New work by Brian Allee
I’ve been looking forward to Brian Allee’s City Gallery show for weeks. Brian, much like one of his assemblages, could never be put in a box -- He is a “lover of all things old and odd,” an electrician by trade, and has over the years been a part time master gardener, jazz drummer, Civil War re-enactor, antiques collector, and (believe it or not) baby whisperer (when I first met Brian 13 years ago, he was my go-to baby holder for my brand new infant son).
In the last few years, one of Brian’s creative expressions has been crafting pieces from his collections into one-of-a-kind custom light fixtures. Salvaged materials from old and abandoned King Park neighborhood homes, vintage thrift store finds, and ephemera from his collections are crafted into rustic and whimsical works of art. Brian’s first City Gallery show (February 2013) let him explore combining his love of architecture and salvage with his skill as an electrician. For this month’s show, Brian drew on his love of music, gathering boxes of old musical instruments from the attic of downtown’s Musicians’ Repair and Sales, and making them the focal point of his designs. Cymbals stand in for lamp shades, a trombone pivots in a swing-arm lamp, and drums, a clarinet and even organ pipes fill out some of the other pieces. With names like “Dizzy,” “The Jeff Hamilton,”and “Elvin,” these pieces pay tribute to many of Brian’s jazz heroes.
Brian moved into the Old Northside neighborhood in 1984, partly because of its proximity to the downtown jazz music scene. Weekends found him playing drums at the Chatterbox and the downtown Hilton. He bought his bachelor pad on New Jersey in the days when a bank hesitated before giving a loan for a house in this neighborhood. When his expanding family outgrew the little cottage, the Allees chose to stay in the neighborhood, close to their daughter’s school, their church and their neighbors.
Brian has seen the Old Northside neighborhood change dramatically over the past 30 years. New restaurants and businesses pop up every month. People walk outside all the time, now. Not long ago, we wouldn’t have seen that. I’m grateful for the long term residents in our downtown neighborhoods -- people who’ve loved the architecture, the history, and the stories of these places -- that have followed their passions, have preserved and salvaged and loved the beauty here, and have laid the foundation for the exciting growth that is happening now. Come out to the City Gallery this month and enjoy Brian Allee’s song to the city.