Local Gallery Owners Share a Mutual Passion for Art and Community
Writer / Ryan Kennedy
Photographer Roben Bellomo wants people to know that BEHN Gallery is not a traditional fine art establishment.
Bellomo moved to Carmel with his family in 2013. In 2014 he opened his own photography studio, Bellomo Studios. At its inception, Bellomo Studios focused primarily on fine artistry portraiture – everything from headshots for actors and actresses to family portraits and large-scale prints. Over time, Bellomo Studios began doing branding for businesses as well as fine artwork commissions.
“As an artist, those three tiers of service were great,” Bellomo says. “They evolved really well. The challenge as an artist is you’re always looking for ways to grow creatively, and be able to exercise the things that are in your head and your ideas. Those three tiers of business were very service-driven, which is great, but I needed a creative space to evolve a little bit myself. That was what kind of spawned the idea of having a gallery.”
Bellomo befriended fellow photographer Jim Hamel, and the two artists found that they shared a similar vision.
“Part of the vision for the gallery was to have not just a fine art gallery, where there’s limited edition artworks for the collectors, but a place where we were offering an experience through art as well,” Bellomo says.
The pair decided to open a gallery together, and BEHN Gallery was born.
The gallery’s name comes from the first initials of the two children Bellomo has with his wife Adrienne – Bodhi and Neva – and the two children Hamel has with his wife Susan – Hannah and Elizabeth.
“We wanted to make sure we kept our focus in the right place and remember that our families are a big part of our personal journey,” Bellomo says.
The artwork on display in the gallery rotates on a quarterly basis. The current collection, which was on display through the end of 2021, is Bellomo and Hamel’s “Perspectives Series: Ireland.” The collection is the result of the two weeks the photographers spent in Ireland in September of 2019. The collection feature 26 pieces – 13 from Bellomo and 13 from Hamel.
“We went to the same places and we had a very different experience,” Bellomo says. “It really calls into question, ‘Do any of us see the world the same at all?’ If in fact we don’t see the world the same way, maybe instead of trying to tell everybody how our world is, we could actually start asking each other about their world and how they see the things that they see. It’s very relevant to what we’re doing living in this world right now.”
Bellomo believes that BEHN Gallery is about more than just the artwork on the wall – it’s also about the experiences patrons have with the artwork.
“When you’re trying to offer experiences with our work, you can’t just hang pictures and expect that’s going to be enough,” he says.
One of the ways Bellomo hopes to facilitate memorable experiences is by integrating drinks and live music into the collection exhibits, when possible. Bellomo and Hamel brought in a three-piece traditional Irish band to celebrate the “Perspectives Series: Ireland” collection, and partnered with WestClay Wine and Spirits to host an exclusive Irish whiskey tasting at the gallery.
In addition to being a place where people can engage with and purchase fine art, Bellomo, who taught for 10 years and has a master’s degree in education, wants BEHN Gallery to be an education hub for the community. He and Hamel plan to host workshops to educate people on the arts.
“We’ll probably evolve to having some small workshops for some of the youth in the community, and talk about photography or try to make some more connections with other artists,” Bellomo says. “What we’re trying to do is be an art center, and really education is a huge part of what we do.”
Bellomo and Hamel haven’t made a decision regarding what comes after their “Perspectives Series: Ireland” collection. Bellomo hopes to eventually bring in guest artists both locally and from around the world. He says he’s been paying close attention to community feedback and talking to people about what inspires them.
“We’re trying to help people live better through the artwork that we’re creating,” he says. “The artwork is created with them in mind. The way you help people live better through art, at least in our heads, is you offer them ways of thinking and you allow them a space to be vulnerable and actually let themselves go to those places.”
BEHN Gallery is located in the Village of WestClay at 2149 Glebe Street, Suite 100 in Carmel. For more info, call 619-569-6709 and visit behngallery.com.