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Year End: On the manifestation of new creative spaces

About a year ago, I realized that I’d like my future to center around running an experimental creative space in the woods. I can’t say exactly how this understanding came on, but it happened quickly, and in a way that felt both visceral and undeniable. Since then, I’ve been working hard to clarify that early vision. But—as clear as it feels to me in my mind after a year of hard work—none of it exists in the world yet. Somehow though, the plan doesn’t feel intangible to me. Instead, it feels almost inevitable, like I not only can do it, but that I already am doing it. In sorting through this new type of sensation, it’s been interesting to think about creative work that you do in your own mind, slowly and iteratively and invisibly. I’ve become fascinated by the process of manifesting an idea in the physical realm—especially as it pertains to things like galleries, residencies, and other community-based entities, which, at the end of the day, are just collections of ideas, beliefs, and people connected through a shared space or framework. In this sense, creative spaces are ethereal and hard to pin down—just like thoughts.

Over the past year, I’ve craved wisdom from others who have imagined and then realized their own creative spaces in various forms. I had the opportunity to speak with a few of these people for TCI, and to read interviews that others have had with creative-space manifesters. In each conversation, I found comfort. They all spoke of this feeling: how, if you just keep figuring stuff out and moving forward, eventually the thing-that’s-real-in-your-head becomes a thing-that’s-real-in-the-world. And maybe there is no hard start to a thing being real, versus only in your mind. If you make space for it in your life, and give it your attention and energy, maybe it’s inevitable that, eventually, the world will make space for it, too.

Willa Köerner

Josette -Melchor-
Curator, Community Organizer, Founder of Gray Area Foundation
Ben Lotan and Tara-Shi
Artists, Curators
Faye -Orlove
Artist, Curator
Liz -Pelly-
Writer, Editor, Collective member at Silent Barn
Kelani-Nichole
Curator, Gallerist, Digital Strategist
Francisco-Cordero-Oceguera
Artist, Lodos Gallery Founder

I guess I have to be kind of careful, because when I say something—when the idea comes out of my mouth—I have to do it, no matter how long it takes. Maybe it’s how I was raised…

So when I was 17 or 18, I decided I was going to create some kind of art center that existed beyond my lifetime. I don’t know exactly how I made that decision as a teen. It’s shocking to me when I talk to my peers, and they’ve done 20 different jobs, and keep moving around from company to company, and here I am doing the same thing since I decided I was going to do it.

Tara: I see building this project as an evolution and continuation of an art and design practice. Before this, both of us were in the Bay Area, collaborating on a company called Social Print Studio… This Will Take Time was actually born within Social Print Studio. We established a mini artist residency there, which eventually became larger and started seeming weird to cram within Social Print Studio’s business goals. Doing something that was land-based and on a completely different scale felt like an exciting new challenge. So we just began looking for spaces that potentially could host the project.

Ben: Even though there’s a lot of commitment that went into it—with purchasing land and moving up here—it felt like an open commitment. We felt like, “Let’s just try this and learn from it. If it’s not the right thing, we’ll find a way to change it.”

When I was setting up the company, a non-profit 501(c)(3), I bought a book that was literally just “non-profits for dummies.” I read the whole thing and followed it. Honestly, if I can do this, anyone can. It’s just a learning process. I didn’t know I needed a seller’s permit, I had to buy that, but I didn’t know I had to. … Even with my own art stuff or getting a job I’m not qualified for, I just Google everything. There’s a YouTube tutorial for literally everything. I have said yes to so much stuff I’m not qualified for and just figured it out later. That’s always my advice for people and all the teenagers: Everyone is as confused as you are. No one knows what they’re doing. Just look up a tutorial and pretend you’re confident.

I think a lot of people think of “D.I.Y” as doing things on your own terms, not waiting for things to be handed to you, and making stuff happen with whatever limited resources you have. You’re not relying on someone with a lot of money to come along and tell you that you can do something. People are saying, “We want to do this. We’re going to do it regardless of whether we have enough money to bring the space fully up to code or if we have enough money to have hired staff, or whatever. We’re just going to do it.” Obviously that’s something that people should continue doing. It’s important for people to feel that sense of agency and feel like if they want something to happen in the world, they should be able to do it on their own terms—whether or not someone gives them permission to. But that is only one of the many approaches that you can take when doing something on your own terms.

I can’t say that there was a lot of foresight into what it meant to be opening a gallery focused on this kind of art. I think it was really an experiment stemming out of a desire to continue working with the studios that I had begun to support—and to deepen that support, in a new city, with a new format.

People often ask me, are you a curator? What are you? I say no, I don’t consider myself a curator, but I also can’t consider myself an artist. When I am sitting here I don’t feel like an artist, but I do feel like I am generating something that goes beyond an economic position, since that’s not my focus. I am interested in talking to artists. I like that. I didn’t become a closet artist. It’s just that the gallery required more and more of my time. My work became more site-specific, so if they invite me to a show, since I don’t have a studio practice, I have to look at how to insert myself in the space.

What I do here in Lodos has always been parallel to my practice, but I’ve never seen a crossover, beyond the conversations. When that connection happens, you learn so much from the artist. You put into question all you’ve done. It makes you question why you did this and you start building new ties with other artists and you start to think again about something that excites you.

About the Author

Willa Köerner

Creative Content Director

Willa Köerner is the Creative Content Director for The Creative Independent, a growing resource of emotional and practical guidance for artists. Before TCI, Willa directed editorial and content strategy initiatives at Kickstarter, and before that, she managed digital engagement at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She is currently a NEW INC mentor, and was formerly a founding member of Grey Area Art + Technology’s Cultural Incubator. Willa has worked as a creative strategist for a wide range of arts organizations including the Smithsonian, Electric Objects, and Art21, and has been known to write, edit, curate, and create art for all sorts of cultural projects. She’s also currently working on a long-term plan to establish a futuristic, artist-centric foundation in Upstate NY.