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?
Part 1 is here feat: Adamson, Project 4 and Hamiltonian
Part 2 is here feat: Susan Calloway Fine Art, The Fridge and Flashpoint
This week, we visit the women of Honfleur, Vivid Solutions and Hillyer Art Space.
SAY HELLO TO: Director Amy Cavanaugh Royce and Creative Director Briony Evans of Honfleur, 1241 Good Hope Road SE.
The gallery, which showcases contemporary art, represents local and international artists while “incorporating non-salable, socially-minded exhibitions and installations.” Honfleur, a project of the Anacostia-based nonprofit ARCH Development Corporation, “aims to provide better access to the arts for residents East of the Anacostia River, affordable artist workspace and a diverse range of artistic opportunities for Washington D.C.”
BYT: What are your roles in the gallery?
Briony Evans: Tag team!
Amy Cavanaugh Royce: Tag team, yes! The roles are changing, because I’m having a baby. Generally, Briony installs and puts the exhibitions together…Well, we do it all together. We plan out the year together. Her title has been creative director and mine has been director for whatever it’s worth. Primarily, I’m going to be representing clients that are long-term, and she’ll be the one doing the exhibitions.
BE: The gallery has been open for three years. The two of us started with an empty building, built out the space, and opened in January of 2007. Everything that happens around here either happens, because she did it or I did it. Over time, we’ve expanded, and our staff has grown. We opened up another space up the road, which includes a print lab and a digital photo exhibition space. It’s very hands on.
BYT: How did the gallery get started?
ACR: All of this started, because our boss had written a planning paper 10 years ago for this area to be revitalized through arts and culture. I was doing events for his other organization, the [ARCH] Training Center. He had asked me to work on proposals to get construction funds, and we got the money! We’re like, now we have to build something! Then I realized, Oh my God, I’m alone. I had been talking to Briony, who’s a construction skills trainer at the [ARCH] Training Center, and we recruited her immediately, because there was no way I could do this work on my own. And here we are.
BE: We were both in the right place at the right time with the right funding and skills to make it happen.
ACR: It’s a weird skill set.
BE: Most galleries our size probably have five employees, but we do everything ourselves. You know, making it work.
ACR: It started actually as artist housing for residency program. Briony put a bug in my head: “Put a residency program.” “OK.” So, we got that money in, and it’s down the street…four units of artist housing. Then, the gallery came second. A community dark room came third, which is at 1922 Martin Luther King. And then the gallery, [Vivid Solutions DC] where Beth and Andrea work came in fourth.
BYT: It’s more than a gallery…
ACR: Yes! [Honfleur] is in the center of it all.
BE: We’re the hub of this effort to bring different arts and culture opportunities to this neighborhood.
BYT: What’s a day like in here?
BE: Crazy! We’re a nonprofit so it’s between trying to find the funding for what we believe in…try to get the artists opportunities. It’s all over the place. Amy is always joking that we should do a reality show of behind the scenes of galleries.
ACR: It’s not boring for sure.
BYT: What’s the best part of your day?
BE: Working directly with the artists. The day that the art works arrive to install is always fun.
ACR: I think for me, the best part of my day is if I can get something done for the artists that is bigger than they hoped for. It’s a hard thing to do. You can’t always do what you want to do, so it’s a lot of persistence.
BE: Also, if we get someone come in that’s never been in a gallery before. They might come in and hate it or love it, but it’s really nice for me to see people have that new experience.
BYT: How would you describe the relationships you have with the artists?
BE: It’s generally pretty good. Most relationships start during exhibitions. We represent about 50% of the ones who show here. Long-term, we try to develop opportunities for them. We have a good time with them. Some of the artists who aren’t local, they’ll stay at the artists housing when they come into town. It’s definitely an interesting experience introducing people to the neighborhood, because if you Google Anacostia, you don’t necessarily come up with the most flattering things, and we get artists who come, and they’re like, this neighborhood is great. They really enjoy it…especially some of the international artists.
ACR: Some of the people who live domestically are a lot more hesitate to come stay in Anacostia. The international artists really fall in love with the neighborhood.
BYT: Are there any other galleries in the area?
ACR: No! We’re trying to recruit galleries.
