yourself being?

Financially independent with sales of my paintings in Greensboro. Greensboro is home and I love it. I’m a homebody, but there is plenty to see and do here’…. just get out and do it!

Will Tracey, the artist, ever be a wife and mother long-term?

If I’m ever a mom, then yes, that will be long-term (laughing)’…. I’m seeing a great person now, but I’m not marrying anytime soon! (Laughs again and then gets serious). I would like to have a son one day so my dad could have a grandson. I can be a hard person to deal with in relationships, but I’ve learned from my mistakes.

What is your biggest regret?

No real regrets really. Mistakes make you learn’… I’ve screwed a million things up, but I’ve learned from them. I guess if there is a regret it is that I didn’t take better care of myself physically.

People either love you or they hate you. Why is that, and do you think it will always be that way?

I’m loud, opinionated, and too hyper. I’m fair and honest about most things. People are allowed their opinions; that’s just the way it is. My business is selling art’…. for profit, and that is the way I work.

So what is the future of The Marshall Gallery?

It’s hard to say it out loud. We are closing’…. The last day open will be December 24th. We are completely booked that entire time, though. November 4th and 11th are receptions for the International Show. Dawn Ashby has a show for First Thursday in December, and December 9th the in-house artists have a holiday show beginning. There are rental shows, private parties, so a full schedule. We are definitely open till the end.

Hard question to ask at this stage in your life, but when you’re gone, what will your gravestone say?

‘She tried just about everything once! (Laughing but serious) Life is short, Jim.

I enjoyed this interview and came away not feeling sympathy for Tracey, or for a business closing, but with optimism that a wiser and better person has emerged.

Marshall, along with eight partners, will relocate early next year under a new name and format. The space will be a more easily managed 1,400 square feet in a superb location. There will be more classes, rental space for functions, and marketing, consultation, and design work.

She looks forward to a life not so complicated, where she can build a home (she resides with her parents still) and get on with her life. Tracey says an emphatic ‘“thank you’” for all the support from the Greensboro public, and to all the artists she has worked with’… around 500 so far.

In closing, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that she is on to bigger and better things. Life experiences destroy some people and make others stronger. I flash back to the end of ‘“The Mary Tyler Moore Show.’” She is tossing her hat in the air while the music is playing. ‘”You’re gonna make it after all!’” And that, Miss Tracey, is exactly what you will do as well. Carry on!

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