Imagine a gallery with an expiration date. Consider a gallery where you can get art for your wall — or arm. Even as 1708 Gallery celebrates its 30th year and the Artwalk toddles slowly from cultural experiment to cultural institution, hybrid galleries are emerging — places where art happens, but it's not all pristine walls and monthly receptions.
It's surprising that in the midst of economic strains of late, the city's smaller and newer galleries are not only surviving but also growing in number. Christina Newton, director of Curated Culture, says that despite studio and gallery space being more expensive and difficult to come by, none of the galleries participating in the First Fridays Artwalk has closed in the last year. What's more, new galleries have recently joined.
One of these is Ghostprint Gallery (220 W. Broad St.), where the human form is celebrated in a few ways. Geraldine Duskin, who owns Ghostprint with her artist daughter, Thea, contends that while Ghostprint's connection to Thea's custom tattoo studio helps business, it's the gallery's inclusive exhibition scheduling that matters most.
“We are open to high and low art,” she says, citing her July show, featuring work by tattoo artists as an example of how the gallery values various forms of expression. In conjunction with 1708's InLight events, Ghostprint is sponsoring a Balinese shadow-theater-inspired performance called “Night Shade.”
Inspired by the anti-consumerist beliefs of the punk and do-it-yourself movements, artists Victoria Long, Andy Jenkins and Travis Robertson are opening Thanky (a word concocted to suggest appreciation) Gallery this month. Thanky Gallery is a one-year-only endeavor, designed not for long-term financial success, but to put some art out there and because, simply, the group is confident it can sustain it for that long.
A multidisciplinary group also involved with music and 'zines (noncommercial, small-edition publications), Long, Jenkins and Robertson are part of a growing network of diversified artists who are running diversified art spaces. Increasingly, galleries are functioning as hybrid spaces in which performance, film and educational events represent at least a portion of regular gallery programming. “The point is to bring good energy to central Virginia,” Long says.
These new galleries are the creation of working artists who subscribe to the do-it-yourself ethic, executing tasks at hand with limited budgets. They're leasing and rehabilitating urban spaces, filing for permits and promoting shows, often while working other jobs. While the true entrepreneur's goal is to make money, Richmond's latest gallery creators are driven by a passion for simply making good.
Studio 23, located in Plant Zero, is another new space operating with more than one objective. Run by artists Ashley Hawkins, Sarah Watson, Emily Gannon, Tyler Dawkins, Cindy Eide and Kate Horne, the studio offers affordable access to an intaglio press as well as printmaking workshops and exhibition space. Access to the press is a unique service to the art community because presses are expensive pieces of equipment that few artists can personally afford.
Hawkins, who calls Studio 23 “a labor of love,” speaks of “creative exchange” when describing the studio's goals. The group is seeking mixed tapes and accompanying original album art for its upcoming show, “Mix Tape,” and working with Richmond independent radio station WRIR 93.7 FM as a means of promotion.
On top of her Studio 23 efforts, Horne (whose exhibition Mythmaker is on view at Transmission Gallery) is filling in as a manager of another hybrid, Metro Space Gallery, while a permanent director can be found. Along with its visual arts programming, Metro Space Gallery presents live music and rents its space to other organizations. Horne speculates that galleries improve urban neighborhoods because they bring people to them in a friendly way, with a mind for art — be it painting, music or a wicked big flaming lizard to cover an ex's name on your back.
“Galleries are only as strong as the galleries next door,” she says.