David Scher

Written by: Alexandra Martin and Katlyn Gabriel

David Scher has been working in the Holyoke area for 40 years when he purchased the 150-year-old mill building as part of a family business. Since Scher bought the old mill building, the mill has been transformed into the canal gallery, which provides a space for local artists to showcase their work and spark cultural interest in Holyoke. In this time the gallery has been host to hundreds of artists of every discipline. Paintings, sculptures, photography, metalwork, and musicians have all had their time in the gallery, many of which aimed to make some cultural or social impact.

canal galleriesDavid Scher believes that the canal gallery is amongst the most influential buildings in Holyoke due to the myriad of artists that have displayed their work there.  A few of the examples of artists that have been through the canal gallery are; the artists at Paper City Studios, Linda Bond and Mariah Fee, who along with others had created the History of Women in Northampton Mural, Mary Bernstein, and many others. The presence of the artists themselves is very important to raising cultural awareness to the town of Holyoke, but perhaps what is more significant is that the Canal Gallery gives people the opportunity to discuss the art and what the art is representing. Many of the pieces that have been through the gallery have represented or commented on a social rights movement. An example of this would be the women who worked out of the canal gallery and went on to create The History of Women in Northampton Mural; while bringing beauty to the city of Northampton, the mural also took part in a women’s activist movement. In addition to women’s rights, there has been art shown in this gallery that has spoken to gay rights, war, and political issues, to name a few. It is for this reason that the gallery, while very influential regionally, also has the potentially to be influential on a much larger scale.

The importance of the Canal Gallery cannot be undermined because of the need for a space where artists can freely express themselves, or the need for a space where the rest of the community can get involved with the message behind each piece of art. Since David Scher has started working in Holyoke 40 years ago he said that he has seen Holyoke change for the better. It has been a slow and gradual change, but there are many innovative things happening in Holyoke currently that will help the city continue in this positive direction. Making an investment in culture, such as investing in the Canal Gallery, can really help bring life to a city.

Currently, David Scher is working on a new multi-million dollar project to convert empty space along the canal into condos for either residents or work offices. With a similar hope of getting people in the community involved and recreating downtown Holyoke. In the future Mr. Scher hopes that people will continue to inspire interest in the Canal Gallery and will continue to use its space.


Written by: Joshua Murphy and Alex Cadres

David Scher came to Holyoke in 1972 and is a painter, sculptor, and building designer. He is a down to earth guy that is always looking to help others in need. David is an artist simply because that is what he loves and it is his passion. He is also a building designer because he likes building places to live for other artists, and also enjoys the practice.

David has had a vision since he came to Holyoke to make it a hub for artists from all over the place. He wants Holyoke to be the place that it was once created to be and for that to happen, population must drastically increase. He used to go to art gatherings, which were mostly in the Northampton area, to meet other artists. Most of them were young artists who came out of Hampshire College and Umass Amherst and did not have a lot of money. A lot of the artists did not even have a place to live. David had space in the Holyoke area and invited a lot of them to stay with him. Eventually, a large amount of people, mostly young artists, started to find out about David’s space.

David started building studio apartments out of scraps of metal and wood for over thirty people. He attracted even more people by partying on the canal and having “champagne parties”. David would get the young artists to see his vision of the future of Holyoke. He started taking out loans to acquire more buildings and also renovate them. Any revenue he acquired he would immediately pay off the loans with. David knows that what he is doing is not going to make him money. However, he renovates these buildings because he wants to fulfill his vision of revitalizing Holyoke and overall loves helping other artists.

The building he is proudest of is called the “Canal Gallery”, which he renovated about forty years ago. It is located on Dwight Street and it is a hub where artists come to paint and sculpt. He’s working to renovate the gallery to include apartments where other artists can live. David hopes that other places will start being built similar to his “Canal Gallery”. He is encouraging other artists and business owners to live downtown to increase the population. Similar to his “champagne parties” in the 1970s’s, every Thursday night he is starting to have food and drink gatherings at the bridge downtown. David is doing this in the hopes of getting people to see his vision of Holyoke again. He also wants to build an art museum concentrating on works that bring about social change. David would have people donate their own art to the museum to support it. Even though he doesn’t own the building, he is currently talking to the owner about the logistics of the project. David’s passion for art and his perseverance for the revitalization of Holyoke demonstrates his character. David will not stop working until Holyoke becomes what he sees in his vision.