“Is this what heaven feels like?” I said to Amelia and Hunter as I walked into Springsteen Gallery during the middle of the day, the sun brightly shining in through the gallery windows making the entire space aglow. Apparently, I was not the first person to have made that joke.
Located in the Copycat building on 1511 Guilford Avenue, a well-known warehouse-like space in Baltimore City that has housed many co-ops, galleries, and other projects in the past, Springsteen Gallery has pristine white walls, tall ceilings, light grey floors, and presents itself as a professional artist-run space to show both local and nationally known artists. Springsteen Gallery started in April 2013, making this month their one year anniversary. Amelia Szpiech and Hunter Bradley, who are both recent graduates of Maryland Institute College of Art decided when they moved into their living space that they also wanted to start a gallery space in the front. Gracious and very well informed about the community that they are a part of, Hunter and Amelia spent a long afternoon with me a couple of weeks ago.
As a Baltimore native myself, who has spent the past six years away from the city, it was nice to get re-acquainted and to see a glimpse of what has changed since I moved in 2008. Without even my asking, after visiting their space, Amelia and Hunter drove us to visit a nearby store-front gallery space called sophiajacob (which unfortunately seems to be closing after the end of a good run), and Rock512Devil, an artist book store wrapped in a gallery and performance space, located right next door. While driving to these spaces, the two spoke knowledgeably about not just the arts community but of Baltimore City neighborhoods and the larger issues and possible opportunities surrounding them in general.
For as long as I’ve known, Baltimore’s art scene has always been very self-initiated, experimental, and supportive of each other. However, I often get wary of artist-run spaces that only seem to show their friends or classmates because it can seem exclusive to outsiders. Springsteen Gallery seems to alleviate that concern by concentrating on showing a mix of Baltimore-based artists with other artists that they come across either online or through word of mouth, which eventually creates a dialogue between what happens locally and how it interacts with others outside of the community. On their curating process, the two co-directors express that they always want to go beyond formal connections, which is always an easy fallback. Instead, they look to see how the content, process and influences of the work of the artists that they choose to show together, can change depending on who they’re hung next to.
Something that came up again and again, and comes up not just in Baltimore’s art community is the issue of funding a space, whether it’s a gallery run out of a living space, project-driven without a collection, functions as a commercial gallery or, in this case, a mix of the three. These days because of the lack of government funding for the arts, those who run spaces have to look for as many solutions as possible. Springsteen Gallery is first and foremost interested in putting up critical and thoughtful shows but also have looked into selling work as a means of sustaining the space. Both Amelia and Hunter, like most of our peers who start a space, have additional full-time jobs and fund openings, maintenance, and mostly everything else on their own. This May, Springsteen Gallery will have a booth at NADA NYC. Their hopes in participating in an art fair, is to bring exposure to their artists they are showing, and hopefully gain some funding, for both the gallery and the artists so they can continue to concentrate on curating shows that are not driven solely by the goal of sales.
The next day, Springsteen Gallery facilitated with The Contemporary as part of an ongoing program called CoHost, Jon Rafman’s artist talk at the Baltimore School of the Arts. This event was open to the public and followed by a series of studio visits with Rafman and local Baltimore artists. As a smaller city often overshadowed on the east coast by New York (well which city isn’t, really) and Washington DC, programming such as this can help bridge the various conversations about contemporary and emerging art in different cities. It’s easy to say that the internet has changed the way that we discover and receive art, as well as just information in general, but facilitating these events can really affect the growth of a community, especially with the enthusiasm and collaborative nature found in Baltimore. It was really great to meet fellow peers in Baltimore who are dedicated to running a space who feel open enough to ask questions and share answers on how to figure it all out as we go.
Please be sure to check out Springsteen Gallery if you’re in Baltimore! Their open hours are Saturdays from 1-4pm, and viewing by appointment is also possible. And if you’re in New York during May 9-11, give the gallery’s booth a visit at NADA NYC where they will be showing the work of Alex Ebstein, Ben Horns, Sofia Leiby, and Seth Adelsberger.