Breathing Room by Deborah McLeod

After four years on Charlottesville’s downtown mall, Chroma Projects is vacating our beautiful space. We are sadly closing our heavy glass doors at the end of January, and for the foreseeable future the gallery will take refuge in cyberspace, waiting until it becomes clear how to continue to work on behalf of the area art scene.

In starting up the gallery, I hoped to illustrate through curation and thoughtful installation, my belief that art needs breathing room to be fully enjoyed, and everyone needs art to breathe and enjoy. It’s such a weary old chestnut that art is something optional, a luxury or indulgence. I feel that art’s trial is mostly that we’ve lost our temperament for understanding subtlety; how to enter and apply art to our daily pleasure.


The increasing immersion in the immediate land of the web (ironically the very land Chroma is going to tuck into for a while) has dulled people to the example of art. But exemplary creativity is critical. Art progressively teaches us through example everything we could ever need to know about our world, near and far, past and present, and how to make a good, smart and sensitive place in it.

Exemplary art is like a time release capsule, a stubborn pistachio shell, or a blind date, it requires a little systematic patience, a little effort, a little faith, for it to open up and provide. Chroma was designed to allow art the focused space needed so the offerings within the art could be received, welcomed and flourish. Our other mission was to facilitate the spark of exploring and expressing through our resident artist studios. I called Chroma an Art Laboratory, rather than a “gallery” to emphasize that activity.


Visitors to Chroma often commented on how it has felt like a sanctuary; that they came to either quiet their minds, or get some new ideas or inspiration from its walls. I’ve always found that remark to be a wonderful compliment and validation of all the work involved in running the gallery, something that has kept me going absent financial success.

I would like to emphasize that in closing Chroma, financial challenges were the ultimate cause of our leaving and it’s tremendously important that Charlottesville understand that support of its artists and art galleries through purchases of art is critical. If having art treasures in your community matters at all, make a strong commitment to support the venues still struggling to remain in their buildings, and to serve their neighbors.

As for Chroma’s future, it will be somewhere nearby. I like to relate it to this riddle …Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: “The flag is moving.” The other said: “The wind is moving.” Another happened to be passing by. He told them: “Not the wind, not the flag; the mind is moving.”

–Deborah McLeod, Director, Chroma Projects


Deborah McLeod, a curator of contemporary art for the past 25 years, has held staff positions with the Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, The Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Hampton Roads, the Hand Workshop Art Center in Richmond, and the McLean Project for the Arts in Northern Virginia. McLeod has consulted as curator for the Richmond Arts Council, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond, the Greater Reston Art Center, and curated shows for the Eclipse in Arlington, the Washington Sculptors Group and the Washington Project for the Arts. She has contributed art reviews and critiques to Baltimore City Paper, Art Papers, Sculpture Magazine, Style Weekly Magazine, Ceramics: Art & Perception.



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