Art beat // SooVAC is back!

The retooled gallery opens in a new space July 10

THE WEDGE — “We’ve weathered plenty,” said Suzy Greenberg, founder and executive director of Soo Visual Arts Center, reflecting on the nine years since she opened her Lyndale Avenue gallery.

That was in June 2001, and we all know what came next: 9/11, then a recession.

More recently, the country has just gone through another economic downturn, the worst since the Great Depression, a recession that chewed up and spit out arts nonprofits like the gallery better known as SooVAC. Foundations tanked, grants dried up and donations petered out.

SooVAC ended the summer of 2009 advertising a “fire sale fundraiser” to make up for a budget shortfall. Staff was cut to two from three people.

On top of all that, Greenberg had yet to find a tenant to fill the space in her Lyndale Avenue building vacated earlier in the year by Highpoint Center for Printmaking.

Nine months later, the summer of 2010 is dawning, and things are looking brighter for SooVAC.

The smell of fresh paint was in the air in June as Greenberg, standing in the new SooVAC space, ticked off all the changes since the gallery closed temporarily in March: an expanded, more deeply involved board of directors; a new gallery manager to ease Greenberg’s workload; a new resolve to build gallery membership and community ties; and the spinning-off of SooVAC’s shop into a new, independent entity.

Manufactory is planned to open soon in the former space of design boutique ROBOTlove that relocated in the spring to Northeast. Greenberg said her collaboration with collectible toy-maker Erin Currie and her husband, Dave, will operate like an “old-school cobbler,” with goods for sale in front and the artists who make them at work in the back of the store.

Marketing agency Zeus Jones will occupy the third and final space in Greenberg’s building, setting up a confluence of creative energy near the Lyndale Avenue and West 26th Street intersection. Rob White, co-founder of the growing firm currently headquartered in the Uptown Row building, said “artistic karma” drew them to the site.

“We’re already talking about collaborations together,” White said.

Those collaborations may include SooVAC art on Zeus Jones’ walls, but in mid-June Greenberg was focused on filling her own space.

SooVAC’s grand reopening event July 10 will include something old and something new; specifically, the seventh installment of the annual “Untitled” show and the gallery’s first-ever all-teen exhibition, “SooFUZE.”

“Untitled,” a juried show with no specific theme, will feature the work of eight local artists — including video, painting and sculpture — this year selected by Walker Art Center’s Scott Stulen, project director for the website mnartists.org.

With “SooFUZE” hanging at the same time, one might think the work of the more-experienced artists would outshine the teens’ efforts. Judging from a brief preview offered by Greenberg, there’s nothing to worry about.

Flipping through a slideshow of “SooFUZE” submissions on her computer, Greenberg said, “You wouldn’t know they’re teens” — and it was hard to disagree with her.

Greenberg planned to select one of those precocious talents for a future solo show at SooVAC, an incredible opportunity that will include mentorship in all the facets of putting on an exhibition, from creating the body of work to sending out press releases.

Explaining her inspiration for project, Greenberg said: “There’s some things you just can’t learn until you experience it.”

The same could be said for running a gallery.


Go see it

“Untitled 7” and “SooFUZE” run July 10–Sept. 5 at Soo Visual Arts Center, 2638 Lyndale Ave. S. 871-2263. soovac.org. The SooVAC grand reopening event is 6 p.m.–
10 p.m. July 10.

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Getting a handle on ‘Open Summer’

LYNDALE — When Art Beat last checked in with the guys at Art of This Gallery, not even they knew what to expect from their summer-long group residency project, “Open Summer.”

Artistic Director David Petersen and Executive Director John Marks are throwing open the doors of their Nicollet Avenue art space for a final fling before they move out at the end of August, destination — if any — unknown. Fifty artists will spend the 80-day residency creating and collaborating, making things up as they go along, and inviting the public in to watch.

What will come of this is unclear, but the curious can get a better sense on the Art of This blog, aotbloggy.blogspot.com, where participating artists have been posting RSVPs to “Open Summer” since May.

The residents include painters, sculptors, art technicians, sound artists, performance artists, filmmakers, graphic designers and a bunch of other talented folks. Reading through the RSVPs, two themes become clear: No one knows what to expect, and everyone finds that pretty exciting.


Go see it
“Open Summer” runs through Aug. 28 at Art of This Gallery, 3506 Nicollet Ave. S. 721-4105. artofthis.net