ASK AN ARTS PROFESSIONAL
HUNTER & AMELIA – SPRINGSTEEN GALLERY
YOU BOTH RUN SPRINGSTEEN GALLERY HERE IN BALTIMORE, HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN OPEN AND WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED?
H: We’re located in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore. It’s Baltimore’s oldest arts district and we’ve been operating since 2013.
Our first location was in our apartment in the Copycat building. We started the gallery as a result of being burned out from school without much idea of which way to head and not wanting to make a lot of art ourselves right away. We wanted to carve out a space for peers to make work we were into at the time.
WHAT ARE YOUR JOB TITLES, HOW DO YOU DIVIDE WORK?
A: We’re co-directors and share a lot of the work collaboratively, but we do have our own certain tasks. We’re the only two people running the gallery and program, so we do everything. I would say we’re founding co-directors and do everything from directing the big picture, working with artists, communications and marketing, social media, finding homes for work, working on installations, bookkeeping, to mopping the floor!
H: We’d like to bring in more help because we’d love to work with someone else in some capacity, probably starting small and working up to a role with more responsibility.
At this point, we understand what we need to do to be the gallery we want to be, but because we do everything ourselves, it can be hard to find time for everything, especially those things that aren’t looming right in front of you with deadlines. After seven years, we’re recognizing that someone else could easily come on board as an intern or (eventually) director so we could start to give more time and focus towards growth and further development.
The only thing we’ve outsourced at this point is our documentation. We want to keep filling in some of those gaps where we can start thinking about moving forward and expanding. It’s overwhelming sometimes to do everything.
One of my stronger points is perceiving the space from the inside and outside and through social media–obsessing over those things. I then meet with Amelia to come to an understanding or synthesis of the direction we want to go. I tend to be more introverted and she tends to be more extroverted and public-facing. She’s a people person.
WHAT IS YOUR MISSION STATEMENT AND/OR GOALS FOR THE GALLERY?
A: The goals are to show emerging practices from Baltimore and beyond, nationally and internationally. We aim to bring artists into a cohesive program, to highlight the amazing work being done in Baltimore, but also bring in work being made elsewhere for audiences here.
H: When we started the program, we’d been living in Baltimore a little while, but not long enough to say we were from Baltimore. We began with decentralized roots and early on were invited to guest organize exhibitions outside of the city and participated in art fairs, so that kind of influenced our foundation. We were comfortable with decentralization and weren’t necessarily connected to any one city, but over the years Baltimore became our home.
A: I think that’s something we’ve been able to do really well over the years, that kind of weaving together of Baltimore based practices with those from other cities and larger scenes and markets.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HURDLES ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR WORK?
H: One of our biggest challenges was reconciling our initial interests in starting a gallery as a platform for viewing art to negotiating the realities of the business side of this – because running a gallery requires resources. Do you work a day job, have a part time hustle, have a trust fund, do you ask for money, do you get it from the public–where’s the financing coming from? We’re not passing judgement on any of those methods, but the way we have supported the gallery (in part) so far is through selling work and having other jobs to support us along the way.
When we started the gallery, selling work was not a priority, even though we’ve been relatively successful with that over the years. The market is much smaller in Baltimore than it is in major art centers like New York, so it’s much more difficult to find certain kinds of security or regularity with income from art sales. We’ve learned how to diversify our income streams to support ourselves and still push the gallery forward with growth and development in mind.
A: We started the gallery organically and as a labor of love. We’ve sold work, gone to art fairs, and participated in the commercial art world since very early in the program. We’ve had some amazing mentors and people championing us which has really changed our lives. But, in reality, to keep things going and support ourselves over the years, we have to have other gigs and side jobs.
We started the gallery right out of school when we were very young. I think at the time, we thought selling work was selling out. There was a lot of speculation in emerging artists in the art market at that time, and we were seeing young artists’ careers being gambled with, so we were very cautious as we began to engage in the bigger art market. At this point, we understand a lot more nuance of the market and how to work with collectors and advisors, and the importance of placing work in good care to directly support the artist themselves. It’s exciting to reposition our thinking about our practice and sustainability.
