They Might Be Tiny
But 1506 Projects Has Mighty Ambitions
Sat-Sun 11 am-4 pm and by appointment.
Tucked alongside a clothes boutique, a couple antique stores, and a barbershop on Olive Way, 1506 Projects is the type of gallery I like to come across while visiting other cities. Opened last December by three artists--Cornish graduates Sarah Bergmann and Neal Bashor and School of the Art Institute (Chicago) graduate Dianna Molzan--it's one of a handful of new Capitol Hill galleries showing work by local emerging artists. Like Crawl Space, No Space, and the lower level at the Capitol Hill Arts Center, 1506 exists in the mix of a commercial and residential neighborhood and is found more usually by way of happy accident than by guidebook. Such spaces give a truer glimpse of the artistic life of a city and, although they may be small in scale, they're often large in ambition.
Bergmann was looking for a studio space that could also be open to the public when she ran into somebody who offered her the 400-square-foot storefront. She took it right then. "The idea was to learn how to build the space out, do exhibitions, gain experience curating, and also learn how to communicate to the press and the public about what we're doing. All of those skills are really underdeveloped for artists because they're not typical roles," Bergmann told me last week.
"Pretty innocent" is how Bashor describes the gallery. In April, they learned the hard way that most artists are either contractually or verbally committed to galleries and that those galleries don't like getting their toes stepped on. For Pseudononymous, they invited an all-star cast of artists, most of whom already have representation, to show work under aliases. One gallerist raised a stink but ended up coming to the opening and buying one of the pieces. Since they have the luxury of dirt-cheap rent, their intention is to show work rather than sell it. On the flip side, running the space has given them a deeper appreciation for commercial galleries. "We've done everything--building it out, cards, press releases--it's a full-time job and I can see why there aren't more of them," Bashor said. All of them work regular day jobs and maintain studios on top of running the space, and have scaled back the hours to a more manageable schedule: Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Despite the limited hours, people have been showing up. "It was really unexpected how many random people come in and how willing they are to chat," said Molzan. Since it's often the owners' work on the walls, gallery-goers get the otherwise rare opportunity of being able to talk to the artists about their work.
"One of the reasons for running this space is there aren't enough like it and hopefully it encourages others to do the same," said Bergmann. Aside from showing their own work, they are open to guest curators and other artists, as long as the proposed concept is complete. Most of the artists shown have been Cornish graduates but the gallery has also pulled in artists from around the country. "Because of the nature of space--it's a project room more than a traditional gallery--every show is different," said Molzan. "It's almost what you would call a 'happening,'" said Bashor. "And, unlike large spaces that are so huge that it creates a vacuum and makes it almost hard to look at the art, this is more intimate and perfect for the emerging, experimental work we want to do."
All of them don't plan to be around forever, though. Bashor and Molzan are moving to Los Angeles this fall and Bergmann will find a couple other artists to join her in running 1506 Projects. "I recommend every artist try it at least once," said Bashor. "It makes you value the galleries all the better." The exhibitions will culminate in a catalog, lending a bit of permanency to what was conceived as intentionally temporary.
The next event at 1506 Projects is an opening reception for Sea Legs featuring Ben Beres, David Herbert, Jamison Ogg, Matt Sellars, and Daniel Smith, on Saturday, July 31, from 6-9 pm; the show is up through September 5.