Gallery produces publication to commemorate end of physical location

Photo courtesy of Ava Lonergan

Despite moving out of its physical location, Corner Office gallery will continue working to provide guidance and opportunity to emerging women-identifying artists through a publication — to be released Aug. 31 — of the same name.

Adele Ball founded the Scott’s Addition gallery with her friend, Ava Lonergan, in March 2017. Upon learning the building housing the space was to be sold, the duo still wanted to find a way to inform on new artists’ studio practices, Ball said.  

“But we won’t necessarily have a physical space to do that, so we’re bringing it into a published realm,” Ball said.

The approximately 100-page, magazine-style publication consists of interviews, writings and images relating to the gallery’s year-and-a-half long run in Scott’s Addition. In addition to its main theme of studio practice, the piece includes other topics, like how young artists can finance themselves and how to define “home” for a millenial generation that moves constantly and works multiple part-time jobs, Ball said.

“There’s a lot of things in the artistic process that people don’t talk about,” Ball said. “Like, how do you actually make money? How do you support yourself? Do you make art for money, do you make art for yourself? How do you showcase it, is it activist art?”

Ball said she thinks the Corner Office publication could help start those conversations and push their message to a wider audience.

The process of preparing the publication took about four months, combining Ball’s graphic design background with Lonergan’s writing abilities. Making the work brought out memories and emotions from their time in the gallery, Ball said.

“We’ve been really nostalgic throughout this whole process,” Ball said. “Honestly, it’s a pretty long process starting with pulling all of the content from the past year-and-a-half, editing it and organizing it. Editing it, publishing, proofing, editing, proofing … editing, proofing.”

Since its opening, Corner Office has hosted 11 exhibitions, including “He burned our drums, So we drummed our bodies; a developing dedication to The Vulva,” featuring works by 2017 VCUarts graduate Mahari Chabwera.

Serving as Corner Office’s final exhibition, Chabwera’s works opened at the gallery in June. Ball said Chabwera “really transformed” the space not only with her displayed pieces, but by painting the gallery space, too.

“That was really cool, having an interactive element,” Ball said.

The gallery space has given Ball and Lonergan the opportunity to meet artists through studio visits and other events.

“Talking about their artistic processes and struggles, things like that and feeling like we’ve created a safer space for sharing,” Ball said. “That’s what I’ve loved most about that community.”

That “small bit of community,” offered professional opportunities for new artists. In order to gain rapport, artists need to have done art shows or completed a residency. And to obtain a residency, it’s beneficial to have already completed a residency, Ball said.

“It’s almost like putting the cart before the horse,” Ball said. “It’s hard to start if you don’t have anything.”

Ball said she found it difficult to “jumpstart” her career, a common experience for young artists. According to research conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2014, the unemployment rate for primary artists  — those who spend a majority of their working hours as artists — was nearly double that of other professionals, at 7.1 and 3.6 percent, respectively. Additionally, the employment rate for artists has recovered more slowly than other professions’ following the recession.

Although no definite date or location has been set, Ball said she and Lonergan plan to reopen a physical gallery space in the future — hopefully one that will accommodate an artist residency.

“I think that part of the impetus in starting this space and publishing this publication is to provide a resource that perhaps we didn’t have,” Ball said. “A resource into the artistic process, especially for people in our community, who are in our age range.”

Corner Office will host a release party for its publication on Aug. 31 at 3012 W. Broad St., Second Floor from 5-8 p.m. Price of publication is TBA.

Georgia Geen, Managing Editor 

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