Last week, artnet News published a list I put together called "5 Worthy Artist-Run Spaces That Have Learned to Thrive Outside of Art Market Capitals." While doing research for the piece, I got in touch with the folks who run the spaces listed and sent them all a suite of questions about their mission, how they pay the bills, and what highlights over the years have kept them plugging away at their programming. Of course, their responses had to be majorly edited down to be worked into the article, but since each of them gave me such thoughtful responses to the questions, I've asked if they would permit me to publish them in full on Humor and the Abject. Each space was down, so in the coming weeks, I'll be releasing each interview as its own post.
To kick things off, here is the interview with artist, curator, and designer Haynes Riley, who runs Good Weather out of his brother's garage in his hometown of North Little Rock, AR. At the end of the text, check out a short documentary about Riley and Good Weather, produced by my buddies Jordan Wayne Long and Matt Glass under the Half Cut Tea umbrella.
When did you open? Have you existed in more than one location?
The first show at Good Weather was "Shark Week" by Tony Garbarini in October of 2012, but we’ve had the website address since December 2011. In fact, I sent a postcard to Tony in August 2011 and wrote essentially: “Come to Arkansas and have a show in Zachary’s garage.” Since then we’ve had 36 solo shows in this space, nine shows in other cities, and attended seven fairs, with two upcoming fairs (SUNDAY Art Fair and NADA Miami Beach), a penultimate show from Guy Church opening September 9th, and the final show in this space from Mariel Capanna opening December 2nd.
Who were the founders, and who is currently running the space?
I founded the space and act as the director and curator. As I left graduate school at Cranbrook Academy of Art I looked to cement my involvement in the contemporary art sphere but also to continue my practice as a designer. I moved home to Arkansas and set up an ad-hoc studio in my parents' garage and applied to post-graduate studies at Werkplaats Typografie (WT). As I was adjusting to jet lag at the beginning of a trip to The Netherlands for an interview at WT, I worked on type-setting a book that I was designing with my friend Wesley Taylor and I applied to an art residency before its midnight deadline. WT didn’t work out but eventually I was accepted and attended the fall artist residency at Ox-Bow School of Art. At the residency I started a space in the bathroom of my shared studio called Girl/Boy Gallery, a dry run for what I had been developing in my older brother’s garage. I then returned home to North Little Rock to launch Good Weather.
What were the original motivations for the opening of the space? Has your mission changed?
This space has challenged and shifted all motivations and missions, and with each stage it morphs into more than I could have set out to cultivate. The original motivation was to facilitate a platform for my friends who were artists; to put in motion a sort of testing ground for a solo exhibition. I wanted to live and work in Arkansas, but it also made sense financially to be home without overhead expenses and with hospitable siblings and parents. This was an intentional decision to center my activities as an artist in a sustainable place so that I didn’t have to compartmentalize my activities and work (as a designer, artist, curator), but rather meld them together. While this was an intentional catalyst for the space, it was also important for me to be able to facilitate an open exchange of ideas with a community that was formative in my upbringing and which shaped my initial perspectives of, and interactions with, the world around me. It truly has become a symbiotic exchange between artists and community in transformative ways.
Now, I’m not sure mission is the correct terminology for the activities that I undertake with Good Weather. Rather, I have goals: to remain relevant, to create stronger ties with our artists, to work with new artists and through new structures (i.e. not just solo exhibitions, but group shows, guest curators, off-site, et al.), and to acknowledge and accentuate the radical aspects of the gallery—presenting contemporary art in a Southern, suburban context.
What are the pros and cons of operating an art space in your city?
We are presenting something truly unique for North Little Rock in central Arkansas. It is difficult to synthesize five years of operating this space into pros—there are so many; but the relationships are at the core of what we do. Working with artists and seeing their commitment to their practice and their growth and development has made a deep impact on who I am. Another positive aspect has been the transformation that has taken place with the public perception. Simply the location and the place in which the gallery operates has challenged normal conventions; and this, along with the programming, has been a catalyst for growth within the community. In an area with little physical access to the contemporary art world, it has been rewarding to engage a wide-ranging audience and facilitate this interface. Realistically it is important to be aware of cons of operating where we are, but I try to focus on what we can control and how we can contest barriers and make space for the arts to hold a true space in our community, state, and region. With that, one challenge has been coverage of our shows. We constantly reach out to editors, publications, and writers for reviews or announcements, but haven’t quite “cracked the code”, if you will.
Can you describe, however specifically you’d like to, the economics of your space?
The space is more-or-less self-funded. All of the labor is volunteer. After the fourth show, I moved to Detroit and taught at University of Michigan and worked as a preparator at Cranbrook Art Museum. The following semester I moved to Minneapolis as visiting faculty at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) for a year. Then I taught two more semesters at MCAD MFA running a critique seminar. From 2013–2015 I traveled back and forth from the Midwest to the South. I am also a designer and collaborate on projects with artists, small businesses, and cultural institutions; for instance I have the role of Design Director for Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles (Carla). These projects sustain a small part of my activities with Good Weather.
