It started in a closet. The closet was at the bottom of a flight of stairs leading down from a lobby in Belltown. In this lobby is a tiny but energetic art gallery called Form/Space Atelier. In 2010, Kira Burge had just moved to Seattle after finishing a degree in fibers and textiles at the University of Oregon, and she was gallery-sitting at Form/Space when she complained to owner Paul Pauper, "There's no place for video art in Seattle."
"Well, you could show in my closet," Pauper said.
The first closet video show happened just for a few hours, between the end of one show and the start of another up in the lobby. Called Interstitial Theatre for obvious reasons, the closet gallery lasted six months, coproduced with Julia Bruk, a Russian-born artist who grew up mostly in Seattle and got her degree in digital media from the University of Washington in 2010. To expand, Interstitial Theatre moved to Bruk's studio across from Showbox Sodo. When artists were kicked out of that space, Interstitial Theatre went on the road: The Mobile Screen Tour, to eight different neighborhoods, was literally a box of a gallery on wheels. These women do not give up.
Finally, they have a humongous place, almost 17,000 square feet that once housed Egbert's furniture in Belltown, two blocks from the closet, thanks to Storefronts Seattle. Burge, Bruk, and Julia Greenway, a painter from Michigan who joined them, will have the space for three months.
Greenway, who moved to Seattle in 2011, teaches yoga accompanied by video art on the dark, romantic second floor every Tuesday. The top floor is two large halls with high walls, perfect for projections and monitors. The basement is an arcade of white columns and clean concrete floor.
Their first exhibition, on the theme of repetition and the pursuit of happiness, features mostly Seattle artists—Dakota Gearhart, Erin Elyse Burns, Ellen Dicola, more—plus a Massachusetts artist named Sarah Bliss, whose intense and physical videos embody a sensibility Burge, Bruk, and Greenway want to encourage in Seattle.
"I haven't been seeing a lot of work that's reaching into a real emotional depth—like, visceral," Burge said. "No: guttural. There's a lot of surface. A lot of snapshots of the everyday. "And at least 50 percent of the submissions we get are psychedelic. Screen savers."
Interstitial Theatre is part of a lineage that began with and/or gallery on Capitol Hill in the 1970s. "We watched Western Bridge and Lawrimore Project and all these places we loved close," Bruk said. "It was like, we have to open something."