all photos: Temniet Mesgna
all words: Ryma Chikhoune
This is where, as part of our ongoing Year in Art effort we introduce you to some of the women working in some of our favorite galleries around town. They are often responsible for the shows looking the way they do within the space, and always there to help your possibly intimidated self while navigating the DC art world. Talk to them more often, promise?
This week, we visit the women of Flashpoint, The Fridge and Susan Calloway Fine Arts.
SAY HELLO TO: Karyn Miller, program manager of Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW.
Flashpoint, a lively arts space that supports emerging artists and cultural organizations, supplies “services and training for cultural organizations to help strengthen their management capacity and offers exhibition and performance spaces, enabling arts groups to focus on their artistic goals and expand their visibility.” It holds a contemporary art gallery, a theatre lab, a dance studio, workstations and more.
BYT: Did you study art in school?
Karyn Miller: I did my undergrad at Catholic University here in D.C., and I studied art history. I graduated in 2002.
BYT: Where are you from?
KM: I’m not from D.C., but I’ve actually been here for 12 years now. I grew up in Pennsylvania, on a farm out in the country. So it’s kind of a weird shift. It was actually interesting, because I went to an art auction in New York last week, and I grew up going to livestock auction actually, and I was shocked by how similar they actually are in terms of the structure, the format for it. I thought was really weird and kind of cool.
BYT: Did you always know that you wanted to get into the arts?
KM: I was always very interested in art. I didn’t have exposure, access to art history until I got into college. I thought that I would maybe study studio art and become an artist. I actually lacked total confidence in my ability to make work. So, my freshmen year of college I took art history, because that felt safer to me than taking a studio art class and being totally exposed, and I realized very quickly in that first semester that I was destined more for art history than for making art. I’m actually finishing up my masters now.
BYT: How long have you been working at Flashpoint?
KM: I’ve been here since June of 2007. So, I’ve been here for just over two and a half years.
BYT: What does your job entail?
KM: It entails lots of different things. I mean, everything from the fun stuff like doing studio visits and working with the artists and the development of their exhibitions and sort of creating a dialogue between artists with what they are doing. It’s one of those things where you sort of have to do every aspect of what needs to happen for a gallery.
BYT: It’s not a 9 to 5, sitting at a desk…
KM: Yes, it’s a lot of weekends, lots of evenings. It’s really important to be engaged with what’s going on everywhere and not just here, so I spend a lot of time looking at art, going to openings, going to other galleries, going to museums and so forth.
BYT: What’s the camaraderie like with other galleries?
KM: It is great. I think there’s actually a great dialogue and a really good relationships between galleries, whether it be working together to coordinate openings or working together with different artists doing shows at different spaces. You know, I’ll go out for drinks with other gallery owners, support them and what they are doing, and they support us.
BYT: That’s nice.
KM: It’s really exciting, and it’s really nice too, because I’m actually on leave right now, because I’m getting my masters at Georgetown, and part of the program is spent in New York, so I’m living in New York right now. And it’s interesting to get the sense of the landscape there. It’s staggeringly huge. So, it makes me appreciate D.C. and the camaraderie here.
BYT: How long would you say that you’ve been following the D.C. art scene?
KM: I think the scene is really exciting. Artists are doing really exciting things. I’ve actually been working in the D.C. art scene for almost eight years now.
BYT: How do you think it’s changed?
KM: I think artists in galleries are doing more exciting things, more ambitious things. And, just being very innovative about the work that they are doing.
BYT: What would people be surprised to hear about the D.C. art world?
KM: It’s a hard question. Well, I think that people have this notion that working in an art gallery is either glamorous or maybe not that much work. For example, that you just sort of sit at the gallery desk. But, it’s actually a pretty incredible amount of work that you have to do, and a lot of times, it’s not very glamorous…administrative work or physical work.
Like, over the holiday break, I painted and patched the gallery just because it needed to be done, and I was going to do it. It can be super hands on. It goes from being sort of very hands on to also being very intellectual, very engaging and challenging to work with artists, to push them in their practice, to try to challenge and encourage them. And then, sort of everything in between like all the administrative work, working with audiences and people that come in as well, and planning panel discussions.
BYT: So, what has been the most fun part of your job?
KM: For me, working with artists and having that dialogue with artists has been very fun and interesting. Artists always challenge us, I think, in a lot of ways. This is a place where artists can experiment and can do different things. We really like to encourage that.
For example, last fall, we had an artist come in – the artists are in charge of doing the food for the opening – and he worked with a trained chef who was also an artist to produce a series of hors-d’oeuvre for the opening that actually related conceptually to the work that was being shown. So, stuff like that is very exciting.
