The Responsibility + Importance of a Space

After a few months of curating exhibitions in other venues, I’ve realized the importance of needing my own space for my company and for myself to develop my curatorial projects.

I’ll be the first to admit that these past few months have not been easy…

I was of the belief that Latela Curatorial did not need to have its own space to execute successful exhibitions. I also did not really believe I was fully ready for the responsibility of having my own space (+ the overhead).

Simultaneously however, when I began my business I needed to begin curating exhibitions sooner rather than later to build content. So I couldn’t wait the 6-months to a year to get into some of the galleries around DC that I’d otherwise love to collaborate with. For those reasons, I began Latela Curatorial by curating in specific venues around town to also observe a bit on whether there was a niche market I could tap into with rotating exhibitions augmenting + partnering with local businesses.

I am sharing some of the main frustrations I’ve dealt with curating in spaces that are not mine that led me to jump into the command of my own space. The main issues I see with a rotating exhibition model are:

  1. I curated exhibitions in spaces with small businesses that could not upkeep regular operating expectations. I’m all about partnering with other small businesses. But when all of the effort for an exhibition is in my hands I see two main things from my seat: the artist is relying on me to make this a success, and I am bringing something special to a business. The idea of a rotating art exhibition is very much an excuse for the business to throw a party. For a restaurant, this means up-sell on drinks from attendees. For a shop, this means up-sell on other boutique items sold. And let’s not mention the value of community coming together and communicating that your location is hot. It was heartbreaking after promoting an exhibition and having a stellar opening to hear time and time again that people were trying to get to the venue to actually view said exhibition (during promoted open hours) and the venue was closed. Here is a scenario where I had no control of the visibility of my creative efforts. Not to mention, the artist’s.

  2. Businesses wanted the nice decor but didn’t realize the curatorial value. Some of this is due to the businesses I partnered with. All business learning comes with experience. I thought if I curated one exhibition very well, that we’d be able to return to discuss partnership and my value in terms of curatorial stipend. Turns out, most businesses just want the free decor and the claim to “supporting the arts”. They don’t see the bird’s eye view that the middle man hangs and promotes to make this a successful partnership and that they make more profit from new audiences coming out the night of the opening (& other activities).

  3. Moving around the city was a hassle I’m not prepared to deal with long term. I’d need to park blocks away for each venue and pay for parking every 2-hours just to install artworks. Anyone who has installed knows an install takes at least 4 hours. I kept my step ladder, hanging tools, and level in my car at all times. Printing out wall labels was a bitch because I couldn’t really carry a printer around and sometimes I needed to diversify the types of labels I was providing. I felt like a hamster running around town… not to mention that we had to strategically plan installation times as to not disturb other operations of such businesses. I was the one doing all of the work on everyone else’s time… bringing value to their spaces with no compensation and very little recognition.

All of these reasons made it easy for me to jump into a space when I found one. I also recognize how rare space is, particularly in Washington DC. Our new home is coming to the Brookland Arts Walk in November 2015!

I am extremely excited about this next chapter and we will be inaugurating this art gallery slash curatorial office with a Debut Exhibition, date TBD soon!