Tonight during Dumbo’s first Thursday gallery walk, A.I.R. Gallery opens Transformed Viewpoints. Curated by Brooklyn Museum’s Emerita Charlotta Kotik, the exhibition features eighteen A.I.R. artists from around the country, including Nashville’s Janet Decker Yanez, owner of Ground Floor Gallery + Studios.
A.I.R. opened in1972 in SoHo as the U.S.’s first all female artist cooperative. I interviewed Yanez for Country Life last summer and reviewed Ground Floor’s juried A.I.R. exhibition in BURNAWAY in October. It’s exciting whenever the work of local artists ventures out of state, but Yanez’s inclusion in the exhibition seems especially poignant. Yanez opened the studio and gallery space in the Chestnut Square building in 2012 at the urging of other local artists. While Chestnut has its charms, it doesn’t have heat or air conditioning, and some parts of the building are exposed to the elements. In addition, no one’s ever sure if it’s been bought out by developers; its fate seems always to hang in the balance. Last summer, Yanez moved everything to a 3,250 square foot space at 942 Fourth Avenue, and nine artists now work out of the space.
There are few places in Nashville where so many artists are drawn together in a common workspace. It satisfies a need for connection in the often solitary practice of art making. The GRG artists frequently hold open studios, and I love poking my nose into their spaces and talking with them about their work. It’s a space with vitality and camaraderie that seems emblematic of Nashville’s arts boom.
However, lately, I wonder if we’re in the midst of a fairy tale. While artists and patrons soar on the collective energy of a dozen new galleries, as well as art crawls, stellar programming at the Frist, and an unprecedented number of arts events, artists aren’t selling their work to outside buyers nearly as much as they should be. Part of this stems from Nashville’s outward-facing model, muchly controlled by the Convention Center Visitors Bureau that’s hell bent on keeping the city trapped in its Music City chokehold. Part of it stems from our lack of an M.F.A. program that would surely bring in outside artists, investors, and patrons. National art fairs also get thrown into the mix; collectors are increasingly flocking to Miami and elsewhere to purchase art, instead of supporting local galleries. Many other factors complete the corner we’re painting ourselves into, and I am no expert. I do think that we need to start having frank conversations about the sustainability of our arts community if we want to continue riding this wave.