The Student Initiative Gallery, Northampton, MA
a project in collaboration with Hampshire College, 2004 – 2006
In January of 2004 I co-founded Gallery TK, an exhibition and performance space in Northampton, MA. The space was designed as a platform for collaboration between Hampshire College and the surrounding communities, while also operating as an experimental arts venue for students and others to take advantage of without having to tailor their work to the demands of the predominantly commercial and traditional-arts non-profits in the Pioneer Valley. Gallery TK closed in July 2006.
Below is an incomplete compilation of documents about Gallery TK, written by myself and the gallery’s co-founding directors.
Submissions of images of events at the space or related ephemera are welcome.
Overview of Mission and Activities
About The Gallery:
Gallery TK is a not-for-profit arts venue affiliated with Hampshire College and operated by Hampshire students and other residents of Western Massachusetts. The gallery was started partly in response to a shortage of space for students at Hampshire to exhibit their work, and to function as an accessible contemporary arts space where participation and experimentation are encouraged. It is located outside of the Hampshire campus in order to provide opportunities for students to work on a project that involves and serves the entire community, and to exhibit their work to a larger audience during their time in college. The gallery also provides opportunities for students to participate in all aspects of managing a business and community space that demands professionalism in activities such as fundraising and curatorial studies.
Our shows feature the work of Hampshire and other local students, as well as both renowned and emerging local and international artists. Gallery TK is committed to providing a space for the exhibition of work that is underrepresented in other galleries in the area, such as video, installation, and all types of new and emerging media.
This project, to the best of our knowledge, is the only one of its kind in the nation.
Some Basic Facts:
– The gallery opened its doors in May 2004, and was founded by Hampshire students.
– Gallery TK gets half of it’s annual funding from the Student Activities Fee, via Community Council. The other half comes from donations from various offices in the school (including the Institutional Advancement and the Office of the President), revenue from sales, door charges for performances, and various outside donations and fundraising activities.
– The gallery is run entirely by unpaid volunteers, most of whom are full-time students.
– Gallery TK provides Division II Community Service Credit and Internship Credit as well as real, hands-on experience in curatorial work, budgeting, and general management of a gallery and non-profit space. This experience has served recent graduates well, as two previous directors of Gallery TK are now directors of galleries in Boston and Easthampton, MA.
– We mount new exhibitions every two weeks, due to high demand.
– Openings typically draw crowds of over 150 people, and normal days of operation draw anywhere from 10 to 30+ visitors.
– The gallery now serves as a performance venue and gallery space, which has raised our visibility not only in the Pioneer Valley but across the country. We have had touring bands play at the gallery from as far away as Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington, and have shown the work of artists from New York, Philadelphia, and Tokyo.
Our Solution to the Problem: Why Gallery TK
The Student Initiative Gallery (Gallery TK) was conceived in response to the 2004 academic year’s crisis in scheduling Division III work in the Campus Gallery. The magnitude of this situation was and still is such that students have been forced to present a body of work that represents the culmination of their undergraduate career in unacceptably cramped conditions, for lengths of time as short as two days. This situation is even worse for students working in site-specific installation and nontraditional media, who are often left without an appropriate venue.
At the time several temporary solutions were proposed, but the prevailing sentiment among students and faculty seemed to be that these were not only poorly conceived, but also impermanent. It was at this point that we began the Student Initiative Gallery, as a proposal circulated among students and faculty in arts-related programs, as a means of gauging support and gathering suggestions. The proposal recommended the establishment of a cooperatively student-run, Hampshire-affiliated venue for intermedia art and performance in Northampton.
It was and remains important to us to make the most of the unfortunate situation that served as our impetus, and while our proposal may have seemed overambitious when considered solely as a response, we felt strongly that it represented a site of extreme potential for our entire community. The Student Initiative Gallery addresses existing deficiencies in the opportunities available to students of art at Hampshire, both in terms of volume of exhibition space and applicability of that space to exhibiting the diverse range of new media work being produced by an ever-increasing percentage of students. Additionally, the gallery forges much-needed links between students and alumni (several of whom have already shown interest in the project) and between Hampshire and many other communities.
Despite all the rhetoric of aware and concerned social agency put forth at this institution, we would be surprised to learn that a significant fraction of Hampshire students truly feel like citizens of the Pioneer Valley. On one hand, we do have an inarguable geographical disadvantage here, but on the other, that merely increases our shared responsibility to develop and support projects that build and maintain networks bridging our community and others. Currently, we have a “cultural village” which locates a handful of institutions nearer to ours, but does little to propel us into the outside world.
Our response to this issue was especially viable insofar as it builds upon the existing strengths of Hampshire. Our college remains a community of individuals committed to experiential education and passionate pursuit of shared concerns in a manner that often collapses the distinction between life and work. The gallery aspires to provide a platform for constructing interfaces between this community and others. We aim to connect Hampshire students to other students, faculty, staff, alumni, Northampton, the Five Colleges, and the larger art world through innovative services and programming, as well as opportunities for involvement on a large variety of levels in what promises to be a highly experiential, truly remarkable and largely unprecedented student-oriented cooperative program in curatorial studies, art business, nonprofit administration, and many related fields.
The Student Initiative Gallery revised May, 2004
MISSION: To create a student-run gallery that exists for the Hampshire College community and local area, providing a venue for the exploration of the social, economic and political aspects of contemporary art and community. Such a space would be diverse, accommodating and accessible.
WHO: Everyone. A gallery connected to a wide network of students, artists, educators, patrons, organizations and individuals. The Student Initiative Gallery would provide a bridge between the Five College community and greater Pioneer Valley that extends flexibly and inclusively to Hampshire students, faculty, and alumni. Such a partnership is an opportunity for pathbreaking progress.
WHY: There has been dramatic growth in the students’ need for gallery exhibition space. Increasing numbers of students are working in studio arts, new media and other fields that apply to the purposes of a gallery but cannot be accommodated within the limiting framework of the campus gallery. The new gallery would offer an opportunity to situate an individual or group’s artistic and curatorial practice in a more concrete experience of exhibition as it pertains to the art world at large, both at Hampshire and beyond. Students today are graduating into an economically diverse contemporary art world dominated by gallery and museum business practices, yet are given little preparation for operating within that environment. Self-directed experience with a gallery will allow students to gain crucial first-hand knowledge of art in business and organizational contexts. Further, the partnerships between different student, administrative, academic and community groups are a crucial step towards creating an example of what sort of progressive initiatives can be fostered at Hampshire. Opening a gallery as a resource for students and the community depends upon its ability not only to provide a tangible space in which to show art, but also to develop methods of assisting artists in their emerging careers and representing them as professionally as possible.
WHEN: Right Now. Hampshire students showing their Div III in the campus gallery this Spring have faced an extreme unavailability with increasing likelihood of the same circumstance occurring each year as more students enroll and demand for facilities increases. Many, if not most shows are limited to just one day and some students have been entirely without a space to show their DivIII. Opening a gallery at this time would allow students graduating this semester the opportunity to participate in showing after their Div III exhibition in the campus gallery as a commemorative force behind this initiative. This would also allow for the gallery to use summer months to facilitate the formative organization, preparation and planning for the following academic year.
HOW: Our needs for funding are very acute in that we have secured enough funding to operate for part of the summer but not into the Fall 04 semester. We have been developing a diverse patronage of funding thus far that includes the Office of Development, Office of Aaron Berman, Committee on Community Development, Hampshire Independent Productions., Barts Arm and pending further support from the Student Activities Fund.