Constructing the storefront gallery at Spellerberg Projects

In November 2015 the Warner Bros crew producing The Leftovers moved out of my building at 103 S Main St. Over the next two and a half months, with the help of friends, consultants and contractors, I transformed it into an art gallery.

Here’s the exterior as it looked “before”:

Exterior before construction

The previous tenant was the the county’s Community Supervision and Corrections Department; it was where you’d come to check-in with your parole officer. The last remodel, of which this color scheme was a result, was done in the 90’s when the property was a lawyer’s office.

Interior before construction

My objective was to take the shortest possible path to hosting exhibitions and related activities in the space. We decided the best way to do this would be to convert the the first room, a reception area, into to a storefront gallery of about 200 square feet. The walls would need to be extended up and clad in new, smooth sheetrock; the archway converted to a pocket door; and the ceiling fans replaced with track lighting. Because of the building’s historic designation, changes to the exterior would be limited to color: Paint and a new awning cover.

Interior stripped down

Our first step was to take a crowbar to the walls. (This was fun.) We pulled off the old trim and sheetrock, then handed the project over to our contractor, Lone Star Home Service.

Interior during construction

The Lone Star team got to work on the walls and door, but the lighting solution turned out to be more complex than anticipated. The initial thought had been to simply suspend a single track from the existing electrical boxes. But we grew concerned that even though the previous fixtures had been installed this way, this approach wouldn’t pass against the current building code.

I contacted my friends at Independent Architecture and asked them to come up with an alternative. Not wanting to damage the existing tin ceiling, they designed an “H”-shaped support that would attach to the walls and evenly illuminate the display. The track configuration was designed by Lights Fantastic.

Construction was right on track until…

Crash damage
Photos courtesy Lone Star Home Service

A guy crashed his truck through the storefront! I’m told it was a matter of confusing drive for reverse, and slowed reflexes attributed to advanced age. (He must have really gunned it, to hop the curb the way he did.)

Luckily, none of the workmen on site that day were injured. But it meant the project, which at this point had been almost complete, was substantially set back. And because we’d already begun promoting the opening, repairs needed to happen fast!

Exterior rebuilt
Photo courtesy Lone Star Home Service
Awning frame

Reinstalling the awning was dependent on the paint being dry; the paint was dependent on the stucco; the stucco was dependent on the window frame; and the window frame needed a part that had to be special-ordered. And because of the historic designation, we had very little flexibility; the repairs had to match the original as closely as possible.

The awning had been taken down by Warner Bros and, unfortunately, the frame had been damaged in the process. Again, because of the historic designation, it had to be rebuilt to match. Warner Bros was really great about making it right and hired Austin American Awning for the job. I then commissioned them to make the new cover.

Finished gallery
The inaugural exhibition, paintings by Honoria Starbuck.

It was tight, but we made the deadline. The awning was installed the morning of the grand opening, Saturday January 16 2016.

Posted January 2016

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