With its gala celebration in December, Galeria United made its official debut on the Providence-area arts scene. The passion project of Tina Melo-Kufner, a RISD graduate and knitwear designer who has lived and worked extensively in Europe, the Galeria features carefully curated selections of art, furniture, clothing and jewelry. A unique fusion of gallery and boutique, the Galeria is committed to supporting the work of individual artists and designers while fostering a sense of creative community.
Located in Pawtucket’s ever-expanding arts district, the Galeria is distinct in both layout and atmosphere. The spacious yet intimate interior invites leisurely wandering and unhurried looking, while a fireside sitting area encourages conversation over a cup of coffee or tea. Artists’ works are not only thoughtfully chosen but also artfully displayed, and eclectic groupings and thoughtful juxtapositions create a lively visual dialogue among media. Near a window, boldlywrought furniture, crafted from local wood, plays against organic, hand-turned pottery; across the room, a geometric matrix of Swarovski crystals guilds a woman’s top, its metallic sheen reflecting off neighboring displays of silver jewelry. As Melo-Kufner explains, “I want to identify each piece and make it pop.” She likens each installation of items to a “concept board” in which colors, textures and forms creatively collide and commingle.
In conceiving and realizing the space, Melo-Kufner drew deeply on her experience in fashion design and trend forecasting. Starting her career as a New York-based designer and fashion merchandiser, she later established a trend forecasting service and relocated to Europe. From 1994 to 2000, she was a self-described “entrepreneur,” traveling throughout Europe and Asia and working with major brands such as Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret and Converse. “ She was also exploring the independent boutiques of Milan and Paris and forging relationships with a range of artists and designers. Thus, when she returned to her native Rhode Island two years ago, she did so eager and prepared to make her long-gestating dream – the as-yet-to-be-named Galeria – a reality.
On a recent tour of the space, Melo-Kufner’s spoke enthusiastically about her larger vision for the Galeria. As she explains, she hopes to foster a mutual sense of connection between and among artists, customers and the larg- er public, and she emphasizes directness and transparency on both creative and commercial fronts. In addition to the Galeria boutique, Melo-Kufner runs the Melo Project, an arts education nonprofit, and she has incorporated a studio and teaching area into the Galeria space. She has also established the Harmony Bank, an on-site spa, which offers personalized Reiki sessions with Lisa McLeod and all-natural body products from Annie B’s Farm.
Galeria abounds in visual and material wonders. Fascinating, surprising and utterly unique, it brings a dynamic new energy to a vital creative scene.