Beginnings had an impressive year-long run and was a great example of many minds coming together to build something new. Their exhibitions of experimental art shows at 110 Meserole Avenue will be missed by the residents and artists of Greenpoint.
This was evident during the opening of their last show called The End. A huge crowd of smiling faces showed up at the Beginnings space, lending their appreciation for both the artwork and the people behind the scenes.
The End was a salon style show of 50 artists, with photography, prints, paintings, and mixed media works. A positive vibe flowed throughout the summer evening.
Joel Speasmaker, a graphic designer, Caroline Hwang, an illustrator who also makes works on fabric, Archie Lee Coates IV, a member of Playlab, Andy C. Jenkins, artist, Matthew Giordano, an Artypes organizer, Matt Leines and Anni Altshuler, former Space 1026 members, are the seven curators who founded Beginnings, all while balancing their full time jobs and gallery responsibilities.
As soon as I arrived, Joel was already selling works, marking them with red stickers and filling out documents. He told patrons to take their newly bought pieces off the wall or come back later to pick them up at the end of the show. As the night progressed, the pieces were being brought down one by one, leaving empty space on the walls.
And that was it! After 9pm, the curators would permanently close the space they had leased for a year. It was a bittersweet one-night opening.
I teamed up with Gina, who wrote about Beginnings when they opened in 2012 to interview Joel about the whole experience creating a year long gallery experiment from the ground up.
Joanne: What were the objectives of Beginnings and the challenges you and your fellow curators encountered?
Joel: I think we simply had a mission of presenting art that we thought was worthy of presenting, with as little friction as possible between the artist and the viewer. “Friction” being defined as the viewing environment, the price, and the overall presentation. We wanted anyone to be able to come in and enjoy themselves and hopefully discover an artist or a feeling that they hadn’t known before walking in. Our space was small and intimate, and our artists were honest and considerate.
It was always going to be a challenge with seven different curators, but I think we managed to maintain a feeling of consistency throughout the past year, despite the vast differences in artists we presented. We weren’t afraid to proclaim that we wanted our artists to make an income from their work, but we also weren’t going to hit you over the head with it.
Gina: Did you enjoy the process of curating?
Joel: Very much. It’s something I’ve done in the past and always want to do more of. I don’t consider myself a fine artist, so the opportunity to play a small part in that world is very enjoyable.
Gina: Were you able to sell some work for the artists?
Joel: We were. There was certainly an average price point that we were able to sell consistently, and I was so happy when we were able to support the artists in some way.
Gina: Was that one of your goals for the gallery from a business angle?
Joel: Definitely. We were very open about the fact that we were looking to sell the work. But we always were transparent enough (I hope) to show that we didn’t operate in the more traditional gallerist/collector model.
Gina: How did having the gallery affect the group of artists that you started it with, as well as your community of friends and acquaintances?
Joel: It definitely brought me closer with, not only the other curators, but some of the artists we exhibited, as well as anyone who came by consistently. It was such a great way to meet new people and feel part of and contribute to a small community.
Joanne: Have other opportunities arisen through the year at Beginnings?
Joel: We all definitely created relationships and friendships that wouldn’t have happened without the gallery, and they will continue long after!
Joanne: How did you like Greenpoint, in terms of location for your gallery?
Joel: Greenpoint was an ideal location for us. Being a part of a neighborhood or community is a challenging thing, but I truly appreciate Greenpoint because it has those strong roots that will outlast any attempt to change it, yet there is also room for growth and development and experimentation. My favorite visitors were people who have lived in the area for a long time, and had walked by our space several times before realizing what it was.
Gina: Would you recommend the experiment of co-owning a temporary gallery space to other young art-makers?
Joel: Sure! It’s definitely an experiment in every sense of the word and a huge learning process.
Joanne: How do you view this current art market? Do you have any criticisms or wonder which direction it is headed?
Joel: There will always be criticisms, no matter what the state of things are. At certain times there are things that you believe deserve attention (and investment) that are getting it, and at other times there aren’t. I don’t think the current art market is in a place to greatly benefit a small endeavor like ours, and yet I do feel we were able to make a small mark and push the artists we showed further along into whatever they do next.
Gina: What was your biggest take-away from the year as a whole?
Joel: The art world is a very difficult one!
Joanne: Will Beginnings maintain an online presence in the future?
Joel: Definitely. We have a nice archive of the past year in place, and will be continuing with our video series and other assorted projects.
Beginnings will maintain an archive of the artists they exhibited throughout the year, along with information to learn more about each of them. With the continuation of their video series, viewers can now see each artist in dialogue with their work.
This isn’t the end of Beginnings. The neighborhood gallery, with or without a physical presence, will live on as an experiment in the art of friendship, collaboration, and the ambition to share new talent.