Another artist, who we showed last fall, did a show based on William Castle’s film House on Haunted Hill. He did a scavenger hunt and released clues via Twitter so people could find clues around the city, and then redeem them for a painting in the exhibition. We had a huge Halloween costume party, the winners got to pick out their painting, and we screened House on Haunted Hill. So, we like to encourage the artist to find interesting and really dynamic ways to present their exhibition and their shows here, which is really fun.
BYT: Sounds like there’s a lot of collaboration.
KM: Yes, it’s a very collaborative atmosphere either between artists, between us and artists. We work a lot with The Pink Line Project, and that’s really fun.
It makes a lot of sense that we collaborate in our space, because we are not just a visual arts organization. We’re a performance arts organization, and we support all types of arts. So, in this space we have a theatre, we have a dance studio, housing.
BYT: Artists live in this building?
KM: Yes, there are 12 artists live work housing units. That is something that we do on an ongoing basis. It’s really important to us, as an organization, for D.C. to be a place where artists can not only exhibit, but rehearse, perform and actually be able to live.
BYT: Do you have any international artists?
KM: We have shown maybe one or two artists internationally. But, part of what we try to do is really foster artists in the area. We will have a couple of artists usually each season that are from further away. There are a lot of Baltimore artists and things like that. It’s really just the nature of our mission and what we intend to do. We invite artists to show from all over, but the majority of the proposals that we get are from the area. So that’s usually what we are looking at.
BYT: How do you hope to see the gallery grow?
KM: I think that one way that I, personally, would like to see it grow is to have it become bigger than the space itself. I think that that is happening and can happen in a number of ways. One program that we have started is called Flash Forums, and it is where we bring all the exhibitors together several times a year to basically share their ideas with one another and bounce off ideas.
So, having programs and activities like that for exhibitors, as well as the panel of discussions that we are doing more and more now, adds programming on top of just the exhibitions that we are doing.
BYT: Is there anything coming up that you are excited about?
KM: Yes, well Bart O’Reilly opened April 2, and he is doing a show called Old Lines from the Luminous State. It’s really exciting, because he is working with Solas Nua, who is a resident organization upstairs. So, their offices are housed here, and they are a contemporary Irish arts group. [O'Reilly] is an Irish artist based in Baltimore right now and is working with Solas Nua to do this exhibition.
Solas Nua is just now starting with visual artists which is really exciting. They do a lot of work with film, literature, and performing arts. They are really broadening and challenging the scope of the work that they do. So, we are really thrilled about that exhibition.
BYT: There’s quite a rhythm to what you do.
KM: When you have shows that only run four to six weeks, in some ways it seems like a lot of time, but as soon as you have a show up or while you’re putting a show up, a lot of times you are getting a press release out, getting the cards out. It’s a constant flow, but there is a rhythm to it, which is good. So once you figure out the rhythm, it becomes a little more manageable.
BYT: It’s been so lovely visiting the D.C. art galleries, seeing how passionate you all are about what you do.
KM: If you are going to work in a gallery, it has to be for the love of it, because it is such an immersive way of life. If you really love it or passionate about it, it is what you think about when you go to sleep and when you are shampooing your hair. You are thinking, what else can we do? How can we really push this? How can we support these artists? How can we give these artists maximum exposure? It’s something you have to be aware of all the time.
SEE: Bart O’Reilly/Solas Nua: Old Lines from the Luminuous State until May 8. (Info)
SAY HELLO TO: Glodine Young, associate director of The Fridge, located in the rear alley of 516 8th St. SE.
The Fridge isn’t solely an art gallery; it’s a performance space, music venue, classroom that encourages creativity and collective dialogue “by serving as conduit for expression though the arts and providing exhibition space to emerging and established artists.” All in all, it’s dedicated to making the arts accessible to everyone in a dynamic and creative way.
BYT: How long have you been working here?
Glodine Young: Well, since its inception, we just opened in September of 2009
BYT: How has it changed since then?
GY: It’s been kind of an animal, and it’s kind of morphed into more than we even thought. But, we’ve had big ideas of what it could be so watching it become what it has become – even thinking of what it is going to become in the future – has been really exciting for us. Yes, it’s changed a lot, because it just opened, so it’s constantly changing. We are constantly figuring out what we want to see here and what is going to work best for the space. So, the idea has changed and is constantly changing.
BYT: What was the initial concept?
GY: We always knew we wanted it to be an all arts space, a venue for a lot of creatives to showcase whatever it is they wanted to do. We wanted to have experimental music, experimental art, to be a part of the cause. We always were a part of the underground art and music scene in D.C., and it’s a huge scene that didn’t really have a venue to showcase. And so, we wanted to do that.
BYT: And now?
GY: And now, we are the same, but we’re doing a lot more performance than we even thought we’d be doing here. We have a stage now, magic shows, comedy and dance. People are coming to us with all kinds of other ideas.
BYT: I can tell you really love what you do here. You’re glowing.
GY: [laughs] I love it. I do, I do.
