As commercial growth of downtown Phoenix breathes new life and vibrancy into the heart of the city, many small, privately owned art galleries, through no fault of their own, are unable to keep their doors open. Venues such as The Paper Heart, Four White Walls, Barlow & Straker and Studio LoDo are among the crucially-important that have struggled to keep pace not only with downtown’s rising rent and property costs, but also the day-to-day grind of keeping an art venue open.
Phoenix’s Ghost Gallery, a migratory art space that sets up shop in a new space each month, helps pave the way for a new way of thinking when it comes to owning a Phoenix art venue. Erin Kane and Sherrie Medina came up with the idea over coffee.
“We were both looking for a way to contribute,” said Kane. “As we talked, we realized that Sherrie had access to really great spaces in downtown Phoenix, and that between the two of us we had the combined energy and skills to start Ghost Gallery. It was a very simple conversation and the details fell into place so easily. We have similar ideas and aesthetic preferences, so it’s really been a great experience so far.”
Though the concept is one that has been implemented in other cities, this is still a new idea in the Phoenix Valley. Luckily, they have experience on their side.
“Sherrie has curated other guerilla shows in found spaces like this in the past, and [she] is familiar with the process. I’ve worked in both gallery and museum settings,” said Kane. “At a museum, the lead time is longer and there are more restrictions in terms of what’s allowed. And of course the space is always the same. It’s been fun having the freedom to make Ghost Gallery into our vision of what we’d like it to be and to meet the challenges of a raw space and evolving circumstances.”
Both explain the ups and downs of their mobile enterprise.
“The biggest pro is that we can involve new people in different neighborhoods [we host the gallery in each month]. The flip side of that is that we have to figure out a way to communicate where we’ll be for the next show. People can’t just stop by the same space again to see what we have on the walls.”
“Through the generosity of developers like Lawrence & Geyser, we have access to spaces without operation costs. This means we get to show art we think is important and relevant to the community without the pressure of having to maintain a gallery space and staff,” said Medina.
As the location for shows continuously varies, so does the work Ghost Gallery features.
“We’re really open to anyone who wants to submit a proposal,” Medina said, regarding their take on what they’d like to feature. “As long as it’s good work, we’re into it. We also want to be a resource for artists and the communities we work in. We’ve talked about offering critiques with local curators in the space and doing other programming for the community.”
The two agree that while their idea has certainly gotten off to a great start, it is not the easiest of tasks to curate art shows without having a constant space to show the art.
“It’s been fairly hard work, but it’s a labor of love,” said Kane. “We work well together, and so far have managed to help each other balance family and work obligations. We’re also lucky to have the support of the artists we work with, [as well as] our significant others. All the pieces have to be there or it wouldn’t work.”
Speaking of showing art, why not get in touch a forerunner of Phoenix’s punk-rock-style art movement?
Contact The Ghost Gallery to find out about upcoming shows and present your own work for consideration at myspace.com/ghostgalleryphoenix.