The gallery could be divided into three major categories—curating/programming, installation/exhibition openings, and fairs. Minor categories like publishing and events are important, but also happen less frequently.
Programming happens in the single-car garage at my older brother Zachary’s house in the Lakewood neighborhood of North Little Rock, Arkansas. The house was purchased in 2008 and the garage was renovated into the gallery in the Summer of 2012 by myself and Nick Adler, along with help from my siblings and extended family. This part of Good Weather focuses on exhibition-making and concerns itself with a dialogue centered around an artist and the contextualization of their work through presentation. For the most part this involves me and the artist.
Installation and the surrounding activities—travel by the artist to North Little Rock, hosting the artist while they are in Arkansas, etc.—is rooted in a true Riley experience. It isn’t an aspect of the gallery that is easily described but if you ask any of the artist that have been to Good Weather for a show you will understand the immensity of the family experience. Exhibition openings are when this is on view. My mother makes soups for the opening (vegan and vegetarian or carnivore). My father buys canned beer and entertains new and returning guests. My older brother mows his lawn or rakes his leaves and prepares his home for the evening. My two sisters and twin brother welcome guests and take pictures during the opening. My younger brother helps fill the gaps during the opening and is a key part of the deinstallation and preparation of the space for each show.
What are your thoughts on participating in national and international art fairs?
Fairs are a separate part of the gallery. We work with specific artists for specific reasons, still in a very symbiotic way, to present their work in a commercial context. We do a traditional 50/50 sales split. My sister Erin joined me for this branch of the gallery as Associate Director and has accompanied me to every fair since NADA New York 2016.
We have participated in international art fairs, namely Material Art Fair in Mexico City. Material is operated by incredible people and has a special energy that facilitates a great exchange between the different participating galleries and artist. On top of that, it is a financially-achievable fair to attend and it is in one of the best cities in the world.
I moved home in 2015 from my two-year stint at MCAD to focus on Good Weather. Since the space somewhat organically commenced, it had an implicit purpose as a “project space” that enabled growth for both the artists and myself as a curator. But, as all things do, this purpose changed and I wanted to be able to change with it, to grow with the artist, and at this stage that meant participating in both national and international art fairs. As we are based in Arkansas, it really allows us a unique opportunity to plug into a supportive network of like-minded galleries and to grow a collector base that isn’t inhibited by geography.
Does your space run programs, events, or exhibitions with intentional outreach to your local community?
None of the programming has been geared toward intentional outreach to the local community. More so, one might be able to reflect upon the make-up of the audience for each of the exhibitions that have occurred and gather the deep and wide roots that my family and other support systems have in Arkansas that draw out a great range of visitors to the openings. Then gauge the visitors who make appointments, and one can gather the degree of separation they have from the space and understand the geographical proximity of their route on I-40 through North Little Rock, or even more interesting, their own familial connections to the state of Arkansas. In these individuals one can recognize the organic nature of outreach that occurs.
I have curated shows independently in different spaces in Little Rock which serve as an attempt to reach an audience that hasn’t yet visited Good Weather but who would possibly visit once encountering an exhibition with the same thought and action put towards presenting contemporary art in central Arkansas. For instance, I organized "Sigh-Fi," an exhibition that opened this past January at University of Arkansas at Little Rock with Lap Le, Martine Syms, Sondra Perry, Hartmut Austen, Anne Libby, Tan Zich, and architect Aaron Jones. Through occasions like this I was able to reach out to a local student population and a group of faculty in the art program—in this case giving classroom lectures and leading a tour at the school’s gallery during the run of the exhibition. As well, I have organized exhibitions through other curatorial platforms, like The Bedfellow’s Club. Specifically, I co-curated the show "Shades" in the bedroom of Layet Johnson in Little Rock. Presenting an exhibition in an unaltered space, and an intimate one, shifts the experience one has with art, and perhaps inspires the community to consider a broader idea about sanctioned space for art and fellowship.
The first visitor we had that used the space at Good Weather differently was Vince Griffin, a designer and musician from North Little Rock. I built a book shelf beneath the stairwell in the room next to the gallery that I call our library. It houses my book collection and the gallery distributes publications like e-flux, Carla, Terremoto, The Third Rail, and SFAQ. Vince spent a whole afternoon with these resources. Just the other day we had artist Layet Johnson photograph drawings in the gallery. The following evening Kesha Lagniappe was over having her work documented by musician and artist Joshua Asante (of Velvet Kente and Amasa Hines). Our space shifts forms and on occasion it will naturally operate as a cultural space for the community.
Are there specific exhibitions or projects that you’ve done at your space that you reflect on and think, “That’s when we nailed what it is that we’re trying to do.”?
