Outside the Gallery

By Erin Rolfs | Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The artful walls of Highland Coffees.

The artful walls of Highland Coffees.

This article began as a nod to unconventional art spaces, a tip of the hat to walls that do not profess to holding up a gallery, museum or institution of art, but nonetheless make room for it. It was to be an abridged reference to where one could find local art in everyday or unsuspected places. But while writing this thematic tour guide, a book showed up unannounced in my living room: Varieties of Visual Experience by Edmund Burke Feldman. It was clearly lost, not belonging to my roommate or me and marked only in blue ink with the name “Jackson S. Harris, Jr”. I carried the book throughout the variety of interviews that compose this article. When I was done, I cracked it open.

Not once in hundreds of pages did the former University of Georgia professor of art discuss the effects of art in the home, workplace, or doctor’s office or underneath the interstate. It struck me that since the 1967 publication date of Feldman’s thorough, well-written textbook, society has actually demanded a closer relationship with art. It no longer stands to just talk about line and form, tools of expression and ’isms. We abandoned the notion that “art” is a pastime of the tortured, anemic, eccentric or horrifically wealthy. We become appalled when an unnecessary baldness overtakes a coffee shop wall.

“When it comes to the artwork on the wall most customers will offer mild comments like ‘it’s good’ or ‘it’s bad,’ but when the work isn’t there at all we get a lot of complaints,” says David Welsh, manager of Perks Coffee and Tea.

With that in mind, a review of unconventional art-friendly places can come with an evaluation of why an artist would choose to hang on the walls of a physical therapy office without expecting the therapist to pay for the work, or of an “audience,” shuffling in and out of a coffee shop, why they expect to have local art looking over their newspapers and croissants, or why a small business, regardless of its success, would lend time, space and money to an endeavor it’s not likely to profit from.

Stabbed in the Art turns Tiger District’s warehouse into an art expo every month.

Stabbed in the Art turns Tiger District’s warehouse into an art expo every month.

Keeping it fresh

Stabbed in the Art

1284 Perkins Rd.

When the artist-organized art show Stabbed in the Art debuted in February 2009, it wasn’t poised to be a reoccurring art show. But a warm reception inspired collaborating artists to keep the ball rolling. A large, eclectic display of work stacked salon-style can now be seen on the first Friday of every month at 1284 Perkins Rd. in the warehouse of Tiger District owner Jared Loftus. Among the pioneering spirits who contribute to Stabbed in the Art is Otto Orellana.

“Jared has been really generous to us,” Orellana says, noting that bringing 200-plus people through the warehouse is good business for the Tiger District. “But with that being said, he doesn’t charge commission or anything to use the space, and he’s even installed track lighting.”

The mutually beneficial arrangement between the artist and the business owner is clear in the cross-promotion, but it benefits the audience, too. Cost of the artwork goes down when the tag isn’t being torn between the agent or gallery and the artist. In addition Orellana explains how Stabbed in the Art provides something even more for their peers and the viewer.

“We’ve been really insistent that the work is fresh, we want there to be new work on the walls every month so people have a reason to keep coming out,” he says. “The good thing about encouraging artists to keep contributing fresh work is you can see a progression in style and content from month to month.”

Regulars include the prolific TJ Black, Brad Jensen, Yvette Creel, Jill Mulkey and Katrina Andry, among others.