BC: Send them our way!
ACR: We’re working really hard on identifying vacant spaces as opportunities for galleries who are paying higher rent downtown. At the end of the day, we would really like to see this turn into more of an arts and cultural district. It’s got the potential for it.
BYT: What’s holding them back?
ACR: They’re scared…for no reason.
BC: Misunderstanding the neighborhood.
ACR: I mean, it’s not for no reason. There’s no Starbucks here or anything that might make someone think that there was money to purchase artwork.
BC: Yes, it’s maybe not the most logical place to open if you’re an art dealer or a commercial art gallery. But there is a lot of potential, especially in terms of having a space like this.
ACR: It’s taking a leap of faith.
SAY HELLO TO: Creative Director Beth Ferraro and Director of Photography Andrea Hope of Vivid Solutions, 2208 Martin Luther King Ave. SE. (Honfleur’s sister gallery)
The Gallery at Vivid Solutions is a photography and digital exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art. Like Honfleur, it’s “a project of the ARCH Development Corporation,” a nonprofit in Anacostia. Vivid Solutions DC is a digital print lab that specializes in professional fine art printing. “It is also the only print lab in the U.S. to offer the Digigraphie printing process created by Epson, France.”
BYT: So, when did you join the team?
Beth Ferraro: There’s two parts to that question. I started working last February, one day a week, as an assistant to both galleries. I got laid off of my job at Newsweek magazine, and then I became fulltime at the end of August and became the creative director of Vivid [Solutions].
BYT: What does your job entail?
BF: It’s similar to what Briony does. I definitely assist her with a lot of shows down there as well. I work with the artists, curating the shows, hanging the shows, doing all the press. It’s a little bit of everything.
BYT: What about you, Andrea?
Andrea Hope: Mainly, I run the print lab. Some of the artists we work with print with us. I also step in and help curate the shows as well. I pretty much step in as needed to help get the shows together. Right now, we have an afterschool photography program with some of the students and young adults at the ARCH Training Center. I’m overlooking that as well.
BYT: How long have you been working here?
AH: I’ve worked here for about three and a half years. I started off interning and then worked part-time. There was a brief hiatus, and I’ve been full time for about a year.
BYT: How long has this gallery been open?
BF: Officially, it’s been a year.
BYT: There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as a “typical” day in galleries.
AH: Yes, the days really vary.
BF: For me, what I like about this job is that it’s completely different everyday. I’m not sitting at a desk, 9 to 5, typing away. I feel like I’m pretty active and always running around doing something different.
BYT: Briony and Amy mentioned that even though there is some collaborating involved in the arts in D.C., they wish there was more. Do you agree?
BF: Yes, I think what we’re all learned that collaborating together really works. We work with the Pink Line Project, and we’ll be working with you guys in the summer.
BYT: I’ve been asking around about the D.C. art scene. How would you describe it?
AH: I don’t know, honestly. I try to get out as often as possible.
BF: I feel like it’s a small and big community at the same time. I feel so connected to the people who are in the arts here. I go to art opening all the time and still meet new people. It’s definitely has a family feel, but it’s always expanding. People are always checking things for the first time and that’s exciting.
BYT: How has it evolved since you’ve been here?
BF: I’ve been here five and a half years. As I’ve grown, developed, networked and met more people, my world has changed and expanded. I feel like it’s a lot more open now than it used to be. Maybe it could just be me changing…
BYT: Open? How so?
BF: I think it’s a lot easier to connect to people. I don’t know why. Maybe because there’s more people involved, helping each other out.
BYT: What is it like being the only small gallery in the area?
AH: I think this area is growing and expanding. We have a new [independent] coffee shop down the street that we’re excited about! It’s cool being in this artistic hub.
BF: We’re definitely breaking ground by being here, but there are plenty of people doing awesome stuff in the neighborhood…It’s definitely a goal of the whole company to try to bring more galleries over here.
BYT: What is it like working with each other?
BF: We all get along really well. We have our roles, but they overlap quite a bit in what we do…We know what our individual strengths and weaknesses are, which is good. If I need help with something, I know who to talk to about it.
AH: Yes, we can all help each other out. We work well together.
