Opportunity from Adversity
In 2009 Ryan Lauterio didn’t know what the future would hold. As a painter, he received an MA in Studio Art at CSU, Sacramento and later an MFA in Painting and Printmaking at VCUarts in Richmond, Virginia, but health complications had left him unable to use his hands. He didn’t know if he would ever be able to paint again.
“In 2011, an opportunity was presented to me to do art shows,” Ryan said. “The space was pretty dilapidated, but I knew that critiques were a thing people were interested in.”
That same year Shockoe Artspace began as a series of open critiques and underground popup shows in an old Laser Quest building in Shockoe Bottom. What soon developed was an artist-run gallery that attracted international submissions as well as locally and nationally renowned artists. Ryan soon regained the use of his hands, but the potential of the new space had turned into momentum, and the gallery was further developed as a hub for the holistic support of artists and designers.
“The gallery needed to be qualitatively rich, and I knew the standard had to be incredibly high because of my time teaching at VCU,” Ryan said. “And I didn't know if it was right or not, but from the beginning I approached the gallery from an artist’s perspective: how would I want to be cared for? "
Cultural Excellence, Holistic Care
Shockoe Artspace was created to blur lines by asking questions about the role of a gallery within art and design communities, particularly as it related to the totality of the individual artists. If the gallery existed to showcase the work of an artist, how might that same gallery serve artists by coming alongside them as they develop, grow and enhance their careers and practice? Artists are cared for post-exhibition because one goal of the gallery is to be a long-term supporter and promoter not only of each artist’s work but also of them personally.
The underlying ideology of the gallery stresses the importance of the total artist, not just their creative output. This is fundamentally community minded, and its impact can be seen in the diverse body of work and artists that have shown in the gallery. By 2016, the 2000 square foot gallery gave nearly 20 painters, sculptors, designers and photographers the chance to show their work in museum scale exhibitions. The gallery currently has a line-up that extends its exhibitions into 2021.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With the foundation of the gallery firmly in place, it is now the time for Shockoe Artspace to begin developing the next phase of programming. What began as an experiment has grown from a largely individual effort to a team of 15 painters, photographers, designers, sculptors, illustrators, writers and curators. The team at Shockoe Artspace is entirely volunteer-based and is spearheaded by Ryan Lauterio and Garreth Blackwell, PhD, both full-time faculty members at VCUarts, the nation’s #1 public art and design program. As art professors and practitioners, Ryan and Garreth have decades of experience in leading artists in the classroom, but also have personal knowledge of the joy and pain of a career in the arts.
“We personally want art and design to be seen for the huge cultural value it has,” Garreth said. “And not just because we want to continue doing this work in our personal careers, but because we know at the heart of any creative practice is a person who we want to see flourish in what they are doing.”
To that end, Shockoe Artspace has acquired an additional 1600 square feet of gallery space directly across the street from the main gallery. This location is called Shockoe Artspace Studios and is home to two resident artist studios, a future podcasting studio and a mixed use space for pop-up exhibitions, workshops and more. This gives Shockoe Artspace the ability to show more work and develop more programming.
Shockoe Artspace is raising money to continue to build out this new space as well as new programs that, first, advance its mission within the mid-Atlantic by bolstering creative community in the region, and, second, deepen its broad cultural impact by facilitating incisive global discourse about cultural production. As a respected arts center and conveniently located city, Richmond is a prime location from which to impact culture within its city limits, in the mid-Atlantic, and all along the eastern seaboard. This campaign will provide operating funds as well as capital that can be invested into the education, development and growth of emerging artists, collectors and curators. The programming outlined below will not only produce original educational and curatorial content, but will prioritize partnership with other galleries, institutes and museums in order to promote the whole artist and a holistic culture of art. In sum, Shockoe Artspace seeks to grow programming that nourishes a cultural ecosystem for the flourishing of artists and designers and the communities in which they live and practice.
In real life this looks like ongoing friendship, studio visits, networking on their behalf, partnerships, meals, mentorship, employment advocacy, group gatherings and promotion, as Shockoe Artspace seeks to be known for exceptional generosity without pretense. Shockoe Artspace is committed to being persistent and permanent in helping artists secure shows and collectors for their work. In fact, this spirit of deep-rooted hospitality for artists has been felt by all who have shown with us, with the result that three of our exhibitors have relocated to Richmond, even from Brooklyn, in order to continue to be a part of the good that Shockoe Artspace is doing in our city and beyond. It is infectious, and we at Shockoe Artspace hope to carry that infectious spirit forward through the development and deployment of strategic programming to generate ongoing, tangible impact.
Specifically, by giving to this campaign, you are an active part in supporting the development of:
- curriculum for programs on art writing, collecting and professional practice,
- scholarships for freshmen in the VCUarts Art Foundation program and minority students who will be attending university art programs,
- a Shockoe Artspace Journal that will showcase exhibitions along the east coast and will contribute to the larger discourse within art and design,
- a series of workshops called the Holistic Artist that deals with developing individuals in all aspects of their personal and professional life as an artist or design.
Any donation, small or large is incredibly helpful toward our goal of developing a healthy ecosystem for art and design. We appreciate your support and are grateful for your donation, sharing this campaign through social media or by checking out what we are up to at shockoeartspace.com.