student and alumnx art spaces, collectives, and organizations

Profile: The Cordial Eye Gallery with Alumnx Anastaci Pacella (S 19)

Anastaci Pacella is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works as an artist in Barnstable, Massachusetts. Anastaci received her BFA in Art Education from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has participated in, and curated, exhibitions in Vermont and on Cape Cod. Anastaci’s work explores questions about the female gaze, sensuality, and domesticity. She is President, Curator, and Founder of The Cordial Eye Gallery 

What is/are your mission/goals?

Our mission is to use the arts as a starting point for social justice and mutual aid. Right now, in our community, that looks like creating an openly queer community center, keeping everything financially accessible, and engaging in difficult and timely topics in our exhibitions. We have just created a mentoring program called Grow Into Art for BIPOC and LGBT Youth as well as The Fern Cunningham Memorial Scholarship for BIPOC youth pursuing a degree in the arts. The goal of these youth initiatives is to connect students who are often pushed out and marginalized from our community, to each other, and to a professional network of artists. We want to ensure that all our young people feel they have a home here.

We find on Cape Cod that there is an excessive focus on the tourism industry, and that drives anyone who doesn’t fit into the JFK aesthetic underground. It is important for us to both disrupt the narrative that Cape Codders exist to serve the wealthy, white community that comes for seaside recreation, and also provide a gentle and open place for people to gather, create, and share their work.

Obviously this idea of gathering looks different right now, but it is all the more important for us to find creative ways to do it. We strive to create a more inclusive community on Cape Cod, one that our kids will feel comfortable to come home to, one that celebrates the multiple histories, perspectives and ways of living here, and we feel the arts are a perfect place to start making that change. Artists are culture creators, after all.

Who makes up The Cordial Eye?

The Cordial Eye is primarily run by myself, our Director of Community Support, Merrill Pontes, and our Director of Digital Marketing, Gabriella Simpkins. Merrill is a social worker, disabilities rights activist and rape prevention activist. She runs our LGBT support group, Adulting While Queer, in addition to serving on our board. Gabriella is a local indie folk musician who has been using the pandemic to land some awesome gigs at places like Club Passim in Cambridge, MA. She has completely leveled up our social media presence and I am so grateful to have her on the board as well. We also have a small team of group leaders who run our community led workshops, such as our Writer’s Forum and our Open Mic.

When did you start?

In August of 2019, The Cordial Eye opened its first exhibition,“Power and Placement”, with Dorchester-based artist Colgan Johnson, and Wisconsin-based VCFA MFA candidate, Heidi Blunt. They both designed installations that asked questions about who is welcome in a space, and how do museum and gallery goers interact with the space. We felt it was the perfect way to begin.

Where did you start?

Our initial location was on the HyArts Campus in Downtown Hyannis, MA. The building we were in was an old sea captain’s house that was frequented by local artist, Vernon Coleman in the 1960s. There used to be “art happenings” there and the basement and basement stairs are covered in his drawings and murals. We were so fortunate to be able to start in this space that is owned by the Town of Barnstable and rented specifically for artist use. Since Covid, we have moved online, are adapting to the digital sphere, and are looking forward to being able to safely gather in person again.

How did you start?

The Cordial Eye started when a friend of mine who was operating an independent theater on the HyArts Campus let me know the gallery space was available. We were putting on a Visual and Performing Art Showcase together and I found a couple of partners from that event who were crazy enough to start this venture with me. People have come and gone since, but it has still been an incredible opportunity to offer to my community. I feel so fortunate to have an amazing team of people who are willing to create an inclusive arts space with me.

What’s next for The Cordial Eye?

As I mentioned before we are super excited about our youth initiatives, Grow Into Art and The Fern Cunningham Memorial Scholarship. We are dreaming up all sorts of new fundraisers to support these initiatives and planning implementation as I write this. We are still learning how to adapt to the digital realm in a way that brings authentic connection.

I, like many people, am learning how to manage working from home, supervise my children’s remote learning, and understanding what that means for capacity. If part of the values of The Cordial Eye is creating an empathetic space, we need to extend that empathy to ourselves in what we take on.

We recently ran a virtual gaming event to connect to our community in a way that was more fun than Zoom. It was a lot of fun, and a ton of work to get going. I’m very excited about what digital connection can mean for the arts, and am also keeping my ear to the ground for physical locations, while learning about unconventional ways artists engage with public space. I’m thinking ahead to warmer months, temporary art installations and pop up events, as possibilities.