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Art you can get your hands on in Allston

Barry’s Shop (above) will have workshops and showcase art that customers will be encouraged to handle.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Honey, are you going to the market? Can you grab me a piece of art?

That’s the basic idea behind Barry’s Shop, a pop-up storefront that opens for a month this weekend in a long-dormant former dry cleaners in Allston. A project of Zone 3, a Harvard-supported initiative to boost commerce and community along an industrial portion of Western Avenue, where the university has been expanding, Barry’s Shop will look something like a neighborhood market, stocking not perishables but the various wares of Boston’s creative class.

Through June 5, Barry’s Shop (so named because the intersection was once known, for reasons no one quite seems to remember, as Barry’s Corner) will host a packed calendar of events, including workshops and presentations, designed to engage the community and showcase some of the city’s young artists.


The project was inspired in part by The Store, the whimsical experiment of the pop artist Claes Oldenburg, who opened a temporary installation in a New York City storefront in late 1961. There he sold small sculptures of cigarettes, slices of cake, and other common products.

At the time, Oldenburg said he wanted to distance art from the notion that it’s “something that is terribly precious.” That’s the aim, too, of Emily Isenberg, the art dealer, teacher, and promoter who is curating and producing Barry’s Shop.

“People walk into a gallery or a museum and immediately talk quieter, like it’s not their space,” she said one evening this week, working late to prepare for the opening. “There’s a certain level of apologizing that goes on.”

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

At Barry’s Shop, visitors will be encouraged to mingle, handle the art, and enjoy themselves. Volunteers have brought in old-fashioned coin-operated rides and a vending machine that will dispense capsules filled with small treasures, like buttons or temporary tattoos. One display just inside the main entrance will resemble a produce section; another will be built atop stacks of plastic milk jugs filled with colored water.


The show will feature the work of more than 20 artists and organizations, including Myrth Ceramics, illustrator Chris Piascik (who will debut his new coloring book), and Nina Park, a Boston schoolteacher and nail artist with a cult following on Instagram. The popular lecture series CreativeMornings/Boston will be on hand, too.

Temporary spaces like Barry’s Shop provide artists some welcome interaction with an audience, said Liz Corkery of Print Club Ltd. She was setting up her space in the shop, displaying some of her silkscreen prints on cards that looked, in a nod to the old dry cleaning business, like hangers.

“It’s tricky running a business online,” she said. “I jump at opportunities for people to see my work in person.”

In conjunction with several scheduled “Drink and Draw” sessions, she’ll run a “print-and-drink” workshop for interested participants.

“You’re better at it after a couple of drinks,” she said with a laugh.

Isenberg was especially looking forward to the arrival of a collection of vintage radios, which she gave to 25 artists to customize however they saw fit. The finished pieces will be displayed on a pyramid of colorful boxes. Titled “In Love With the Radio On” (a line from the great Modern Lovers song “Roadrunner”), the installation will pay tribute to Allston’s long tradition as a communications hub.

“I’m kind of obsessed with these, I have to admit,” Isenberg said of the radios.


Boston needs to get the word out about community-oriented art spaces, she said.

“The new mayor is very engaged, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” she said. The city excels at supporting large museum shows and has been good about promoting public art, Isenberg said. But “the galleries are doing their darnedest to stay alive. It still feels like the younger, emerging artists don’t have a place to go.”

She’s hoping Barry’s Shop will help foster some of that do-it-yourself spirit, and contribute to a sense that young artists don’t have to leave Boston to earn recognition and make a living. The fact that the whole endeavor will be taken down in a month only adds to the vitality, she said.

“Think about any big experience in your life, like when you saved all year to go backpacking in New Zealand,” she said. The trip doesn’t last forever, but the memories do.

If you want to make sure there’s some magic in your life, Isenberg said, it’s simple: “You have to create it.”

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

James Sullivan can be reached at jamesgsullivan@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.