Back in 1985, potter Robin Cage was on the hunt for a studio. She found a tumbling-down workshop at 1412 W. 43rd St. that was in such bad shape, she could see sky through the ceiling in what is now her office.
"I got it for a song, and felt very fortunate," she says.
Cage (pictured below) established her own studio and created a small exhibition space, the origins of the 43rd Street Gallery, which today displays fine crafts by regional artists but also work from throughout the United States and Canada. (Here, too, is the Jan Hampton Violin Shop.)
At first, Cage was joined by other ceramic artists, notably Lee Hazelgrove, Trista Chapman and Ana Anderson. Her late sister Dani displayed a line of rustic furniture and also made birdhouses, which would've been a perfect addition to "For the Birds," the show celebrating the gallery's silver anniversary.
"There's some unfinished pieces in her studio, and I'd love to get those finished and have them for this show," Cage says.
Among the artists contributing to the exhibition, running from April 23 to May 31, are: Clifford Earl, with his colorful, wooden folk-art birds; Wayne Baker, who makes traditional decoy-style pieces; potter Sue Henshaw, who's crafted clay birdhouses; Mehmet Sahin Altug, with his avian-themed paintings; and Angie Wiggins, whose jewelry incorporates eggshells — from her own chickens.
A legacy of the gallery is the annual 43rd Street Festival of the Arts, which turns 19 this September. The event was created as a fundraiser for Freedom House, the nearby center that cares for the homeless, and it now draws more than 60 artists and numerous music groups, making it an anticipated neighborhood and family event. "We've really worked to keep it small," Cage says, though more than 5,000 people stroll through during the day.
"For the Birds" opens with a wine-and-cheese reception on April 23 from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information, call 233-1758 or visit 43rdstreetgallery.com.