BYT: What do you enjoy the most?
GY: Every single day is different. I get to do what I love every single day. That’s the most fun, because I’ve always worked in the beauty, art kind of scene. I didn’t even go to college. I modeled for seven years. Then, I moved to D.C., and ran spas and salons for a very long time. So, I know how to run a business, and I know how to do marketing, how to talk to people and I love art.
I get to do what I love and make a lasting contribution to our community…The outpouring of support that we’ve gotten with our projects has been heart warming. I want to cry, so, you know, it makes me happy.
BYT: You’re an artist, yourself?
GY: I mean, I’ve always called myself an artist, but now that I’m working with artists who live and breath art, I consider myself more of a creative. I want to get back to my own creative pursuits, but this is enough for me.
BYT: It’s taking up a lot of time?
GY: It’s taking up A LOT of time, but it’s good.
BYT: How long have you been in D.C.?
GY: I’ve been here for seven years.
BYT: Where are you originally from?
GY: I was born in New York, grew up in Baltimore County and then after high school, I moved back to New York and modeled there for a very long time. And then, I moved here.
BYT: What made you want to come to D.C.?
GY: I just needed a change. I had been doing modeling since I was 15 years old and didn’t want to do it anymore. The only other work that I had ever done was working in salons and spas, so when I came here, I started doing that again. I started managing some of the best spas and salons in D.C.
It was great. I loved what I was doing, and I was really good at it, but it just wasn’t fulfilling enough for me, it wasn’t challenging anymore.
BYT: How would you describe the D.C. art scene right now?
GY: So exciting. Everyone likes to draw comparisons between D.C. and New York. New York has been New York for a very long time. New York is great, and I love it, but D.C. is the belly of the beast. It’s in the middle of all this politics, and people don’t even think to see D.C. in the light of the fact that it’s an art force to be reckoned with.
We’re all here and inspired by all of the change that is happening, a change we want to see. The art that is being created here is different and real. I just love D.C…I’m very D.C. centric.
BYT: How has the scene changed in the seven years you’ve been here?
GY: It’s become more powerful. For example, all these graffiti artists are now showing in major galleries across the country, around the world. They are making names for themselves and of their own creation and not all of them are schooled. They’ve trained themselves, through life, through interacting with all these other great artists in the community. It’s this network of talent, inspiration and connectivity that is spiraling and spiraling and getting bigger.
The energy in D.C. is really great. It’s infectious, and that’s why I’ve been here for as long as I have been. I found this great circle of people, who inspire me daily. They just really believe in what we’re doing as a community.
Everyone isn’t just out for himself here. That’s the thing, in New York everyone was out for himself. I got swallowed up. I never felt like I had a community to be a part of. Here in D.C., all of us small galleries stick together and support each other.
BYT: Where do you see the gallery going?
GY: I would love to see The Fridge San Francisco, The Fridge Berlin. I want to have the same thing in other locations. Our formula is something that will work in many different markets. It’s organic, always changing.
BYT: It must be fun watching this space constantly changing, depending on the event.
GY: That’s what I mean. Yes, exactly. The space just transforms all the time. That’s what I love about it. It’s a blank canvas. always doing something different and fun. You never know what the setup is going to be and what crazy visuals we’re going to throw on the wall.
SEE: Black In Black: Tim Conlon and Mark Jenkins until May 9. (Info)
SUSAN CALLOWAY FINE ARTS
SAY HELLO TO: Lily DeSaussure, assistant director of Susan Calloway Fine Arts, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
The salon-style gallery, which features antique and contemporary fine arts, feels like a rich and warm living room. “While the gallery focuses on the traditional, it also offers a carefully chosen selection of abstract art.” The owner, Susan Calloway, offers custom-made mirrors and archival framing services, truly reminiscent of those tiny Parisian frame shops.
BYT: What made you decide to start working here and leave Project 4?
Lily DeSaussure: I was ready for a change. Basically, I had met Susan through a friend of mine, who introduced the two of us at an opening. We met there and got along. Then, she started coming to Project 4, and I came to a couple of shows here. I heard that she was looking for an assistant director, and I really wanted to work with her, because she’s been in the business for a very long time.
It’s a very different business model then what I’ve been used to. It’s different for a small business. It has several facets. It has consulting, which most galleries do, but Susan also has the framing, and then the gallery itself. I think that for a small business, you have to have as many financial resources as possible. You have to be able to pull money in from every which way, because it’s difficult to survive otherwise. Susan has done a lot of things right and you can see that, because she has this fantastic venue here, and we have a good base of people that come here.
BYT: It was interesting what you were saying before about being located in Georgetown and depending on the private schools.
