Sugar Space — a new contemporary art gallery launched by two young artists, Danielle Graves and Nick Witten — is one of a handful artist-owned galleries to launch since the beginning of this year (the others being Future Friends, Storage Space, 10th West & Untitled #2827.). And it is yet another indication that Indy’s contemporary art scene is slowly, but surely, gaining steam.
The gallery’s first exhibit — The Post-It Show — invited artists to create a unique work on a post-it note. Over 100 artists responded. So overwhelming was the response, that the show had to be relocated to a big location — Tube Factory artspace — in order to accommodate all the submissions.
Artists Jacob Mullins and Mackenzie Loosemore will have the debut show at Sugar Space on March 23 from 6-10 p.m.
Shauta Marsh, Tube Factory’s Director of Programs and Exhibitions spoke to the Graves and Witten about their show and what they hoped to accomplish with their new gallery.
SM: Why are you artists? What are you currently exploring with your work?
Danielle Graves: I’m an artist because art gives me the voice I don’t have and the confidence I don’t have. It always allows me to explore a more complex understanding and deeper into a world of my own.
My current work is an exploration of my childhood and the Madonna whore complex idea — what it means to be harmless and harmful.
Nick Witten: I am always unsure how to answer this, which is why I think I’m an artist. I’ve never been good at communicating with people verbally. Making work and performing gives me a way to process my thoughts and helps me find the words to connect with people.
I’m obsessed with understanding performativity and humor. These two things always dominate my artwork and my life. Most recently I’m interested in unpacking not only what it means to be from the midwest, but why there is such a rise in interest from artists to make work about this. I love it. But I am also super hesitant of it. It’s like, all of sudden, we’re best buds with that uncle we’d never add on Facebook before.
SM: Why are you in Indianapolis making art?
DG: Indianapolis offers a lot of possibilities to start up and explore new ideas, hence Sugar Space. Being a member of Know No Stranger, our last performance, Optical Popsicle Zero, made me realize that Indianapolis is whatever we make of it — that it’s full of inspiring people and people to inspire. It’s a good place to get on your feet as an artist.
NW: I came back to Indianapolis when Big Car gave me a great opportunity to be a part of their first residency program here. It gave me the ability to curate shows, teach community woodshop classes, work with the communities in the area and meet new people. It also helped me get back on my feet after grad school and being pretty broke. Teaching at Herron is also a big reason. There’s a lot of things art students miss out on here in Indianapolis that students in big art hubs have. I feel like I got a bit of a leg up going to graduate school for two years, so any little bit of what I learned I can share to help young artists is awesome.
What inspired you to open your own gallery?
DG: I want to make new friends, meet new artists. I want to curate shows that include people I admire. I want to provide a space to push younger artists to show. And, I want to recognize talent, recognize hard work.
NW: I want to run a gallery because I value community. I think the Indy scene is missing a place for student artists, newly graduated artists, and younger artists in general. I believe there is a lot of talent in Indy and I want to find it, be supportive of it, be critical of it, and to have everyone push each other to do better.
SM: Why did you want to work with each other?
DG: Meeting Nick was exciting. He was one of the first people I met who took his art career as seriously as I took mine. He curated my show Days In at Big Car’s Guichelaar Gallery and during the install I realized he was very critical, supportive and pushed me to further my thoughts and ideas. I was quick to recognize that he was someone I wanted to continue to work with.
NW: When I came back to Indy, Danielle was at every opening, whether she was with someone or alone. When I started to curate shows at the Guichelaar Gallery, I asked around to see who was a hard-working artist and Danielle’s name always came up. She really takes her career seriously and is always eager to work. It is kind of annoying sometimes, but really inspiring.
I think we compliment each others strengths and weaknesses too, hold each other accountable and always make sure we are working.
SM: Describe the type of gallery that you aspire to be.
DG: One that makes cakes for your birthday, one that recognizes your successes and your failures, one that is open to new people and new ideas.
NW: I want this gallery to challenge the artists here. As much as I want to get together with my friends and have a tight-knit community, I also want us to push the dialogue in art making. To raise the bar on what it means to show here.
SM: Tell me more about your “Post-it Show”?
DG: Putting together this show has helped expose Sugar Space to the greater community. We have 100+ artists so far. And I don’t know a good chunk of them and that’s really exciting. I love that this allows artists to come together, celebrate each other and support each other. Something Indianapolis doesn’t have, and definitely needs, is a more unified arts community. Everyone is very divided and I feel this show helps break some of those barriers.
NW: We got the idea of post-it notes from Mark Todd and Esther Pearl’s post-it note show at Giant Robot Gallery in L.A. It seemed like a great way to pull together a large group of people, from all genres of art making, for a fun night. The art scene here can be divided and spread out through the city. I think the first step in pushing ourselves is to start coming together in larger groups and interacting. The Post-it Show seemed like a good way to do this.
SM: Which artists are influencing your work right now?
DG: Penelope Gazin and any project/group she is a part of—LA City Municipal Dance Squad, Slut Island. I also really love Rachel Louise Hodgson, Peggy Noland and Katherine Bernhardt. And of course, Wayne White.
NW: Conner O’Malley is a comedian whose live periscope videos I could rant about for days. They are great satire. Mariah Bamford is the best. I’m really into paintings right now so people like Devin Troy Struthers, Josh Reames, and Austin Lee. Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw are the reason I went to Cranbrook. Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw.