A year and a half after losing its space to a fire, Open Space resurfaces on Franklin Street
By By Rebekah Kirkman
Oct 23, 2014 | 2:06 PM
The lease has been signed, a new show is going up, and Open Space is back, now in a new neighborhood. Despite the fire that displaced its members/residents from their space in Remington, members of the artist-run collective have continued to meet and plan events, such as their annual Publications and Multiples Fair and this year's Alternative Art Fair, which was a feature of Artscape. After almost a year and a half of searching, the group is taking over 512 W. Franklin St., the former home of the gallery/bookstore Rock512Devil. The first show in the new space, "Precious Moments," opens this Saturday, Oct. 25. Open Space member (and former CP designer) Jasmine Sarp caught up with us about their move and new programming.
City Paper: Aside from bigger projects like the PMF and the Alternative Art Fair at Artscape, what else have Open Space and its members been doing without a physical location in the last year and a half?
Jasmine Sarp: We were searching, searching, searching for a new space for the gallery. We have continued to meet pretty much every week since the fire, as usual, researching spaces, touring spaces, and meeting with people to talk about what we are looking for. Though nearly all those meetings didn't result in finding a feasible space, we did meet quite a few interesting folks in the process. We also had to find homes suddenly for ourselves. Some of us went over three months before we were able to move into a permanent living space. We are very glad we got to work on PMF and the Alternative Art Fair in this interim period, because that stuff is way more enjoyable than scouring real estate listings and talking to unsympathetic landlords.
CP: What made you decide on the space at Franklin Street?
JS: 512 Franklin St. was previously inhabited by friends of ours with Rock512Devil, which included one of our members, Max Guy. They decided to end their physical space, and we knew the vacancy was a good opportunity for us. It is a storefront in a neighborhood with artist-run galleries and the H&H, so that is pretty appealing to us. It's a much smaller space than our previous location, but it's also really cheap. After seeing too many decrepit buildings around town that were either a medical hazard to occupy or way too expensive, 512 Franklin St. made the most sense to us.
CP: With the move, is anything about Open Space's mission going to change or refocus? Are there any new programming/events to be expected?
JS: We expect the core ideals of Open Space will remain very similar to the past. We maintain the goal of showing a wide variety of programming to the public. With a new venue in which to pursue our goals, our methodology is bound to change. We have discussed teaming with bigger spaces, for example, if we want to have programming that requires more room. We will continue to do PMF and love it, and the Alternative Art Fair was a hit so we expect to do that again. I wouldn't be surprised if our energy overflows from the smaller gallery into fueling these fair events in a bigger way; they are so much fun and have become a big part of what we do. We also want to have a sense of continuity with Rock512Devil's space by continuing some of their programming concepts like book clubs. Also, Flannery Silva, who is one of the folks who ran Rock512Devil, will be in our first show.
CP: How often are you planning to put on shows?
JS: We'll be putting on shows roughly every six to eight weeks to start with.
JS: The group dynamic has been a natural flow for the most part. We are all participants because we want to be, but if [one person is] not stoked on a particular curatorial project, it's fine to take a step back. There are a few different ways the gallery shows happen. When we group curate, we each select a few artists that we like for a particular theme, and get together to review them and vote. Sometimes we do studio visits, select artists to show solo or duo shows, one of our members may propose and curate a show independently, or we may choose a show that has been proposed to us by an outside curator or artist. One new thing about our group is that since it is no longer a prerequisite that you live at our space in order to become a member, this opens up how we initiate new folks. We love awesome interns.
CP: With so many collaborators in Open Space, you've got many different perspectives and aesthetics. Can you talk about that?
JS: I think the thing that people may notice first about most artist-run spaces in Baltimore is that the programming is not commercially motivated. We have a lot of freedom in the gallery without that constraint. Each member of our group brings their own interests to the table. We attempt to make each exhibition different from the one that preceded it. There is so much art being made, [and] it takes a lot of feelers to see it, share it, and talk about it. This definitely makes for a wide range of works on display, and we like it that way. It's also exciting to know that any kind of proposal (if presented professionally) will be considered and taken seriously.