Final Project, Space for More

Lincoln’s Project Gallery opens its last exhibit as two new gallery spaces set to open

The face of Lincoln’s gallery scene is changing in two big ways this spring. Craig Roper’s Project Room Gallery is closing its doors in May after a three-year run; it was one of the founding galleries in the now wildly successful Parish Studio. And two new gallery spaces — both operated by University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty — are likely to take Roper’s place in continuing to bring challenging, innovative art to the vibrant scene that already exists. Roper said he decided to close Project Room for a variety of reasons: he’s stretched thin when it comes to running the gallery, helping his wife, jeweler Sydney Lynch, with her business, and creating his own art. He said something had to go, and the timing just felt right. The gallery, he said, has gone as far as he can take it. “One of the real joys of starting Project Room in the Parrish studios was that we didn’t know what to expect,” Roper said. “That very opening night in April three years ago, I didn’t know if I’d get 30 people through the door.” On its opening night, close to 400 people visited the space. “Every single Friday is like that,” Roper said. “It hasn’t stopped.” Project Room’s final show opens Friday. Fortner McDowell’s Drive Dark West includes a series of 30 distressed and framed photographs along with 30 bulled-pierced text pieces pulled from Cormac McCarthy’s novel Cities of the Plain. The show will run through the end of May, when the space will officially close. Roper said one of the reasons he felt comfortable closing was because of the arrival of Drift Station and Parallax Space. “I feel relieved that I can stop doing Project Room and someone else is going to pick up,” Roper said. “The momentum is continuing to move forward.” His feelings about the situation are positive, he said. “Lincoln has more to give, and because of that breadth, more experimental galleries are popping up.” Drift Station and Parallax Space share a space on the corner of 18th and N streets, a bit off the “gallery beaten path” in the city. UNL professors Jeff Thompson and Angeles Cossio operate Drift Station; UNL professor Marissa Vigneault and Lincoln artist and teacher Bill Graham operate Parallax Space. Thompson said he and Cossio moved to Lincoln to work at the university. Thompson teaches digital arts and new genres, while Cossio teaches drawing at UNL and a few courses at Metro Community College in Omaha. Thompson ran a gallery space when he lived in New York before moving to Lincoln, and wanted to do the same thing here. The couple found their current space but it needed lots of work; previously, it was a body shop and then sat vacant for 10 years. The four gallery owners spent months cleaning the space and readying it for use as a gallery. “We wanted a space where we could show work by artists that live here, artists who live on the east and west coasts, and new artists from everywhere,” Thompson said. The gallery doesn’t have a lot of money for shipping work, so they’re coming up with creative solutions: they’ve printed work submitted by email and printed it on a laser printer. They’ve worked with internet artists. This Friday, they’ll present a live video piece. The response so far, he said, has been tremendous. “We were astounded when we moved here by how much energy there is,” Thompson said. “We couldn’t believe how many artist-run spaces there were, and how many people came to openings. It was a really great surprise.” Drift Station and Parallax Space started out operating dual shows, but now are operating independently. Find & Replace opens at Drift Station Friday. Omaha artist Alex Meyers and Thompson are collaborating on a video and audio piece during the opening; it’s their first collaboration. Brandon Jan Blommaert will present a series of ethereal animation pieces, and poet Christian Bök will show images and words from his book Eunoia, in which each chapter uses only one vowel. In May, they’ll present “Indoor/Outdoor,” a series of 30 or 40 short films they plan to screen in the space. A garage door in one wall will be open for the screenings. Thompson said the goal isn’t to sell art, nor is it to be too unusual. “We’re trying to show work that we’re interested in and that is a little outside of the norm for Lincoln,” he said. “The more art the better; the more people that come to Lincoln, the better. That’s the goal.” As for Roper, he plans to spend more time working on his own art, and he said he’s got some projects in the works. He’d also be open to curating at other spaces, maybe some in Omaha. He’ll continue to be an arts advocate, he said. “What I will miss most is the (First Friday) crowds,” Roper said. “You can feel their hunger for new art. The more challenging work I showed, the more they respected it, and the more they wanted to see more. It’s been a great experience.” Project Room’s final exhibition, Fortner McDowell’s “Drive Dark West,” runs through the end of May and opens with a reception from 7-10 p.m. Drift Station opens a group show, “Find & Replace,” with a reception from 7-11 p.m. Both openings are slated for Friday, April 1. For more information, visit projectroom.us and driftstation.org.

posted at 10:34 pm
on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

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