Cotton Candy Machine, the South Williamsburg gallery owned by painter Tara McPherson and her partner Sean Leonard, is sending out a call for help. “Cotton Candy Machine needs your support,” reads an Instagram caption. “We just celebrated our 4 year anniversary here at the Art Boutique and Gallery and they say the first 5 years are the hardest for a small business. I hope the hardest years are behind us, but right now we need your help.”
One of the culprits? Rent, ça va sans dire. “When we opened the gallery, rent was much much cheaper,” Leonard told us over the phone, “and it’s going to the point where we need to ask for help and support. [Our Landlord] has been raising our rent consistently at an astronomical rate. We have dealt with that for a while. Places around us are renting for money, and he thinks his place is worth that money, and he is not too concerned with any sort of compromise.”
Instead of going the GoFundMe route, Cotton Candy Machine is encouraging costumers to buy items and original art. “We want people to support the way we always intended the business to work, and that’s to buy art.” And every purchase counts: “If everyone gave five bucks, there wouldn’t be a problem anymore.”
When I spoke to Leonard a couple of months ago, while profiling Tara McPherson, he sang the praises of South Williamsburg. “There’s a timeframe,” he said of the gallery’s location, “when things beautiful like this can exist.” To illustrate the point, he used a striking metaphor: where you have the fresh water of a river meeting the ocean, he explained, you have brackish water and so there’s this overlap where water is both salty (the people with big bucks) and kind of fresh (the artistic, long-estabilished community). Interesting life forms exist within that brackish water: certain banyan trees, seahorses, all this beautiful life that happens within that. “In Williamsburg we have salt infiltrating our freshness, so we have this meeting point,” said Leonard. “A lot of beautiful things can happen in Williamsburg, where there’s this mixture, because you have people creating things that the salty water is eager to consume but will always keep forcing back.”
Where would Cotton Candy Machine go if it were pushed back? “There’s no place we’d rather see it than here,” Leonard had said.