There are several galleries in the Birmingham area where you can visit, view and purchase various types of arts and crafts. There are numerous venues, from the smallest bar to the BJCC, that feature music of all types for the listener’s enjoyment. And, of course, you can always throw a pot-luck party and enjoy the company of your friends any time you want.
But there is only one DanielDay Gallery/Dream Mecca Studio, which combines all three pursuits and more on a regular basis.
The gallery, at 3025 6th Avenue South, is owned by Daniel Day and his wife Melody Musick (yes, that’s her real name) and with its ample 4,000 feet of floor space, two performance areas, and several exhibit spaces has become just that – a Mecca, or destination – for those who share an interest in the arts, both visual and audible. Day said he and Musick came up with the full name of the gallery “because we see it as a gathering place – a Mecca for artists to both show their work and meet.
“We came up for a name for all our friends and customers who keep coming back for the music and our art shows,” laughs Day. “Meccaheads.”
It is a name which has stuck and during any given musical performance or show opening, one can hear people greet each other with the friendly appellation.
The couple opened the gallery, whose regular hours are Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., three and a half years ago and admit their timing could have been better.
“We opened it right in the middle of a recession,” Day says. “Recessions hurt small businesses the most and especially things like art galleries, which don’t sell essential items. But even though the recession isn’t really over yet, we are still here. Don’t ask me how, but we are.”
One thing that keeps people coming back, and has been instrumental in building that Meccahead sense of community, is the live music featured at least twice a week. There is a stage behind the building that is used during warm weather, while winter-time shows are moved into the back room of the gallery.
“We usually have bands on Friday night and Sunday afternoons,” Day said. “People bring food and we sort of share like a pot luck dinner.”
Combining live music performances with other types of art comes naturally to Day and Musick, who have been married for two years. In addition to being artists themselves – Day likes to call himself a cartoonist, while the multi-talented Musick works mostly with fabric, fashioning everything from handbags to hats to silk-backed guitar straps – they are both musicians.
They play together, Day on guitar and Musick on clarinet, in a rock/blues/jazz band they call Unchain the Melody.“We don’t play at the gallery all that often because we like to give other bands a place to be seen and heard,” Day said.
But Musick has been known to jump in and join other bands for a soaring clarinet solo or two if the spirit moves her.
“We mostly stick to blues bands and rock bands,” Day said, “although we do have the occasional jazz band.”
The gallery’s New Year’s Eve party provided a good example of the musical fare that can be heard there. It featured a double bill with the country blues of the award-winning Shar-Baby and the searing blues-based rock of guitarist Tim Boykin and his band.
Boykin, one of the area’s best electric bluesmen, says the gallery is one of his favorite places to play. “They are the best people in the world to play for,” Boykin said of the Meccaheads. “They are music fanatics.
“Nobody’s shooting pool or watching a ball game on a big screen TV,” he added. “Everybody there is rockin’ and good-timin’.”
Of course, the heart of any art gallery is, well, art. Musick said that in the time that the two-storied, multi-roomed gallery has been open, more than 50 artists have exhibited there.
“We have mostly local artists, but also have artists from all over the country show pieces here,” she said.
The gallery, which is currently featuring a show by local photographers, has and continues to show works by painters such as Bruce Andrews and Jeff Faulk; photography by Chris Mason, Walt Stricklin, Genie McElroy and others; sculpture by Virgil Edwards; sculpture and paintings by Hunter Bell; jewelry by artists including Karyn Stalcup; and stained glass and hand-made journals by Jerry Griffies.
DanielDay Gallery is also a Mecca, if you will, for vintage clothing collected and sold by several patrons, mostly notably Mona Lee, who has an upstairs room crammed with racks and racks of elegant old dresses, hats, suits and other clothing.
Lee, who readily admits to being a fun-loving Meccahead, said she has been collecting vintage clothing “all my life” and that she rotates her clothes three or four times a year, according to the season and holidays.
“We are not like a lot of galleries that charge people like Mona just to display her stuff, we only take a commission,” Musick says. “That way, she can keep accumulating these things that only she seems to be able to find and show them here at DanielDay.
The gallery is also often the venue for classes in various art media and has even offered yoga classes in the past.
In addition to her semi-official duties as in-house photographer for events at the gallery, local artist and photographer Sarah Fendley (who shares space with Mona Lee) is teaching creative painting classes in the gallery’s workshop area every other Tuesday. For $20 a class the gallery and Fendley provide the paint, canvas and other materials for students to use.
“It is mostly a class in abstract art, but it is designed for the students to bring their own ideas in and develop their skills,” she said. “Mainly, it’s an art class to let you bring out your own creativity. The emphasis is on your creativity rather than technique and expertise.”
With all its multiple facets, Day and Musick see their enterprise as “a working gallery,” Day said. “We are definitely not a gallery where you just walk in and look at things hanging on the walls or sitting on the floor. It’s a place where you can come and interact with the art and artists, hear some good music and eat some good food. What more could you want?”