Art beat // Closing and opening

Art of This leaving current space, but won’t cease to exist

LYNDALE — A few weeks before they planned to shutter their Nicollet Avenue art space for good, John Marks and David Petersen of Art of This Gallery reflected on “Open Summer,” their ongoing, open door, last blast summer project.

A free-for-all residency program that eventually enrolled 80-some artists, the slowly percolating “Open Summer” was building steam as it headed into its, and the gallery’s, grand finale at the end of August. And for all the potential pitfalls in telling some seven dozen people where the gallery key is hidden, about the worst thing that happened all summer was when someone spilled salsa in the refrigerator and never cleaned it up.

“If you’ve ever lived in any communal living situations, we’re faring pretty well at this point,” Marks said.

Which isn’t to say they ever considered the open-door policy much of a risk to begin with.

“I mean, there’s not much to this place,” Petersen said. “That’s kind of the beauty of it.”

Just small storefront with windows facing the street, three white walls and a basement workspace, Art of This Gallery proved a versatile art venue.

It performed just as well in the role of a traditional gallery, hosting month-long exhibitions during the colder months, as it did when converted to a lecture hall, dance studio or performance space. It often took on those latter roles during Art of This’ summer One Nighter series, when the gallery hosted nightlong happenings that could, and often did, mix artistic disciplines.

“We had a lecture, we had a lot of performance, a lot of participatory events — things that are just not represented by most art galleries and spaces [in Minneapolis],” Petersen said.

Art of This won’t cease to exist when it vacates the gallery (more on that later), but Petersen and Marks credited the Lyndale neighborhood location, where they moved from South Minneapolis in 2007, with building their five-year-old art project’s reputation.

“Not that what we’ve been doing is completely unique,” Petersen continued. “For this town, though, we feel like … we’ve been that resource for an artist to give a lecture in which the viewers or the audience are lying on their backs, looking at a projection on the ceiling.”

Added Marks: “At this juncture, all of that activity is giving us the momentum to exist beyond this space.”

Plans were still coming together in late summer, but Marks and Petersen envisioned pop-up shows in temporary spaces, an expanded online presence and even an Art of This imprint to release publications and recordings. They could curate shows for like-minded galleries or, if they can find willing partners, take an approach catching on in some other cities: temporarily occupying business and industrial spaces left vacant by the recession.

It’s a risk, but then again that’s exactly what they asked of the artists who presented at Art of This. They encouraged spontaneity, collaboration and work that pushed artists’ boundaries.

“I don’t think anybody doubts that we can put on projects without our own space,” Petersen said. “Maybe they’re lying to us, but thus far people have been very supportive. And they concur: Rent is expensive.”

Go see it
“FINALE!” runs 7 p.m.–midnight Aug. 28 at Art of This Gallery, 3506 Nicollet Ave. S. 721-4105.