LD: Other galleries would plan a new show every six weeks – one week in between shows and five weeks of a show. But here, we look at our exhibition schedule, and we say, OK March is kind of a tricky month, because the private schools stagger their vacations. So, not every school has off the same week, for instance, and then, you’ve got Easter. All the holidays and school vacations affect our business in Georgetown. It’s not so much the case in other neighborhoods. You don’t get a lot of the same kind of clientele at 14th and U that you get here. It’s just a different clientele…a lot of families with kids in school.
All of that really affects our business. It’ll be very quiet on those weeks when the kids are on vacation, because the parents are very likely to take the kids and head off to Puerto Rico or whatever. It’s interesting, because we definitely plan around a lot more things in this neighborhood.
BYT: Walk me through a day here. You have a lot going on today.
LD: There is so much going on. I mean, you came at a very interesting time, because we have three shows right now. We have one show up in Bethesda at a design home. It’s this great benefit for Children’s National Medical Center that we are doing where we collaborate with several designers in the home and put artwork in their spaces. There’s that harmony between the work and the interior design. Then, we’ve got our next show going up here in the gallery. And then, we have another show that just went up at Thos. Moser on 33rd and M.
Basically a typical day, there’s a lot of administrative work. Susan and I both part take in that. We have a group of artists like any other gallery. Depending on where we are at with those artists in terms of what we have sold of their work or when we are showing them, there’s always a great deal of correspondence going on with them and getting materials ready for the shows.
Right now, we have three shows, so it’s a lot of material to have in three different places. So, this is a very interesting couple of weeks for us, because it’s busy. But then, we also do the framing, so we get tons of calls about framing. We get people walking in that want to get their piece framed. What we do is a little more high-end. We may have someone come in off the street that wants a photograph framed, and they want something cheap, which is not exactly what we do. Everything is handmade. It’s a meticulous process of perfection. We get a lot of people just walking in throughout the day, so you never know what’s going to happen. There is so much variety. There’s always room for the chance that the day is going to be a billion different things.
BYT: Where are the antiques from?
LD: A lot of our antiques are French. Most of them are late 19th, early 20th century. Our contemporary artists are mostly American. We have one Parisian artist, one living in South America, another in Mexico, but the most are American. Many are local.
BYT: So, how long have you been working here now?
LD: I’m very new. I’ve been here since the beginning of March.
BYT: How would you describe the experience so far?
LD: It’s been great. I like to be busy. I love working in the gallery world, because it is such a versatile business. You are never talking to the same people every day. You are never working with the same artists every day. It’s not monotonous. It’s constantly changing, and it’s constantly something that is new. I think that fits my personality, because I like to get my hands in a lot of things at once. It keeps me motivated and energized.
BYT: Did you always know that you wanted to be a part of the art world? What did you study in school?
LD: I have a bachelor’s and a master’s in fine arts, and I was a painter. I’m an artist by trade, I guess. I was writing art curriculums for kids for a program out in California. I was into teaching, but then I started working for Project 4. I found myself in the art business all of the sudden. I never really thought of that as a possibility. But, I loved that job, and I loved exactly what I just described to you.
BYT: Do you still paint?
LD: I actually ditched painting a while ago, and I started just stitching embroidery. I’ve shown in D.C…I feel like once I settle into working here, I’ll be able to find time for my own work again. It’s something I really want to do, but I don’t have time for it right now.
BYT: It seems that many of the women behind the art galleries are artists, who have put their art on hold.
LD: Right, it’s interesting. Susan was actually saying how everyone she’s had working for her has pretty much been an artist. And a lot of them were women, definitely. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if it’s about the woman juggling the many things in life. I’m not sure why that is. I just know that I’m just too busy…too much going on.
BYT: Are you able to find the time to make it to other gallery openings?
LD: I try my best. It’s hard, because at the end of the day, I just want to go home. But I have been to some openings the last few weeks, and I’ll be going to a bunch of things coming up.
BYT: Describe the scene here.
LD: Every gallery is very different in D.C. It’s such a small art world. Everyone knows each other and everything that is going on. At the same time, everyone has a very unique program. I think there are a lot of things happening in D.C. right now that are very exciting.
This city is growing up in a lot of ways. The art galleries and the art scene are on the rise along with the other things that are happening. It makes the city a very exciting place to be right now. I honestly didn’t really like D.C. when I moved here. I’ve only been here for three and a half years, but the change that I have seen in that short amount of time has been fantastic. I love that.
BYT: So, what brought you to D.C.?
LD: That’s a very good question. Everybody is always like, why the hell did you leave San Francisco. Well, I decided I wanted to go back to school to get my master’s. I got into American University and got a scholarship, so I moved to D.C. I thought I would be on a plane the day of graduation, but some other things happened. I got a job, I bought a house, so life things happened, and I ended up staying. You know, everything has been going in a very good direction and gotten better and better.
SEE: Changing Planes: Linda Press at Thos. Moser until June 20. (Info)
NEXT: Honfleur/Vivid Solutions/Hillyer Art Space
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