The arts organization Art Ventures is accustomed to change. In 2017, after nearly a decade of existence as the Fayetteville Underground, the art collective altered its organizational structure and name to Art Ventures. So, in October 2019, when Art Ventures lost the lease to its space on Mountain Street in downtown Fayetteville -- where the gallery had been for nine years -- the group rallied quickly. By strengthening already-existing partnerships with other arts organizations like the Faulkner Performing Arts Center and by fighting a steep tech learning curve to figure out how to mount exhibits online, Art Ventures managed to produce a half-dozen exhibits in 2020 -- even in the face of a global pandemic.
This month, the nonprofit is moving into a brand new gallery space at 20 S. Hill Ave. in Fayetteville, just west of the Fayetteville Public Library and within the confines of the brand new Cultural Arts Corridor.
"The Putman House was recently acquired by Fayetteville local Kevin Curry, who has offered a generous lease to Art Ventures for headquarters and gallery, where they can promote the visual arts in Northwest Arkansas, collaborate with micro-communities, support artists, encourage education and public engagement in the art, and provide accessibility to under-represented communities," reads a news release from Art Ventures. "Kevin Curry lives in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and maintains his ties to Northwest Arkansas. Upon his first visit to Art Ventures gallery on the square in 2018, he realized the value in the ongoing work to advance the arts. Since his initial support two years ago, Kevin has seen the development of AV's K-12 Gallery Initiative, the Curatorial Internship program and monthly culturally relevant arts programming that touches an array of diverse communities that make this region vibrant."
"The Putman House property has sufficient land and is zoned to allow for the construction of artist studios, including artist-in-residence studios, and gallery space," notes Curry when asked why he thought Art Ventures would be a good fit for the building. "The exceptionally restored house will be useful to display art in a residential setting and host a gift shop and administrative offices."
Curry adds that "supporting local artists is an opportunity to contribute to the community at large."
What's Up! talked to Art Ventures president Sharon Killian about the organization's new beginnings:
Tell us a little bit about the building you're moving in to -- what makes you excited about it? What are you most looking forward to? What's different from your previous building?
We are so excited to have a new gallery headquarters. The building is called the Putman House -- after the original builders -- and it's about 6,000 square feet of space. It was saved from the wrecker's ball and has had a long history in the community as it had at one time nine apartments. I think there were four apartments when it was saved by the previous owners, who restored the 1903 building to its present beauty. Great amenities come with this building, including the opportunity to exhibit artwork in a space that was meant to be lived in. We feel art is to be lived with, so we will now be able to show that aspect too, whereas we had to re-create that ambiance in a spare gallery setting.
We are looking forward to being able to create a scene so everyone will feel welcome. The gallery is on a bus route, and we are very close to the developing Cultural Arts Corridor, students, community residents and the Greenway just a block away to the east. There is outdoor space for a sculpture garden, which we have long hoped for. I hope we are able to activate our dreams in short order -- though I know we have to be patient.
Art Ventures has gotten really good at hosting online exhibits over the past nine months, while hosting live exhibits at other venues as well. What's going to be beneficial about having your own home base again?
We are so happy to have delved into the virtual/online exhibitions, and those will continue to be created. There is no going back to the way we were. Accessibility to art in the 21st century is now achievable online, and for many people, this may be an option they never dreamed to have, and here it is. In regard to experiencing art live, walking the space, setting up for mood, ambiance and aesthetics, that's a great experience that curators should have, I think. And the viewer's size and place in the space has so much to do with their art experience. As the covid-19 pandemic becomes more understood, and more manageable, we will want to bring the community and the artist together again. We are going to be examining the artists open studio situation over time to find a healthy balance, literally.
According to the press release, Art Ventures will be retaining your partnership with other venues like the Faulkner Center. Why is it important for your organization to retain these partnerships and exhibit the work of your artists in venues all over town?
We believe in art for everyone, and that means that we will bring it to you, or bring you to it. AV developed these relationships and strives to create the possibility for broad arts experiences. We love performance and music and integrate those with visual arts exhibitions routinely and as much as possible.
How does moving into this new building push Art Ventures forward, or how does it further Art Ventures' mission?
Art Ventures sees all sorts of children from varied communities getting their first gallery experience at Art Ventures. They will come to feel that they belong in this space to create art and to interact with art. Micro-communities will have this place as one where they also belong. Art for everyone will be something we can inculcate in this microcosm that can be formulated, experienced and replicated.
Former Fayetteville resident Kevin Curry made the Putman House available to Art Ventures. Can you talk a little bit about your organization's relationship with Kevin, how it originated and how he's helped the organization in the past?
Kevin was introduced to me and Art Ventures by a fellow artist and friend. He asked for our [donation information], made a donation and bought artwork, making artists and gallery very pleased, indeed. He knew of our search for a gallery space beginning in October 2019 when we were looking at buildings nearby the square and also the Stone House. At about the two-year anniversary of the initial donation, he called me with this fabulous idea of a house. Also, I think he knows how art changes lives in positive ways, and why not help Art Ventures to move the needle?
New Gallery Space
20 S. Hill Ave., Fayetteville
View a virtual exhibit from Art Ventures called “Discarnate Landscape” now through Jan. 11 by visiting their website at artventures-nwa.org.