SEE: Jean Noel L’Harmeroult’s Non Photos from May 4 to June 1. (Info)
HILLYER ART SPACE
SAY HELLO TO: Chelsea Emsellem of Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Court NW.
The gallery, which is a program of International Arts & Artists, is a non-profit contemporary exhibition space “dedicated to serving the public with quality exhibitions and programming….and increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally.”
BYT: Could you talk about your mission here at Hillyer [Art Space]?
Chelsea Emsellem: We work to get underexposed artist into the gallery. We really focus on the local artists series, so all the artist come from the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area. They cannot have had a solo show in the past five years, and all their work has to have been created in the past five years.
BYT: That’s why you get exhibitions like this. [Wundergarten: Sa[l]vaging the Family Archive by Clarke Bedford]
CE: Exactly! We provide a setup for such original works. Plus you get to see a bunch of artists that you’ve never seen before. It’s also fun, because we’re part of this larger arts organization, International Arts & Artists. It’s really fun to work here.
BYT: How long have you been working here?
CE: It will be two years in August. A family friend told me about the gallery. I came to one of the first Friday events and met David, the president of the company. He introduced me to the gallery coordinator at the time. I just really hit it off with them. Being an events coordinator, it’s really important to have that good chemistry. I started interning here, and it became something more permanent.
BYT: Were you always interested in the arts?
CE: I was always interested in the arts. I’m from D.C., and when I was younger, my mom would have us go to museums, and my choice was always the National Gallery [of Art]. It’s definitely something that’s been with me my whole life. I don’t create myself, but I’m a big appreciator. In college, I was an art history minor, and I’ve always just been a lover of art.
BYT: How would you describe the way this gallery fits within the D.C. art scene?
CE: We’re a non-profit gallery, so that stands us apart a little bit. We have a very nice partnership with all the Dupont galleries, but most of them are co-op galleries. It’s an interesting scene. There is a very strong community feel between galleries like us, The Fridge, Hamiltonian.
Something that’s really important to us is having different dialogues that you might not see in the art scene in D.C. For instance, a couple weeks ago we did a screening of the film “Who Does She Think She Is,” which is about women who are both working artists and mothers. Then afterwards, we had a panel discussion with four different artists and mothers, as well. It was so interesting to hear what the women had to say about living in both of those worlds.
BYT: You’re taking it a step further and getting the public involved.
CE: Yes, exactly. It’s really bringing the community into the artwork, and that’s really important to us. International Arts & Artist is international, but Hillyer is the local face of the organization.
BYT: What is the biggest misconception about the D.C. art scene?
CE: I don’t think people really notice the non-profits. When they think of that, they think of co-ops. They don’t think of that other sort of gallery that gets by, doing what it can with grants and private donations.
BYT: What attracted you to the job?
CE: I love it. It’s so exciting, and everything is always changing. There’s never a dull moment, and you never have the same day twice. Before I came to Hillyer, I was doing political event planning, so it’s so fun to bring my strengths as an event coordinator to something I’m so passionate about.
BYT: What do you look forward to every month?
CE: Hands down, it has to be First Friday. It’s exciting to have people come through the gallery, looking at the show. We usually have around 400 people come in during a four hour period, so it’s packed. We’ll have music going.
That’s when artists usually approach me about wanting to use the space. They see the space, and they become inspired. They’ll come up to me and be like, “Can I do a dance performance here…”
BYT: That must be a nice feeling.
CE: It is! It’s a fabulous feeling to be able to enable people carry out their visions. It’s important for us to make things like that work…even if the funding or timing might not be perfect. We always want to help artists foster their own visions and unique points of views.
One thing I always like every month is seeing the gallery itself change. The demeanor changes so much. Sometimes I’ll walk in and go, “This is Hillyer?” because looks and feels so different. Each show has its own spirit. I love this space. I feel like it really morphs well with the shows.
BYT: It’s a reflection of the job itself.
CE: Absolutely. It’s always in transition.
SEE: Flipped by Valentine Nazarian Wolly from May 7 to May 29, Wundergarten: Sa[l]vaging the Family Archive by Clarke Bedford until May 29, and don’t miss the First Friday Reception on May 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. (Info)
Want more art updates? Sign up for our “Year in Art 2010″ newsletter.