One night only

Art of This celebrates three years with series of events that open and close on the same night

LYNDALE — A line of thunderstorms had passed, the July sun was turning puddles into steam and humid afternoon air seeped into the Art of This gallery through an open door.

Gallery owners David Petersen, John Marks and Daniel Palahniuk sat near a window looking out on Nicollet Avenue South, surrounded by sheets of plywood and scraps of paper — bits and pieces of a work in progress.

“It’s Time,” a collaborative installation piece set to debut and close on July 19, would be their contribution to One Nighters, a series of one-night events scheduled to run through September and coinciding with the gallery’s third anniversary this summer.

Like a summer thunderstorm, the One Nighters blow into the gallery, unleash their energy and disappear a few hours later.

“It’s about the energy from just being that one night,” Marks said. “That’s it and then it’s over.”

The One Nighters series exemplifies the kind of project-based and installation work Art of This has featured since opening in July 2005. Shows tend to be multimedia and multidisciplinary mash-ups of sculpture, two-dimensional work, and audio and video art.

That mission doesn’t make Art of This unique among Minneapolis galleries, but what does set the gallery apart is its size. The small storefront — just one room, basically — is an empty box to be transformed by each visiting artist.

They described “It’s Time” as a meditation on 1968, a momentous year remembered for convulsions in art and politics. The collaboration was a chance for the three to combine their skills for the first time since they contributed to the Art Shanty Projects over the winter.

“Daniel’s specialty is video and film — and photography,” Marks said. “I work primarily with audio, and David —”

“I have to do all the heavy lifting,” Petersen joked, referring to his sculptural work.

The partners met and began showing together in the Sexton Building, a Downtown space that was converted to condos several years ago. When the condo conversion forced them to move, they took advantage of a bad situation.

“[We] had an idea we could take control of our own artistic experiences by forming a gallery space where we could actually start creating these experiences instead of just going and being parts of audiences,” Marks said.

The third anniversary was a turning point of sorts, with the gallery poised to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

When asked about funding, Marks ran down the list: revenue from events, public funding and, most of all, their own time and money.

Petersen, listening, grimaced and shook his head. That third category, money out of their own pockets, is “like 90 percent” of the gallery’s revenue, he said.

Palahniuk sarcastically cautioned Peterson against revealing too much, in case it might create the impression Art of This was run by a trio of trust fund babies.

“Even if we had trust funds, they would have been exhausted years ago,” Petersen countered.

“We would have blown our wads in our early 20s,” Marks added. “Instead, we’re all in our early 30s and working nine-to-five [jobs] to see things like this happen in our lives, as well.”

They hoped that hard work would begin to pay off in Art of This’ fourth year, when they plan to feature the work of more high-profile, nationally known artists.

“Conclusions on Boundaries,” an exhibit in May of work by West Coast artists Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson, is one example of the direction for their gallery the founders have in mind. Backed by the Walker Art Centers’ publicity machine, it probably was the most buzzed-about show ever for the gallery.

“We’re hoping to gain some more national attention through these shows,” Marks said.

That doesn’t mean they’ll abandon their support of Minneapolis artists. After all, Marks pointed out, it was two local artists who brought in the gallery’s biggest crowd last year: Alison Hiltner and Soo Visual Arts Center owner Suzy Greenberg, who collaborated for “Pathological” in April.

Local artists round out the One Nighters series including, in August, a group show of ecologically conscious sculpture and architecture by students from Northeast’s Vesper College, and a fake product launch by The Rotarians Society, a group of artists from Minneapolis and Madison, Wis. Two more large collaborations by local artists were scheduled for September.

The One Nighters series promises to create some real art happenings, when art, artists and audience are packed so closely together that it creates a charged atmosphere. It’s not actual thunder and lightening, but it comes close.

Go see it

The One Nighters series continues on Aug. 8 and 16 and Sept. 13 and 20 at Art of This gallery, 3506 Nicollet Ave. S. 721-4105. www.artofthis.net.