Most people who frequent First Friday, the monthly Richmond art crawl, know about Gallery 5 at 200 W. Marshall St. The gallery has become popular for its quirky art exhibits, music shows, burlesque and other sideshow acts. This April, the gallery turns 10 years old, and they are not celebrating quietly.
The gallery kicks off the celebration on April 3, First Friday by exhibiting photos that have captured iconic moments at the gallery over the years. There will be musical performances by White Laces, Lobo Marino, Dave Watkins and The Awesome Few, along with burlesque performances by Deanna Danger and Deepa De Jour.
They will also be closing off Brook Road outside for fire and circus performances by the Party Liberation Front.
It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, Gallery 5 was just an empty old fire station that wasn’t being used. One of the co-founders, Parker S. Galore, was a key component to how Gallery 5 came to be.
Back in 2004, co-founder Amanda Robinson got in touch with Galore about an old firehouse in Jackson Ward that her family owned. She wanted to turn it into an art space and asked Galore if he would like to have his own art featured there.
At that time, Galore was putting together the first issue of RVA Magazine and decided to spotlight Robinson and the new gallery. He said when he showed up to interview her, he was blown away by how much character and potential it had and decided to partner up with Robinson.
“There was no stage, there was no nothing, it was just an empty old firehouse that needed a lot of work and a lot of love,” said Galore.
They had their kick-off party on April 15, 2005 that featured 40 visual artists, bands, DJs and fire performers.
“We had hundreds of people who showed up that night, so we were very surprised. We kind of looked at each other and were like, ‘we gotta keep this going,’” Galore said.
According to Galore, before Gallery 5 was around, the Richmond art scene was a different environment.
“A lot of the gallery environments back then were very cold and stagnant. You would walk in, look at the art, and you would leave,” Galore said. “We wanted to create a place where people could actually hang out and be for hours if they wanted to be and walk into different rooms and experience different things. We created this beautiful monster of a space and it was a wild ride for the first four or five years.”
Ellie Quinn, who performs and produces burlesque at the gallery, said she enjoys the unique feel of the old firehouse.
“I love the history behind the building,” Quinn said. “In general, most (of) the places I perform at are bars and theaters, so this place is different.”
Currently the gallery showcases quirky art and rock music, but according to Gallery 5’s director Nick Crider, it really just depends on who is involved at the time.
“I feel like Gallery 5, the more people that get involved, the more eclectic it gets,” Crider said. “Each person who comes in brings something new, so the next person who comes in might bring an all-country vibe, I have no idea but I’ll still be involved and I’ll still be bringing in the weird contemporary art that I bring in. It’s gonna get more and more eclectic as we go, I think.”
Going forward, Crider would like to see Gallery 5 do a lot more community outreach. The gallery already has chess nights and trans-inclusive clothing-swap nights, and the directors plan to have similar events in the future.
The festivities for the anniversary celebration kick off on First Friday, April 3, but there will be several more shows in the 10th Anniversary Series throughout the month of April and early May. Those events can be seen on Gallery 5’s website, www.gallery5arts.org.