Put Malden on the map: A growing city takes pride in its up-and-coming art scene

Exterior of Gallery@57 storefront, 57 Pleasant St. in Malden. Photo by Three Circle Studio - Kevin Thai

By Nia Harmon

Since 2016, husband and wife duo Ose and Marcel Schwab have been amplifying the work of local creatives in Malden.

As the outgrowth of an initiative by Ose Schwab, owner of Malden Creates LLC, The Gallery@57 and non-profit Creative Malden strive to enhance the culturally rich city through its support of local artists, writers, and musicians.

“Malden has been lucky to have many art groups and initiatives throughout the years that highlight and connect its many fine artists,” writes Marcel Schwab in an email interview. “The Gallery@57 seeks to continue that work and nurture an inclusive and active artist community that is connected and informed about the opportunities available.”

What originally started off as “Malden Pops Up,” a pop-up shop in an abandoned space at 480 Main St. that ran for about a year, is now the inviting storefront located at 57 Pleasant Street.

Ose Schwab (center) flanked by high school volunteers, Donaita (left) and Jihane (right), outside of the second year popup called “The Gallery” at 480 Main St. in 2018.

“The purpose of Malden Creates LLC was to initiate opportunities for artists and performers to bring their work to Malden for money,” said Ose Schwab. “[In 2016], the opportunity came that there was an empty space on Main Street, and a few artists started talking: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have a pop-up gallery there?’ That’s what brought about the pop-ups.”

After about three years of these pop-ups, The Gallery’s artist community came together, inquiring about the possibility of a permanent space for their work to call home. 

“We really want to have a permanent space, and we want to establish an artist-led shop that carries forward the original idea of the pop-up, but in a smaller format,” Ose Schwab recounts one of the artists telling her. 

Home became a converted storefront at 57 Pleasant St. in Malden Square, and since 2019, the Gallery@57 has been a beacon for community engagement.

The narrow interior of the Gallery@57, where the most is made of a small space. Photo by Bhagyshree Lulay.

Since its inception, The Gallery’s artist community has championed the collective to expand. Among these artists is Sandy Felder, the Marketing Director and Fundraiser Director for The Gallery. 

“Sandy Felder has been a key artist leader helping to manage The Gallery@57, being involved in almost every aspect of the enterprise at one time or another since its launch four years ago,” said Marcel Schwab in an email response. “She has overseen numerous events and projects and leads our marketing. Her advocacy for artists and what they bring to our community has been a driver of our success.”

That permanent space now houses the work of a variety of mediums of art, including poetry, ceramics, fine art, and more. 

Under Malden Creates alongside The Gallery@57 is a nonprofit organization, Creative Malden, which helps artists receive grant funding and do free programming for the arts community in Malden.

A little over seven years later, Malden Creates has become a positive and recognizable force in the community, continuing to host a variety of events that further their mission.

Singer/songwriter Maddie Lam performs outside the Gallery@57. Photo by Sandy Felder.

This past December, The Gallery@57 hosted Malden’s second Winter Market with a total of 26 vendors, including artists from The Gallery and booths from other local businesses and organizations. 

At The Gallery@57 booth was artist Grace Julian-Murthy, whose eye for finding beauty in the everyday comes to life in intricately hand painted canvases, uniquely designed greeting cards, and her free coloring book of the city called “Road Map Through Malden.”

Each sheet throughout the 15-page activity book takes users on a journey through Malden. From the diverse cuisine scene, treasured outdoor spaces, and historic landmarks, those who color get the opportunity to learn the city in a unique way.

“I was awarded a grant and I’m handing out coloring books that highlight all of Malden and the various elements in Malden,” Julian-Murthy said. “My whole idea was I wanted to take someone on a roadmap through Malden, and I give little nods to Malden.”

At the booth for Music, Arts, and Programming (M.A.P. for short), which is dedicated to offering childcare and education that focuses on music, art, and computer programming, was artist and art teacher Chie Yasuda.

At the Winter Market, artist and teacher Chie Yasuda colors on a canvas tote designed by children in the M.A.P. program. Photo by Nia Harmon.

Handmade by students ranging from grade levels kindergarten through third, the M.A.P. booth was a reflection of the power of providing students with a creative outlet.

“We did printmaking with foam. We cut the foam, then they printed one by one,” Yasuda said. “This money goes toward the art supplies that they need.”

Each canvas tote had a winter related image, along with the student’s name who created the piece, adding an incredibly unique and sentimental touch.

Also at the market were husband and wife duo Yana and Elisee Lapaix who are behind the creativity of Wake Up Threads, a clothing brand dedicated to spreading political and social awareness. 

Yana (left) and Elisee Lapaix of “Wake Up Threads.” Their apparel bearing political and social messages, are sold at the store, as well as artist fairs, such as the Winter Market.

“We felt that with a lot of the political tension, violence by police, the pandemic, and so on that it was really important to remind people of what connects us all,” said Yana Lapaix.

Clothing at the booth included a variety of t-shirts with screen printed messages, including “Respect Your Mother” with an image of a woman inside of the continent of Africa, and another with the word “Spread” and a heart with a peace sign beneath it.

The community that The Gallery@57 continues to foster within their collective and the greater Malden community shone through the inviting and excited faces at their booths.

“I think The Gallery is a really wonderful place, especially when I had first come to Malden,” said Julian-Murthy. “There wasn’t as large of an art community, but what I love about The Gallery@57 is sometimes art is made in solitude, and it’s the combining of all different artisans and community in a space that really highlights the community and all the artisans as well.”

“Shout out to Ose and Marcel. They’ve always encouraged people,” said Lapaix. “I feel like [they are] helping this community thrive. Very, very grateful for that.”

As Malden continues to grow, so does its burgeoning arts and culture scene that is spearheaded by residents eager to show the world what the dynamic city has to offer.

“What I found was [that] Malden has a ton of talented people in almost anything you want–arts, science, anything–but most people work outside of Malden so they don’t really know each other,” said Schwab. “Every time somebody finds out about us they’re like ‘Oh great, can I join?’. Little by little we’re a growing community.”

To learn more about The Gallery@57, visit their website here.

Above, a gallery of photos featuring artists from Gallery@57 and Creative Malden. Click on the photos to see enlarged version.

Statement of Disclosure: Ose Schwab, featured in this article, is an employee of Urban Media Arts, the umbrella organization for Neighborhood View.

Nia Harmon is a student at Emerson College, majoring in journalism, and a contributing reporter for Neighborhood View.

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