Wall Street to Main Street

Gallery owner Louisa Gould mixes business with art.

Louisa Gould and her son, James Gould-Lamont, 4, at her Vineyard Haven gallery. — Gabrielle Mannino

This year the Louisa Gould Gallery is celebrating its 15-year anniversary. However, Ms. Gould’s path in life has not always followed the exact timeline that she originally imagined. The successful photographer and gallery owner started off in an entirely different career, one in the financial sector, although she was keeping a creative agenda in her back pocket.

“I knew I’d do art one day and I knew I’d own a gallery,” she says. “It was my retirement plan.”

Ms. Gould worked on Wall Street for many years after majoring in political science and Chinese at the UMass, Amherst. She also spent a year studying abroad in Ireland and did an internship at Leinster House — the seat of the Irish parliament. Although she had been accepted at both the Rhode Island School of Design and the Parsons School of Design in New York City, Ms. Gould opted to pursue a more traditional career. Still, during her time in the world of finance, she continued to take art classes at the Arts Students League and the New School, and planned to open a gallery once she retired.

At the same time, Ms. Gould continued  to pursue another of her enduring passions — sailing. “I grew up sailing on the Vineyard,” she recalls. “All of my vacations were spent sailing in regattas.”

Louisa Gould owns an art gallery on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

Eventually, the lure of the sea drove her to leave Wall Street behind temporarily to participate in the America’s Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2000. That was one of the few years when women competed. After her team was eliminated she stayed on working, entertaining and educating corporate sponsors and shooting lots of pictures of the event. Ms. Gould spent the next year traveling around the world, sailing in various regattas. She had planned to return to her day job but the events of 9/11 changed the course of her life. “I couldn’t go back to Wall Street. It was time to go on to plan B,” she says. “I had dreamed of one day opening a gallery in New York, but I didn’t think it would be appropriate to do that at that time.”

Instead, Ms. Gould relocated to the Vineyard, her second home as she refers to the Island. “I spent all of my summers here,” she says, “as a kid I took classes at the Old Sculpin Gallery [home of the M.V. Art Association].” Ms. Gould’s family has had a home on the Island for many generations. Her original gallery, located on the Beach Street extension, across from the Black Dog Tavern, primarily featured the photographer’s own work, including spectacular shots of multiple America’s Cup races and other maritime photos — her specialty.

Ms. Gould’s deferred dream has proven a success. Currently she represents approximately 30 artists at her spacious gallery on Main Street, Vineyard Haven. Over the course of the summer season, she will show the work of around 50 artists, both locals and established off-Island artists as well as renowned deceased artists.

The work on display represents a multitude of media (photography, painting, sculpture and jewelry); styles from photo realism to abstraction, and a range of price points. The work tends to lean towards Island and maritime scenes, but the themes cover many areas, including still life, florals, portraits, animals, and more. It’s a beautiful and very inviting gallery, situated in the middle of Main Street. A steady stream of visitors pass through every day in the summer, and Ms. Gould has made many lasting friendships among her clients and other guests.

When considering new artists to add to the fold, the two things Ms. Gould looks for, aside from talent, are “personality and creativity.”

“An original piece of artwork is from the person,” she says.

As an artist herself, Ms. Gould has developed enduring relationships among those she represents. Since she is both a left-brain and right-brain person and has experience with the world of business and as a successful artist, her associates have found her to be a great resource. “A lot of my artists say that they like working with me and my gallery because I’m an artist myself. Some want advice. I’m always encouraging them and pushing them to the best of their ability. All of the artists want a certain level of input from me.”  

That would explain why many of the artists that Ms. Gould represents, such as renowned maritime artist Paul Beebe, Kate Huntington, and Peter Batchelder, have stuck with her since her early days as a gallerist. The reputation of the Louisa Gould Gallery — and its owner — has also attracted a number of well-known off-Island artists who have been seeking a Vineyard outlet for their work. Last year Ms. Gould began showing the work of Rick Fleury, a member of Boston’s Copley School of Art whose work has been seen at museums and prestigious institutions all around New England.

Ms. Gould has always made it a mission to maintain a resource for art lovers by offering more than just an exhibition space. Throughout the summer, she hosts numerous talks, book signings and trunk shows, and she teaches and facilitates workshops by other artists through her initiative Martha’s Vineyard Workshops.

With all of this going on, Ms. Gould still finds time to raise her 4-year-old son and pursue her photography career. She shoots portraits and events and covers many sporting events, including numerous America’s Cup races, the Olympics, and the Kentucky Derby.

Although she ended up putting what was to be her retirement plan into effect much earlier than anticipated, the move has proven to be a very fulfilling one. “I really enjoy working with artists and with the public,” says Ms. Gould. “We don’t have an art museum on the Island, so I’m happy to provide a space that serves as an educational resource as much as anything else. I have a lot of moms who bring their kids in for art classes and college kids who used to take classes here who come in and discuss art.”

During the summer months, Ms. Gould hosts receptions for every show. The openings are always well attended, fun social occasions with refreshments, sometimes entertainment, and always lots of mingling in a fun cocktail-party atmosphere.

“A lot of people want to meet the artists,” she says. “Some people may have never been to a gallery because they may have felt inhibited. [The openings] are community events. It helps bring people into the town.”

This summer Ms. Gould will be celebrating the gallery’s 15 year anniversary with a celebratory party sometime in July. The gallery is open year-round, though winter hours are limited to Saturdays and by appointment.

In honor of the anniversary, Ms. Gould is currently offering a customer appreciation sale with over 100 pieces, including some brand new works, for sale. You can check out the sale and find out more about the gallery and its many artists at louisagould.com.