Whether spending time admiring the strategic brushstrokes of an artist striving to break ground as an independent icon or learning to sculpt like the great Michelangelo, the world of art embraces the gap of diversity and diminishes the barriers of difference.
Art is a vibrant being of its own, waiting to transform the lives of many into a life of possibility, range and passion.
In this city that radiates potential and feeds an appetite for culture, there stands a newcomer in the arts scene: the Nine Dot Gallery, 763 Main St.
Referencing the infamous, topographical nine dots puzzles, the gallery’s name, is an obvious allusion to the notion of “thinking outside the box.” The gallery is embracing the community, addressing its needs and vindicating the powerful influence of art on the youth.
It stands alone in its purpose and strategy but unites with many key players in Worcester, such as Arts Worcester and Main Idea, to gather the community and create a hub of creativity.
Juliet Feibel, executive director of Arts Worcester, said, “We are thrilled to have the Nine Dot Gallery in the community of the arts. Our relationship is to help bring artists and connections to the gallery and we cannot wait for opening day.”
Local residents share Juliet’s excitement. I interviewed several passersby who agreed the presence of another art gallery in Main South can be the spark needed to create change.
Walking into the snug gallery, located across the street from the YMCA, you are immediately immersed in a world of possibility.
As I opened the gallery doors, I was greeted by a feeling that usually can be felt only in the art district of New York City. There was a sense of nostalgia as I was confronted by the haunting words of Thomas Wolfe’s novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The nine-by-nine-foot quote is the start of the gallery’s Sunday Afternoon series, showcasing the connection between managing director Truong Vo and the city of Worcester.
Raised in the heart of the city, Truong Vo is a certified success story. He first lived in Lakeside Apartments, then on Grafton Hill, and as a student of the Worcester Public Schools through high school, he felt the odds stacked against him. Truong said, “Out of my group of friends, I was the only one who graduated high school. Because of lack of education, my friends took many more years to obtain what I had in just a short amount of time.”
This is a statement that seems to echo in the city’s forgotten streets and low-income neighborhoods in current times.
“People ask me why am I opening a gallery in the middle of Main South? But I respond by saying, ‘Why not?’ This is the best location for a gallery.” — Troung Vo
Struggling to achieve success academically and break apart from an overbearing cycle of poverty, Truong managed to rebuild the cycle and establish a new set of rules for his life and that of his family. While Truong earned a degree in chemistry from the College of the Holy Cross, his greatest achievement is his ability to create the change he wished he had seen growing up in Worcester.
He partnered with Main Idea to provide funding for a free week of arts and culture for youth this summer. His program allowed many students during the summer to participate in painting, sculpting and art appreciation for no additional costs to their families.
“People ask me why am I opening a gallery in the middle of Main South (a maligned stretch of Main Street and surrounding neighborhoods with a reputation for high crime and low business success)? But I respond by saying, ‘Why not?’ This is the best location for a gallery,” Truong said.
As we began to discuss the location of the gallery, I quickly learned about Truong’s devotion to creating change in a community he once called home. Art galleries are synonymous with neighborhoods with significantly high income, but for Truong art galleries are oversaturated in these areas and create a disadvantage for surrounding communities. His mission is to be the vessel for culture and establish an access point for many in low-income and impoverished homes who would otherwise live without experiencing the impact of art.
“We are the Ace Hotel of the art world,” says Truong as he showcases many of the paintings and artistry of his brother, John Vo.
John, a man of many talents, has work reflecting the struggles of his culture and those in constant battle between poverty and wealth. His paintings hang on the freshly coated walls of the Nine Dot Gallery, screaming for change and hope. Many are marked sold, giving a great sense of optimism for the gallery’s mission.
Among the works of art, Truong ensures that the community experiences not just local artists but global artists. Truong and his team set out to different countries to connect with independent artists and transport their arts to grace the walls of the gallery.
Truong enthusiastically explained, “We are currently heading to Vietnam and Puerto Rico to bring back some amazing work for the gallery.” His ambition and drive to bridge the chasm between the low-income community and the rich experiences of art and the messages sent through these pieces will allow the gallery the chance to flourish.
The space is lit with the works of independents and masters of crafts. The gallery is home to all that is art, including T-shirts, backpacks, sketches and more. With a refreshing view on the art world and its importance in the lives of the youth – specifically in low-income communities — Truong Vo offers a glimpse of a confident future.
Pablo Picasso said it best when he proclaimed, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life from our souls.” With an opening day of Nov. 1, the Nine Dot Gallery stands to plant the seed of cultural restoration in a community yearning for artistic direction and a cleansing of the battles faced in everyday life.
Their mission is clear, the support of their contributors and affiliations are strong, and their vision will have every opportunity to manifest into a great establishment.
This article was originally published in the Sept. 6, 2015 edition of the Sun.
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