Tracy Lang (image via Kittredge Gallery)
Kittredge Gallery is both a source of contemporary art (showcasing both regional/national artists) and an educational resource for students at UPS. Would you talk about the mission and what your personal goals for the gallery are?
Sure, our service to the art department and the University community is to stimulate ideas and thinking in the students. I try to present compelling contemporary art in a wide variety of media that extends and complements classwork and try to provide an way for students to participate in the artists’ work. By recognizing and presenting contemporary art and giving the public access to the artists, we contribute to the dialogue of the region.
I want the gallery to be a place that is participatory and alive–to the students, to the faculty, to the artists, and to the greater community. We have workshops with the artists that give students an opportunity to participate in the production of work in the actual gallery space for the exhibitions. The intention of this is to make connections for students between the physical process of the studio, the legacy of other artists, and the presentation of “finished” work.
I often work with artists who have national and regional reputations as well as gallery representation. Jeffry Mitchell and Mary Iverson are good examples, but I want students’ definition of “what is art” to extend outside what you can see on a trip to Pioneer Square. When I looked outside the gallery system I found the enormous relief prints of Tracy Lang and the tin assemblages of Bill Herbeholz that I presented in the fall semester. I bring artists from other parts of the country into the mix too, for variety and a context for what we produce in the Pacific Northwest.
Elise Richman (image via Kittredge Gallery)How long have you been the Manager of the Kittredge Gallery? How did you become involved with it?
I became Kittredge Gallery Manager in October 2007–unusual timing to start at mid-semester. I had been teaching studio and some art history in Visiting teaching appointments around the country for about 7 years–much of it at schools like University of Puget Sound. When I returned to Seattle, I was delighted to find this job on craigslist– very refreshing to find it in such a populist context.
I recognized Kittredge as a known and respected venue for contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest and jumped at the chance to be a part of it. I am honored to be able to continue the legacy of Kittredge.
Professor Toshiharu (Kunpei) Kawachi (image via Kittredge Gallery)
It seems to attract extremely talented folks. Along with yourself, both Greg Bell and Esther Luttikhuizen of the former Esther Claypool Gallery have also managed Kittredge. What do you all have in common?
Thank you Joey. What we all have in common is that Greg, Esther and myself have all practiced as studio artists and approach the work with that understanding. I currently maintain an active studio practice as a painter. For me, composing a year of exhibitions or planning an install is a similar mental process to composing a painting.
That said, I personally do not consider the curatorial process to be a form of artistic self-expression. I have my own studio for that. It is very important to me that the shows be about the art itself and the needs of the campus community. While it is necessary to have a kind of vision to put together a schedule–a good curator has an “eye”– I believe that while the gallery is guided by a curator but should not be “about” that curator. It think some curators make the mistake of believing that the enterprise is about themselves.
Essentially I look for honest work that will speak to what is being done in the curriculum and will inspire students to see possibilities toward which the skills and ideas they are learning might go. I try to address all the disciplines in the course of a year’s schedule.
I ask myself a number of questions when selecting art. Is this artist engaged in an honest and rigorous search? Is there an intellectual basis for the work and the process? Does the work “know” itself? Does it provide stimulus for work that is being made on campus at the time of the show? Are interdisciplinary connections and themes being addressed that are pertinent to other departments on campus? Can this work be seen elsewhere in town? What message about art will students come away with?
Bill Herberholz (image via Kittredge Gallery)
Tacoma seems to have a really great arts community. Where does Kittredge Gallery fit in?
Tacoma is a very supportive and participatory community. I think it really is a place where making things is respected and there is a sense of a little breathing room. Our gem– the Tacoma Art Museum–is critical, but we also have Amy McBride and Naomi Strom-Avila doing a great job on the Tacoma Arts Commission. They produce programs that support and nurture artists and give them visibility such as “Art at Work” month every November. The Tacoma Weekly is a wonderful source of arts coverage. We also have our own City Arts, the Weekly Volcano, and–best of all–the News Tribune STILL has an art critic on staff–Rosemary Ponnekanti!
I think the beauty of Kittredge is that it is flexible in its function and is always evolving and providing fresh things. The Abby Hill exhibition was a chance to present a museum-like context for our special historic woman painter, while other shows have been more about inventing new work. The space is great and just a little bit on the rough side which lends itself to a bit of discovery. The one thing I can say we always do is reliably produce twelve shows a year that bring artists to Tacoma.
I would say that Kittredge sometimes becomes a kind of laboratory for the artist. Because we are not a commercial gallery and also do not have the layers of administration inherent in a museum structure, Kittredge has the agility to offer the artist a certain freedom. Mary Iverson had the opportunity to explore sculpture here and Jeffry Mitchell created an installation of almost entirely new work made right in the gallery. It is very important to recognize that the support of University of Puget Sound is critical to the relevance of the gallery and its contribution. We are fortunate that Puget Sound and the Art Department give the gallery the resources and independence to address issues of contemporary art in addition to presenting student and faculty work.
Today, Michael Johnson, John McCuistion, Janet Marcavage, Elise Richman, Zaixin Hong. Krizta Kotsis and Linda Williams–in addition to Alyce DeMarais, our associate dean–make this possible because they care about the gallery and its potential to affect the lives of the students and the community. They are essential to this enterprise because they value, support and participate in the gallery as an integral part of the program. They see the relevance and importance of contemporary art to the student experience as well as its importance to artists and the public.