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Coolidge Corner art gallery closes after cannabis shop abruptly ends agreement

The Beacon Street art gallery run by the Brookline Arts Center has closed after Sanctuary Medicinals abruptly ended its agreement. Photo courtesy of BAC
January 25, 2024

The Brookline Arts Center has been forced to close its gallery in Coolidge Corner, after the cannabis dispensary where it has been located elected not to renew an agreement slated to end on Jan. 31.

The BAC, a 60-year-old nonprofit that offers art classes, exhibitions and outreach programs, had partnered with Sanctuary Medicinals to use the dispensary’s extra space at 1351 Beacon Street as an art gallery since Sanctuary opened in 2020.

That collaboration ended abruptly earlier this month, according to Gabrielle Domb, the BAC’s director.

“We were really surprised on Jan. 10, when they emailed us kind of out of the blue to say that they’d made the decision to end their relationship with us and asking us to vacate the space by February 1,” Domb said.

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Jeffrey Allen, a lawyer for Sanctuary and a former Select Board member, said that the dispensary is “going to go in another direction” with its next use for the Coolidge Corner space, although Allen said it will be “some other type of gallery or community display.”

“We decided to go in a different direction based on feedback from a lot of different people,” Allen said. He declined to provide specifics.

Sanctuary is prohibited by the town’s zoning bylaws from expanding its business into the space that was occupied by the gallery, Allen said.

Most recently, BAC had used the space to showcase the work of Golden, a Black, transgender photographer, poet and community organizer whose work “maps the artist’s connection to Black aliveness through their ecosystem of chosen & blood family over the past 60 years,” according to the arts center’s website.

Other recent exhibits at the gallery included one with murals and art installations depicting the Puerto Rican diaspora in Massachusetts, and another featuring work by transgender, non-binary and genderqueer artists about their bodies and self-images.

The BAC is scrambling to find other spaces for the three new exhibits it was planning for the Beacon Street gallery in 2024. said Domb.

Kathleen Scanlon, a BAC board member, said having a storefront gallery in a highly trafficked part of Brookline was valuable for the nonprofit organization, which has its main office in the northeast corner of town in a former firehouse on Monmouth Street.

“We don’t have quite the visibility to have people stop by our building. Many people even say they don’t even know who we are,” said Scanlon. “So that visible space is something that we were really excited to work on with them because it fulfilled our need, and the need to bring arts to Brookline.”

The BAC also used the Beacon Street gallery to hold events and gatherings that could not fit in its main building.

The organization will now be looking for new gallery space to keep trying to meet its mission, Scanlon said.