It may not be the protocol for most other art spaces in town, but it’s best to email Pete Driessen before planning a visit to his TuckUnder Projects gallery in the Fulton neighborhood.
That’s because TuckUnder is located in the garage tucked under Driessen’s 1950s-era home, which in 2012 he converted into a white-box gallery space for exhibiting the work of his fellow local artists. TuckUnder has since expanded to include other, even less conventional exhibition spaces in and around the York Avenue house, including Driessen’s cramped downstairs bathroom (the Leaky Sink Gallery) and living area, the raspberry patch near his driveway, a second garage on the alley and even his front yard.
The Southwest Journal caught up with Driessen in late October to check out the last shows of the season (including “Flat Earth Society,” paintings by Justin Quinn appearing in the main gallery through Nov. 13) and talk about what it’s like to live in a gallery. (The interview has been edited and condensed.)
Southwest Journal: Tell me about the origin of TuckUnder Projects. What inspired you to turn your garage into a gallery?
Driessen: I think my inspiration came from the need to be able to exhibit my work. And also I was in survival mode as an artist — attempting to get exhibitions, attempting to get listened to by curators. And that was not happening. So, I wanted to begin developing my own platform for showing my work and documenting my work in a gallery format.
My original intention was to move my studio here in the house, post a divorce, but then I decided to keep my studio and to open up the garage as a gallery. And with the help of a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council community arts grant I was able to jump-start the gallery.
What do your neighbors think?
I’ve been getting along very well with my neighbors. I’ve included them in the process from the beginning.
I think many of them have a creative, entrepreneurial spirit and love to see novelty or unique, enlivened, engaged activity within their neighborhood.
I also included several of them on a neighborhood advisory panel. In order to get grant money you have to have advisory panels, so
I have an artistic panel and then I also have a neighborhood advisory panel.
Do you get a lot of visitors from the neighborhood?
Not as much as I would like. I would like to get more. I think the first two years I got the most, especially from my immediate neighbors. The last three years it’s tapered off a lot.
I’ve also used the neighborhood chat (website) Nextdoor. Most recently I’ve used that this year, and that’s brought in a few (people).
But, most of them, I’ll talk about the sculptures out front. Or they might be walking their dog or jogging by or walking their kids, and that’s when I’ll invite them in to see the show.
So there can be a casual level of engagement.
You’ve been doing this since 2012. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about turning your home into a semi-public space?
Well, it’s difficult, because it causes a number of things to shift within your house. For the openings, definitely there’s a lack of privacy. I have to cordon-off a portion of the upstairs and lock the front door so that people are trafficking through the house in a certain way.
I care about my neighborhood and care about my neighbors, so that comes first to me — and my children’s safety — before anything I would do artistically. I’m raising two kids in the house, so they need to be able to use the house in a pleasant manner.
It’s really easy to have a loud party, but it’s much harder to have a sophisticated art show that brings about conversation about tough topics, or artistic-level discussion.
What, for you, has been the most memorable show you’ve hosted here?
They’ve all been memorable.
I’ve had shows such as Nathan Coutts’ show two years ago that was very minimal and just a few objects in the garage. I’ve had a really interesting, very expansive show by Nick Vlcek, an artist (who also works under the name Nickelangelo), that took up the whole yard and had a film screening, had a poetry reading, had a performance in the bathroom, and it was called the “36CHMBRZ.” It had 36 different elements that encompassed the whole space, the whole lot of the house. That was very challenging.
I’ve had some excellent collaborations with groups of artists that have gone on to become provocative works later on, that have moved onto the next level.
For someone who’s never been here, you have your last show of the season up, how does that person visit?
They can email me at [email protected] and we can set up an appointment, and I’m also going to be having gallery hours over the last two weekends in November.
So, you just walk up to the garage?
No, they should let me know they’re coming in advance, because I have had people — and buses, short buses — show up here because they saw it on a calendar. Which raises problems of gallery-sitting at your own house when you need to be shopping or actually working on something somewhere else. And all of a sudden a bus shows up because they’ve seen it on a calendar online.
You can’t be just sitting around in your bathrobe.
Right. You need to be thinking, if there’s not an appointment, someone could potentially come over (anyway), so I do have to have things either mowed or the yard taken care of on a certain basis and the garbage taken out and that sort of thing.
We’re not open 24-7 like Cub Foods or McDonald’s. Unlike Burger King, you can’t always get what you want here.
But, anyways, the best way (to set up a visit) is by email.