After Kirk West retired from travelling with the Allman Brothers Band, he was invited to exhibit and sell his photographs at several music festivals. He also set up a pop-up gallery in New York City in March and again in October of 2014 during the time that the Allman Brothers Band were performing their final shows at the Beacon Theatre. When we returned from New York I thought that it would be a good idea to open a pop-up gallery in Macon and sell photographs for the holidays. We started looking at empty storefronts in downtown Macon and settled on our current location at 447 Third Street. Unfortunately, the space was still undergoing renovation that would not be complete until January. But we loved the space so much that we decided to open the gallery there even though we would miss the holiday buyers. We had a soft opening in January and did our grand opening in early February. Gallery West was launched and was a success right from the beginning. What we started as an idea that we would pursue for a limited time, turned into a full-time year-round commercial venture.
One of the great things about being in downtown Macon is the First Friday events. Gallery West participates in them every month and right from the beginning we felt that our small space was perfect for live music performances. With all of Kirk’s music photography it would also attract buyers and music lovers. So, over the years we had a wonderful time presenting not only Kirk’s great music photography but also some great musicians.
Our first guest musician was Tommy Talton, who was just wonderful. Others that have performed over the years include Caroline Aiken, Scott Pallot, Scott Baston, Randy Wesson, the Bruce Katz Band, Pine Box Dwellers, Andy Johnson, Dos Blues Guys, Louise Warren, Abby Owens, and Heather Kemp.
Braggjam is an annual music event in Macon at the end of July. Gallery West has been one of the music venues for this popular festival every year we have been open. The line-up is different every year and we love that we are a showcase for emerging singers and bands.
We have also had many book signings over the years, starting of course with Kirk’s book release parties for Les Brers – Kirk West’s Photographic Journey with the Brothers and The Blues in Black and White. Our friend and poet, John Griffin has had several book signings and readings at the gallery over the years. Willie Perkins, former tour manager for the Allman Brothers and Sam Cutler the former Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead tour manager, did book signings at the gallery.
GABBA, the Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association, has a weekend of events for their members every September and Gallery West has hosted events for the fans every year since we opened. Kunio Kishida, who is an amazing guitar player and guitar collector from Japan, has played at the gallery during our welcome parties as well as many other local musicians. Last year we had Sonny Moorman play when Kunio was unavailable because he was playing Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival.
Gallery West has also showcased the work of other prominent photographers as guest exhibitors. The first was Michael Weintrob who had an opening reception and displayed his amazing “Instrumenthead” photographs in the fall of 2015. In early 2016 we did a month-long exhibit by local photographer Gilbert Lee along with Sidney Smith from New Orleans both of whom had photographed the Allman Brothers during their early Capricorn years in Macon. In 2016 Kirk invited concert photographer Derek McCabe, to exhibit and sell his wonderful current concert photography for the month of April.
One very notable event occurred during the Macon Film Festival. We were asked by the organizers to host Burt Reynolds for a private dinner at the gallery. He was warm and charming. Kirk gave him a couple photographs he took of Burt with the Allman Brothers Band that were taken when the band used Bert’s property to record Back Where It All Begins.As you might imagine, Kirk is well known by many touring musicians and they often stop at the gallery when they are performing in Middle Georgia. Billy Joe Shaver, Steve Earle, Mike Farris, Charlie Starr and some boys from Blackberry Smoke, Duane Betts, Lee Roy Parnell, and most of the Allman Brothers Band have dropped in to see Kirk’s photographs.
In 2019 Gallery West was honored to be named 41WMGT -TV’s Viewer’s Choice Award for most popular gallery in Middle Georgia. We were so happy to receive this recognition.
In October of 2019 both Kirk and I were honored by the Macon Arts Alliance for our contributions to the art community. We received the 2019 Cultural Award at a grand ceremony attended by much of the Middle Georgia movers and shakers of our art world.
Gallery West has become a must-see attraction for tourists that come to Middle Georgia to soak up Macon’s rich music history. We are proud to be a key part of the Macon arts and music scene.