When you're talking about running a gallery originally built as a firehouse in 1849, it can take a couple of years just to learn where all the light switches are. It did for Nick Crider, exhibit coordinator for Gallery5 and the man responsible for booking events, art shows and music performances.
A sculpture graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Crider began volunteering at the gallery five years ago. "I wanted to play music there and slowly took on more and more responsibility," he says. Today his duties include administrating, reviewing submissions and trying to find as many ways as possible for the space to hold happenings.
A lot of shows had been planned when he started his job last year. "I rarely had to curate, so I was sanding and painting walls a lot," he says. "But I do like to curate, so for next year I'll probably do more. For me, part of being a curator or a sound engineer is not being noticed, to get to go about the job and be anonymous. It's been great having no one face for Gallery5."
And while he hasn't always been curating, technically speaking, Crider has chosen the guest curators, meaning he still influences exhibits. "Hard Copies," the group show of new works by five up-and-coming artists, which opened Dec. 6, was curated by Ian Gamble. "I'd worked with Ian before," Crider says. "I know he's got an amazing, creative brain. He lives in North Carolina and I'd go down to see him and we'd go look at objects and shoot guns. I gave him free rein for this show."
Gamble originally wasn't planning on organizing a group show beyond involving Olivia Lewis. "Olivia and I have been showing work together for a couple of years now," he emails. "We have similar interests in collections, assemblage, and material so the character of our art works well together visually as well as materially." But when considering how to best use both the gallery spaces — downstairs and upstairs — he realized they needed more than just two artists. So they asked Caleb Flood and Robert Saltonstall, good friends who were both painters and sculptors. "We like their work and everyone knows one another through the VCU arts program. I feel like the mixture of painting, sculpture and craft will provide a dynamic visual experience with a little something for every viewer," Gamble says. "Our theme so far is analog, hard copies. We're all very physical people and are directly involved in the material manipulation of making work."
It's just the kind of multifaceted event that appeals to Crider. "I love for this place to be able to host many things at once," he says from his office overlooking Marshall Street. "We've had dance collectives, screen-printing workshops, nonprofits. I was really excited to host the Well Worn market. The more activities going on here, the better. I'm an artist, so I like chaos."
One of his goals is to encourage more day traffic, so he's actively searching for people who want to hold workshops for the community. Another is to increase the volunteer base but not just for the mundane chores such as sanding and painting walls.
"I know a lot of it is day-to-day stuff," he says, "but I want to find out why the volunteers are here and find a way to use their specific talents. The gallery's strength lies in the community of patrons, artists and organizations that inhabit it. Without this eclectic group of people and the dedication of our staff and volunteers, the gallery would become stagnant and irrelevant."
Still learning things about the gallery and the job, Crider seems unlikely to become stagnant any time soon. "This building is old; that's a weakness and a strength," he says. "I'm still discovering secret places here. I had to do a floor plan recently and I was looking at it and wondering, 'What's this'? I looked next to the refrigerator and there's a secret door I never knew about." S
"Hard Copies" is on view Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m., through Dec. 28 at Gallery5, 200 W. Marshall St. For information, call 644-0005 or visit gallery5arts.org.