Since there is a formula in place, and we produce solo exhibitions at the gallery, I look at the pairing or secession of shows as swath to reflect on when thinking about hitting a streak, or a stride, or as you put here nailing it. One instance that I’m continually drawn to begins with Matthew Kerkhof’s "My Psychedelic American Dream Garage" then leads to Sondra Perry’s "netherrrrrr" and capping with Hartmut Austen’s "Here r more." These three shows represent an incredible cross-section of personal and political motives and approaches to art and art making. Even more, I felt as though the potential for art to engage challenging ideas, teach new perspectives, and invoke empathy was evident in this series of exhibitions.
If it isn’t clear yet, the generosity of the artist in sharing their work creates a potent and powerful space for dialogue and discourse. I think this is one quality that I can point to in the exchange that happens between the artist and audience; and as a measure to define the touch point for success in what we are attempting to build with Good Weather.
Additionally, are there other exhibitions or projects that you’ve produced that felt like major transitional points for the artist(s)?
Many times the exhibitions at Good Weather are the first or second opportunity for a solo presentation by the artist. We have had some incredible shows at the gallery that have gone on to inform the artists’ practices and subsequent exhibitions—I’m thinking of "FRESH AIRE" by Michael Assiff or "Blocks on Blocks" by Devin Farrand. Obviously, it wasn’t our show that changed things in their trajectory, but looking back, it does feel like for both of these artists, their exhibitions at Good Weather crystalized a way of working and presenting that works as an exhibition. Several of the artist we have shown now have representation in major cities: Devin Farrand with Ibid Gallery in London and Los Angeles, Michael Assiff with Valentin in Paris, and Anne Vieux with ANNKA KULTYS in London.
I have a strong relationship with each of the artists we work with and I put a great amount of thought into my decisions to invite them to create new work for their exhibition at Good Weather. Many times, we have shown artists at prime moments in their path. For instance, we have been fortunate enough to present a new video and installation by Sondra Perry coming off of her inclusion in the Greater New York quinquennial at MoMA PS1 and preceding her masterpiece "Resident Evil" at The Kitchen. Tony Hope came down to Arkansas and built an incredible installation "HIDE" following two very strong shows at ASHES/ASHES in Los Angeles and Jessica Silverman South in San Francisco. Dylan Spaysky presented wicker woven bust and diaper-cake sculptures in his show "Wicker and Diapers" at Good Weather after a spate of strong exhibitions—"Foot Foot" at Cleopatra’s in 2014; "Tacky Glue" at Clifton Benevento, "taz" at CUE Art Foundation, and "Vases" at Popps Packing in 2015; and in the group shows "Ever get the feeling we're not alone in this world?" at What Pipeline and "A Change of Heart," curated by Chris Sharp, at HANNAH HOFFMAN in 2016. Most recently we presented Fin Simonetti’s marble sculptures in her show "IS PATH WARM?" following the release of her first solo album ICE PIX and preceding her solo show this fall at Interstate Projects.
What, in your personal opinion, constitutes success for your space?
I think, specifically, the most important aspect of the space is the strength of the relationships that I have with each of the artists and the positive experiences they have when showing at the gallery. I think demonstrating that one can step outside their comfort zones to engage in discourse is a major part of continuing to operate in my hometown of North Little Rock. Positive social change occurs through critical mass that causes epiphanies, which reveal systemic disempowerment and truth, but it is critical engagement on an individual-to-individual basis that leads to this domino effect.
What programs do you have this fall that you’re particularly excited about?
Guy Church will open his show "All Things Great and Small" on September 9th, then shortly after we are attending our first fair outside of North America at SUNDAY art fair in London! It has been an incredible whirlwind coordinating all the parts. I found a $475 round trip flight to London from New York, so I’m driving up there via Detroit, where I’ll collect work from Marcellus Armstrong to pack in my suitcase, and then connect with Erin in New York and and fly out from there. Ben Wolf Noam has been on ground in London this past month preparing a portion of the booth that is a mesh-metal wall which reflects the facade of Ben and his co-founder Zully Adler’s project-space Vernon Gardens in Los Angeles. Vernon Gardens is curating a show on this metal wall. Finally, Stephen Kent has been making new cast-paintings, mosaics, and ceramic sculptures at his studio in Berlin. He is packing all of the work into a couriered-shipment that regularly drives between Berlin and London. Once Erin and I return from SUNDAY art fair, we will pick up Mariel Capanna in Philadelphia and road trip back to Arkansas and North Little Rock for her show; "Little Stone," is the title. Mariel will stay for seven weeks and begin a fresco in the space. This will mark the resignation of the garage as Good Weather’s birthplace and become a permanent and on-going installation for Mariel. We will celebrate this momentous occasion on December 2nd with an all-day opening. Then, the following week we will head to NADA Miami Beach with a booth of work by Mariel, Amy Garofano, and architect and designer Ania Jaworska.