Artist-run arts space VALET opened LYLAS on Nov. 3, an exhibition by VALET organizing committee member and VCUarts student Isabel Lee and VCUarts student Helen Westergren.
VALET, as an arts space running out of an old barbershop at 509 E. Franklin, was established to encourage and allow emerging artists to flourish in a community engaged with experimental and challenging practices, according to the VALET mission statement.
One of the near 20-member organization team running VALET, Lee said she and Westergren put on the art show to explore how asserting personal dominance through how one is presented is a means towards self-actualization.
“We are in solidarity with RVA predecessors and forthcoming organizers prioritizing safer spaces, of which we don’t see secured and publicly announced by traditional creative spaces,” stated VALET organizing committee member and VCUarts student Aki Vander Laan.
According to Laan, VALET encourages all creative individuals working in any media from sculpture, video, performance, sound, writing, installation, community events, workshops, curatorial, drawing, and photography to submit proposals to feature work at VALET.
Valet was first rented in May 2015 by VCUarts alum Ben Copolillo for a sculpture exhibit, said founding member and VCU English alum Gabriel Boudali. Following that, Copolillo, Boudali, and VCU Sculpture student Sam Morgan signed a six-month lease from February 2016. From then on, Boudali said the space has functioned as an open-access artist-run space that allowed artists to take full control of their events.
Boudali said the space now functions off of a cooperative lease model, where each of the near 20-member-committee pays rent each month.
“My membership in VALET was influenced by my personal history seeking for belongingness in an arts community,” Laan stated. “As an artist who is a POC, nonbinary and queer, I fought for my visibility and validity for my work which is self-referential to my identity.”
Laan said in their experience, they’ve had to find their own academic and artistic resources outside of their curriculum as a POC seeking representation within the arts.
“We have a commitment to display work from underrepresented groups and artists,” Laan stated.
Laan said that to allow a quick turn-over schedule, VALET encourages 1 to ten-day exhibition proposals to increase the number of artists who can access the space. In event of a proposal conflict, Laan said the VALET committee is available to provide mitigate and provide feedback.
“We’re all really excited that we will have agency,” Lee said. “We won’t have to rely on VCU or galleries.”
According to Lee, the organization hopes to improve and maintain the space through Kickstarters and grants.
VALET will feature a consent workshop on Nov. 16 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to discuss how it’s important, how to become comfortable in intimate situations and how to designate space in intimate relationships for consent.
To find out more about featuring art or performing at VALET, send a proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesse is a junior print journalism major and Arabic and Middle Eastern culture minor. He has walked in the valley with no water and bitten the heads off of snakes.
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