Aiming for art

As a kid growing up in Nutley, New Jersey, I can’t say I ever dreamt of owning a large commercial art gallery. I can actually say the thought never crossed my mind. I admired my mom and dad for their hard work, and I aspired – for the most part – to work hard like them and support myself.

I started helping my dad on his scrap metal truck when I was eight. As I grew, I recognized I liked working – and its rewards – much more than I liked school. This was glaringly evident in my (lack of) attendance and my barely mediocre grades.

When I was sixteen, my mom encouraged my dad to let me take leave from the scrap business and accept a job working in my cousin’s art gallery. I got a first-hand taste of the art business, including framing, varnishing paintings and stretching canvases. I also got a glimpse at the currency involved in bona fide art dealing.

After my late graduation from high school and at the urging of a supportive teacher, I became a rather unlikely scholar. My part-time gallery job was behind me, and I had my sights set on the planets and stars. Mars, actually. Fast forward to 1969, I’m readying for my dissertation in mechanical engineering and am a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. The NASA program that was aiming a man at MARS was scrapped, and doctoral types like me found ourselves instead presented with work that involved aiming weapons. At the time, a lot of engineering brainpower was refocused on military might, and that wasn’t my bag. It didn’t excite me quite like space exploration had. Or – once I thought long and hard about it – like the art business had. So I took a chance (and a second mortgage on my home) and opened Park West Gallery in a 900-square-foot space on 9 Mile Road. (I opened the gallery in 1969, completed my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 1970, and have worked in art ever since.)

Park West Gallery - construction site 1980

Fast forward again. After a move from 9 Mile to Telegraph Road, in 1980, we broke ground on our current gallery location on Northwestern Highway.

Steel structure - Building Park West Gallery

Over the years, we’ve renovated inside and out, and expanded up to 36,000 square feet.(It’s now 63,000 square feet.) Since that time, we also added a gallery, and framing and large business center in Miami.

Gallery then and now2

In 1980, Northwestern Highway was a pretty barren stretch. With all the traffic and development on the road now, that’s hard to imagine.

But Park West Gallery isn’t about a building we built– it’s about people and the relationships we’ve built with artists and their families, and the many amazing people we’ve met through the 44 years we’ve been in business.

Here’s a photo of the then brand new lower gallery space.

Park West 1980 - new gallery opening

My wife Mitsie has used a pocket camera to collect some memories that I’ll continue to share here.

Invitiation to Park West's new gallery opening event 1980 - featuring Laszlo Dus

Our first artist exhibition and gallery opening featured Laszlo Dus. It was December 1980.

Laszlo Dus

Here he is, adding his signature to the décor.

Albert and Laszlo Dus

And here we are, tuxedo ready for the opening. I look forward to sharing more of the Park West journey in weeks to come.


October 24, 2013

Comments (2)

  1. Sr. Mary Thomas Reply

    November 12, 2013 at 11:35 am

    What a great life story you are sharing, Albert! It just goes to show what persistence, enthusiasm and plain hard work can accomplish. And in the midst of it all you have maintained a love for people, especially for the under-privileged youth of Detroit and environs. Know that the round-the-clock prayer of the Dominican Contemplative Nuns accompanies you every step of the way.
    Thank You and keep up the good work!
    Sr. Mary Thomas, OP

  2. G.Sugal Reply

    June 22, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Your success story is amazing as well as the organizations you have built.
    A former New Yorker (not far from Nutley) myself I wish I had an opportunity to meet you early on in your career
    Now retired I love creating paintings not for fame or fortune but for the joy it brings to me and folks.
    I recently completed a painting for the parents of a little girl who has MS (n/c)…. and the emails that followed by her parents made me very emotional. …receiving those kind words that the painting brought a smile to there daughters face –is the best pay one can receive.
    You have over the years made tens of thousands of folks happy and for that the good lord has blessed you with good health success and a beautiful family . The portraits I create are on my site and probably not suitable for your clients …so i do them for only a few and of course myself. G

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