Some days when running a small business feels difficult we try to remind ourselves that we went to art school and didn’t have any business education. We’ve had to do a lot of independent learning over the years, sometimes on the fly. We’ve come really far.
WHAT ARE THE MOST REWARDING OR FULFILLING PARTS OF YOUR WORK?
A: A lot of the shows we produce are solo or two-person shows. We really love working in a focused capacity like that. Usually by the time someone is ready for that expansive type of show, the artist has been working in their studio for years. We also have a relatively large space so to be able to work with someone and bring their show to life – really get into the details to see their ideas through – is super rewarding.
H: The most rewarding part (this sounds super cliche) is seeing it all come together, for better for worse. Every artist and gallery knows shows can go in a lot of different directions, so bringing it all together in a focused way in what it’s all about.
HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC CHANGED THE WAY YOU WORK?
H: We were renovating the space for about a year and got it to a place where it felt like a gallery, but within our own financial limitations, from 2018 – 2019. We did two exhibitions in 2019 and then were able to secure funding through a grant and private financing and that afforded us the ability to do another round of renovation, which began right as lockdown began. Since we had down time that coincided with quarantine, we had time to observe, digest, and plan ahead.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THINKING OF WORKING IN THE ARTS?
A: I would say start small or what’s manageable for you and grow from there. You don’t want to burn yourself out. Know when to scale up and recognize when you’re gaining momentum and don’t lose that. Learn how to network online and use social media tools like that to your advantage. Research artists and galleries you admire and take cues from them. Know when to lean in, but give yourself breaks. Listen to constructive critique, don’t internalize rejection. Take days off, because it’s easy to feel like the work never ends.
H: I once heard that the art world runs on a full spectrum and it’s better to not set your sights on any one thing too early on –you have to assess yourself and the type of art you make, the type of venue you’re shopping, and the type of network you want to enter and that makes sense for your work. If you make graphic illustration art, don’t send a proposal to a gritty, non-traditional sculpture gallery. It’s important for artists to visit galleries and go to as many shows as possible to understand the breadth of what’s out there and to understand which galleries show their “brand,” for lack of a better word, of work that they’re making and are interested in. They’re out there, but it can be hard in a place like Baltimore because it’s so small.
In some ways, it’s kind of cool if you recognize your type of art isn’t shown because you can start doing your own house shows and start creating a little group around that. It’s sort of how a lot of these spaces start. There’s a lot of little ones in New York and Chicago where someone has realized their work wasn’t being represented anywhere, which presents an opportunity.
A: I also like to remind younger artists that even the successful people are probably still getting rejections all the time. Everyone in the art world is rejected, unless you’re Amy Sherald. Artists, galleries, curators, writers, dealers–everyone. It’s unavoidable.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING THAT’S BEEN GETTING YOU THROUGH THE PANDEMIC IN TERMS OF MUSIC, MOVIES, BOOKS, ETC.?
H: We recently finished Schitt’s Creek. We just cried the whole time.
A: We also watched I May Destroy You, His Dark Materials, Euphoria, Lovecraft Country…wow it’s been a long pandemic… and we just finished Succession.
H: Like a lot of people, we’ve just been kind of playing with home improvement projects.
DO YOU HAVE ANY UPCOMING PROJECTS, PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL, THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO PROMOTE?
A: We have a fantastic show up right now, Ozone Atmosphere, featuring work by Monsieur Zohore and Sandy Williams IV. It’s beautiful and I invite folks to visit during our open hours, or view it online if you’re not making any in person visits right now. We have some other really great shows coming up that are planned through most of this year.
H: In March, we have a solo exhibition with Michelle Uckotter and a two-person show with Maren Karlson and Kira Scerbin. After that, Zion Douglass is organizing our late spring show.