You know what's even harder than founding a new artist collective? Keeping that artist collective going well after the first blush of publicity.
Crawl Space began in 2003 with six artists. Just recently, the collective hired its first managing director, Jennifer Campbell, who will help to free the exhausted member-artists. Amazingly, the changing roster has been able to maintain this inconveniently L-shaped and out-of-the-way Capitol Hill gallery as a place where, if you miss the show, you'll regret it every time.
That's not to say that all the shows at Crawl Space are hits, but plenty are, and they exist on their wits alone. Take, for instance, Coming of Age, a national video survey curated by Seattle Art Museum's Marisa Sanchez this winter, or the recent The Shining–obsessed video and sculpture installation by Eugene artist Mike Bray. Crawl Space has no right to be so good. Just the will. JEN GRAVES
It has been more than a year since contemporary art dealer Scott Lawrimore began paying for other people's coffees and brioches every Tuesday morning.
It began at the IHOP on Capitol Hill, but the booths were too small and the atmosphere too ironic, so Lawrimore moved his moderated conversation about art and culture to the nearby Cafe Presse, where anybody is welcome to show up and talk, or just listen.
Thankfully, Lawrimore is always prepared with a ready supply of ideas and recent experiences to throw out there, and he runs the proceedings but by no means governs them. Everyone who wants a say has it, and whenever visiting artists are in town—Dario Robleto (for his show at the Frye), Oliver Herring (before TASK at the Central Library)—they show up bright and early, ready to be assailed with questions and comments, fawning and cynicism. It really is an open forum that also happens to be free and live and in person. You'd have to try in order to leave Klatch without a new thought in your head. JEN GRAVES
Free Sheep Foundation
Before the Bridge Motel in Fremont went down in September 2007, a bunch of artists organized a flaming, one-night-only public wake. They did the same thing for the Belmont Building on Capitol Hill in November. This summer, they formally incorporated and made it their mission to dress up corpses all over town.
For the next few months at least—their lease could be extended if the economy continues to stall the building's developer, Martin Selig—they're in a single-story bit of 1940s modernism in Belltown that Selig plans to demolish. But for now, it's an art gallery and a handful of artist studios. When the Free Sheep artists leave here, they plan to move to the next disused building waiting for demolition.
What's great about Free Sheep isn't the potential for art of lasting quality. The quality of the art is secondary. The point is that the artists behind Free Sheep deliver ephemeral monuments to the ephemeral monument we all live in—the city. JEN GRAVES