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Home Gallery A collector's house reflects his passion: Finding art and sharing it with others

Walk into Gerald Mead's dining room, and your first impression will likely be, "Whoa, that dog has teeth."

Though not real, this life-size sculpture with the fierce expression and no-nonsense name -- "The Protector" -- makes itself at home in one corner.

"It has found its place," Mead says.

So, too, has the works of more than 200 other artists on display at any given time in Mead's Parkside-area home. He surrounds himself with artwork and decorative arts, much of it by Western New York artists and artisans -- past and present.

His collection -- including "The Protector" by Yolanda Daliz, now a Rochester resident -- comes from local galleries and auctions as well as from trading artwork with fellow artists.

What Mead, an artist known for his small-scale collages and assemblages, has done is to build an encyclopedic collection -- a reference library -- of artists from the area. Some are, or were, associated with Hallwalls, CEPA, the Buffalo Society of Artists and other organizations. Other works were created by educators -- at Buffalo State College or the University at Buffalo, for example.

"With my background in design and my work in collage, creating a home environment for myself is like creating a life-size collage that surrounds me," says Mead, who has a degree in design from Buffalo State College, where he is a current lecturer.

For years, he worked as a curator at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, and his work has been exhibited close to home and as far away as Australia, Great Britain and Poland.

To many, his passion for collecting is as well-known as his small-scale works of art. The catalog from his 2004 exhibit at the Castellani Art Museum -- a 15-year survey of his art titled "Gerald Mead (inch by inch)" -- mentions it, describing his home as "a sanctuary for art by artists of Western New York."

"I think it's good to surround yourself with things that inspire you," Mead says.

The layout of the place -- part of a Parkside double -- suits Mead's love of collecting and sharing with others. When Mead first spotted the apartment in 1987, he liked what he saw. A previous occupant had renovated it by making the parlor, living and dining rooms into one large open space while retaining its architectural elements.

At any given time, Mead says he has work by more than 200 artists on view -- on walls, tabletops, propped on chairs, even attached to window shutters. Additional artwork is stored. He also often lends or donates works. From Sept. 30-Nov. 11, 28 pieces from his collection will be exhibited at the Horizons Gallery at WNED, for example.

While much of the artwork can be found in the living and dining areas and back corridor, Mead also has placed food-themed pieces in the kitchen, including a small painting by A.J. Fries of a lemon pie floating in a blue sky and a sculpture made from a Black & Decker toaster by Patrick Holderfield, formerly of Buffalo. One place there is no art: Above his work area in his den/studio. Too distracting.

Mead also collects juicers and ice crushers from previous decades -- "This one looks like the hood of an old Chrysler," he says, pointing out a sleek chrome model -- as well as Murano glassware, green-and-white Wedgewood Jasperware and even architectural fragments from old Buffalo buildings.

Granted, Mead has neither kids nor pets sharing his home -- although he hosts parties, invites 25 people to dinner and entertains his large family, which includes nearly 30 nieces and nephews. Mead grew up one of 11 siblings; his mother, the late Margaret Mead, was a watercolorist who, too, surrounded herself with artwork.

Furniture in a range of styles also is of interest to him -- from Arts and Crafts pieces to designs from the '40s, '50s and '60s. Among his inventory: Eero Saarinen "Tulip" chairs and maple-top round tables with painted aluminum bases.

"Fifties furniture with the chrome and marble can sometimes be a little harsh for the home environment. That's why I gravitated toward the maple," Mead says.

Several pieces also were crafted by area artisans, including a table by Thomas Stender and a desk lamp by Roycroft artisan Barry Yavener. Other pieces, such as the sideboard in the dining room, Mead found at thrift shops or estate sales in his early days of collecting and furnishing a home.

While his collection is vast, his philosophy is simple: Have his art out there to be enjoyed by others. Have other people's artwork in his own home for him to enjoy and share with others.

And while there is plenty here to enjoy, the home does not feel cluttered.

Says Mead: "As a designer, I try to do it artistically and tastefully . . . this does not seem like a lot of things; half as many would seem empty to me."


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