If you go

What: Gary Markowitz opens his Gallery aHa

When: Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 12, Gallery aHa will be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

Where: 338 Main St., Longmont

Etc.: The gallery's first art show is 6-9 p.m. Dec. 6

Info: markowitzart.com

LONGMONT -- Diners at the new Racheli's Italian Deli in downtown Longmont recently were confronted with an eyebrow-raising painting by Boulder artist William Stoehr.

The work, titled "Joan of Arc," showed a seated nude woman with her legs spread. In one hand she held a grenade, and a halo circled her head. Stoehr said the painting sprang from how he imagined the historical Joan of Arc might have responded had she escaped being burned at the stake.

"It's a very aggressive stance," he said.

Aggressive stances get noticed, and the display helped announce what's happening at 338 Main St.

The upper floor of the historic building is occupied by Gary Markowitz, who has longtime ties to the region's art scene. He spent more than two decades living in Hawaii, Spain and France before returning to Boulder County about a year ago to be near his 92-year-old father.

Recently Markowitz has been establishing himself in the Longmont art community. The Fairview High School and University of Colorado graduate is fixing up his second-floor downtown space, a former boarding house that encompasses about 1,500 square feet, and is preparing to open it Tuesday, Nov. 12, as a new studio called Gallery aHa.

As sort of a soft opening, he has been welcoming visitors upstairs to view paintings he's hung on the walls.

"Oracula," a painting by Gary Markowitz, who is opening an art gallery in downtown Longmont.
"Oracula," a painting by Gary Markowitz, who is opening an art gallery in downtown Longmont. (Courtesy image)

Most of them are his own, abstract works that often feature suggestions of the female form and have an otherworldly, shrouded-in-mist quality. But a couple of works by local painter Gaynor Nelson also have adorned the wall, and when aHa is officially open, Markowitz intends for it to be a venue for local artists.

He said he's especially interested in showing work, such as Stoehr's, that hasn't always found a home in Longmont.

"I'm really looking for work that people haven't seen around here," he said.

Markowitz's original plan was to create a larger art center somewhere in the area. He even considered a 5,000-square-foot space in Lafayette. He has scaled back the vision somewhat, but the basic idea is the same.

"It was to build community and get involved in an art community and help an art community grow," he said.

Markowitz, 62, said he has enjoyed many successful years of making and selling art and living in remarkable places overseas (he once resided on his own private island in Cadaques, Spain). Now he wants to help other creative people enjoy some of what he's enjoyed as an artist.

"It's pretty much a conscious decision I made when I came back," said Markowitz, who has lived in Boulder off and on and whose family once owned a gallery in Boulder. "I want to give back to the world."

To that end, he wants not just to show art at aHa but also teach there and help artists learn how to make a living in art. He also wants to provide assistance such as printing services. Before he was an artist, Markowitz ran a marketing and publishing company, and he wants to impart to emerging artists his experience in marketing. He wants aHa to be a downtown artists' hub, and he views what's happening throughout 338 Main St. as "an installation."

"This whole place for me is an art project," he said.

Markowitz's arrival was an amazing stroke of luck for Joseph Racheli, who owns the building and runs the deli downstairs. When he opened the deli with partner Chris Blankenship earlier this year, Racheli's idea was to create a place where people could enjoy "music, art and food."

He has food covered with the restaurant. The venue is starting to present live music, and Racheli expects to schedule open mics and spoken-word events. Art was the missing piece. Then a mutual friend introduced him to Markowitz.

"I had no idea someone like that would come through the door," Racheli said. "It was like a dream come true."

Racheli invited Markowitz to curate art in the restaurant, which became a precursor to Gallery aHa, an indication of things to come upstairs.

Sabrina Stiles is one of the artists Markowitz invited to hang paintings at the venue. She's happy to see downtown Longmont gain another gallery, and she believes Markowitz could help local artists not just create art but market it, too.

"Longmont draws a lot of artists," she said. "For a smaller town, it's incredible the quality of work we have here."

But local artists often fall short in marketing and selling their work, she added.

"I think (Markowitz) is trying to promote things and get involved," Stiles said.

Artists such as Stoehr appreciate Markowitz's willingness to display work that other venues might shy away from.

"Gary's artistic sensibility is that he likes to push things, and of course I like that," Stoehr said.

Stoehr also likes Markowitz's effort to establish a gallery that's really more of a place where artists can just gather and hang out.

"I would hope that he is successful in that space, and if he is successful in the way he wants to be, I want to be part of that," Stoehr said.

Contact Quentin Young at 303-684-5319 or qyoung@times-call.com.