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Art is (Not) Dead: How to not starve as a San Antonio artist

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

The beleaguered French and Michigan gallery space in Beacon Hill

Photo: , License: N/A


Wackenhut laid out the three dealer/curators’ ambitious plans to work with their already impressive roster of artists “to build their careers. My focus as curator isn’t [just] to organize theme shows or to put on a cocktail party with art in the background.” Wackenhut wants to cultivate a collectorship both in and outside of San Antonio, and to expand their artists’ and gallery’s scope, reaching out to collaborate and trade with curators and galleries elsewhere, showing their artists, in turn.

Meanwhile, French & Michigan was committed to making available smaller works by their artists, “to allow an entry point for young collectors to acquire contemporary fine art,” as Wackenhut said. This folks, is what big-city art dealers do, and we need this. I really hope the zoning eventually gets sorted.

Despite the location snafu, later this month we will see a French & Michigan group show opening in an as-yet unnamed pop-up location. Speaking of…

2. Embrace pop-ups and unconventional settings.

Jessica Garcia runs The Invisible Gallery, a brand-new physical entity in Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church’s “Michigan Building.” As a curator, Garcia’s best known for “Seven Minutes in Heaven,” a pop-up event heading into its third year. “Seven Minutes” takes over the seedy environs of the Fox Motel, transforming the rooms frequented by sex workers into art installations. The next one is on March 1, part of CAM festivities. By establishing her own voice and taking risks, Garcia’s earning an audience to follow her to her new digs, not the other way around. Fun fact: When asked if she was concerned about the Beacon Hill gentrification issue (the church is just three blocks away from the French & Michigan site), she answered, “Can I actually gentrify something, as a Mexican? I think if a Mexican does it, it doesn’t count.”

3. Have the courage of your convictions, and don’t apologize.

Unfortunately, many a well-meaning gallery falls by the wayside as a result of mission drift. A new gallery needs a strong curatorial voice and a pressing reason to exist. Don’t try to be all things to all people; focus is key. Sarah Castillo, the gallerist-curator of Lady Base at the venerable Gallista art space-cafe on South Flores, shows women only and focuses on the Mexican-American experience. She is also a full-time graduate student in UTSA’s Bicultural Studies program, and a member of the feminist Chicana art-making collective Más Rudas. “The art I create ties into my studies in graduate school, and [Lady Base] is the result of those two experiences. There’s cultural theory, art practice and activism all enacted in the space.” It’s broad enough to continually engage Castillo (another mission-killer can be simple boredom) yet focused enough to attract niche patrons. Smart.

4. Use the buddy system.

I talked to Lullwood Group members Connie Swann, Chris Castillo, Clay McClure, Julie Ledet and Joe Harjo. A curatorial powerhouse, their shows open at the 107 Gallery, formerly the LoneStar Studios, on Second Saturdays. One of the collective’s primary strengths is their complementary skill set. Between them, they’re able to execute witty, eye-catching social media promotion; handle the technical and logistical elements of transporting work; hang, light and stage an exhibition; write grant proposals; search out exciting regional artists; and solicit collaborators and exchanges with curators in major art centers. The result is truly greater than the sum of the their individual efforts, and leaves time for these artists to pursue their personal practices.

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