When the rent on the Sprague Avenue building Richmond Art Collective shared with Laboratory went up — by a lot — the cooperative scrambled to find a new home.
They were already outgrowing the Sprague space, Director Julie Gautier-Downes Jackson says, and it presented other challenges, including a lack of visibility. Fortunately, they found a sublet at 917 W. Broadway, better known as the former location of Stella's Restaurant, in the same neighborhood as the quickly growing Wonder Building community, which they hope will increase their exposure.
With 800 square feet more space than their old location, RAC is building out their photography darkroom, an area for workshops, and two individual studios for artists to rent. There is a rudimentary kitchen prep area and garage door for events and transporting oversize works. And the exhibition space closest to the street boasts high ceilings, which worked out perfectly for their inaugural exhibition in the new location by Susan Vander Kooi.
Tethering: A Narrative Unraveled, which opened March 6 and continues through March 28, features Vander Kooi's installation of found textiles, collected mostly from thrift stores, in various states of deconstruction.
"A significant theme in my practice is the act of collecting, especially where objects are unwanted or discarded," says Vander Kooi, one of seven RAC members.
"I've been using afghans primarily, all which look to be homemade," she adds, saying that she has knitted and crocheted blankets herself so unraveling the textiles she finds doesn't come without a little personal sadness.
RAC was created in 2015 by former members Rebecca Chadwell and Anne-Claire Mitchell in the historic Richmond Hotel. The duo secured a $10,000 SAGA grant to upgrade facilities, something Gautier-Downes Jackson hopes to replicate for the new space in the next round of grants.
Until then, they're making do, partially funded through member dues: artist full-access memberships, studio rentals and memberships for participating only in exhibitions all help keep the art collective functioning. Another component of RAC is its quarterly "family dinner" potluck, designed to promote community engagement.
As with many member-run galleries, participants come and go. The current roster includes Vander Kooi, Gautier-Downes Jackson, Amanda Caldwell, Gregory Roth, Ira Gardner, T Kurtz, Tayler Parkin and Rolf Goetzinger/Art Beyond Limits.
Visit richmondartcollective.org for more information, including upcoming exhibitions and the juried process for reviewing potential applicants. ♦