50/50: An Interview with Cambria Potter and Hannah Lodwick

A new silhouette in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, 50/50 responds to the environment of Kansas City on a physical and largely communicative scale locally and nationally. 50/50 founders and curators Cambria Potter and Hannah Lodwick talk about programming and adjustments centered around their recent opening Co-host and into Things to Be Read.

50/50 is a platform for fostering progressive dialogues of equally exhibited local and national artists.  With an emphasis on exhibiting emerging to mid-career artists who take risks within varying disciplines, 50/50 will broaden Kansas City’s art ecology. Constructed from two shipping containers, the venue will expand upon the concept of 50/50 while activating unused urban space in the West Bottoms.

Patricia Graham: How do local and national artists participate in the curatorial process?

Hannah Lodwick: Typically, Cambria and I propose an exhibition and then we talk about modes that we are unsure of. We are work-shopping everything as a whole, but we are bringing the initial plan to the forefront, so it is malleable in that matter. The Billboard series is something that we just work-shopped as staff – something that we worked on collaboratively. The lectures and digital archive is something that Chris Daharsh is championing. He is the research administrator who is getting the digital archives up and running, as well as programming our lecture series. He’ll come to the staff and we’ll collaborate on the rest of the show.

Cambria Potter: We’re really keen on the artist’s wants and needs for the execution. For the upcoming exhibition Things to Be Read we just had two studio visits. We had one with Patricia Bordallo Dibildox on how she wanted to display her works because we were not sure with what we were seeing online. Those are the things we leave up to the artists.

How the curation breaks down is dependent on the artist. For this upcoming exhibition, we’re working with the team to decide. The last show was install heavy so we brought in the artist to install her work. Our recent show Co-host is more about relinquishing control of the space and letting the artist use it as a whiteboard. As for identifying artists it is usually theme motivated.

PG: Can you explain 50/50’s digital archive and the ideas behind this?

HL: The digital archive is a two-fold platform. The first part is cataloging the artist, bio, artwork, and didactic information. The second part is expanding the definition of the archive. For every artist we show, we will ask for 2 references. For Co-host, Robert Howsare supplemented us with a Rosalind Krauss essay.  

CP: Kristin provided a “How It’s Made Video.” It’s pulling back the curtain on an artist’s studio practice. It provides another point of entry for the work. It is for the audience that will not be in attendance, the audience that will not be physically be there, and to not only see the work documented.

HL: It helps the local artists too. It’s difficult to get that buzz after awhile. It will have a staggered unveiling of different documents and research. That’s how we can keep our local audience interested. A non-educated arts audience can also access these supplemental texts that are maybe more accessible. It will hopefully be more interactive and we’ve also discussed a wiki-type format.

CP: It should act as a resource to individuals that visit. Also for some other reads and maybe someone is curious about how the work got to that point.

PG: So, you’re showing the bones of the practice. Can you talk about your choice of location and the relationship to other galleries in the vicinity? Are you able to add to the structure?

CP: This is one of the more exciting things to share about the process, similar with the digital archive, we want to be transparent. We originally identified the West Bottoms as our point of entry because it is at that point where we have PLUG Projects, Haw Contemporary, and Bill Brady Gallery, but it’s not residential and we were interested in that. The West Bottoms is bountiful in shipping containers. It is a silhouette that you can see frequently and we’re bringing that to the forefront so the silhouette of the space looks like it belongs and it doesn’t look out of place. We wanted to activate unused urban space – the parking lot was priorly was abandoned. Except for the American Royal parking, it would have been entirely unused. The shipping container was intentional for that space specifically. The shipping container is malleable. If we out-grow the space we can just add on.

HL: In the mean time we have a two year lease where part of the lease is our Billboard series. After the two years, we will reevaluate the administrative internal structure and budget. Constantly evaluating ourselves is part of what we took from the Hand-in-Glove conference that we recently went to.

Patricia: What other galleries are you using as models?

CP: We definitely did a merging of institutional models and independent galleries .We felt like this voice was lacking.

HL: That’s where we started was looking at the Kansas City community and seeing which holes we need to provide to and we felt that this was absolutely one. As far as shipping container galleries, we don’t look to one. We’re friends with Black Cube, Nomadic Museum in Colorado and there’s another one called Tehran Portal, so there are other spaces but they’re doing something very different on a programming level. So while we might be looking to architectural examples, we’re often times fitting in alternative programming models and we’ve been looking towards institutions instead of small galleries for our internal programming models. I think first and foremost institutions that are taking risks are a primary mode of looking to other models.

CP: Our interest in the digital archive stemmed from the New Museum, but they’re using it in a pretty academic way as far as cataloging their own content. So every model that we look to we’re also seeing where can we improve or have a voice that furthers the conversation if there was something that we were referencing.

HL: Yeah, the Walker Art Center also has a really good archive. It is local-centric too with their online presence. We’ve looked to them for taking risks as a large institution. As far as it goes for looking to the New Museum or the Walker, we show emerging artists mainly so we’re not looking to them for the artists pool and more to their institutional models.

PG: How are you trouble-shooting and how are you evolving from the initial programming?

CP: We’ve had this conversation in our last staff meeting. There’s always room for improvement so we’ll continue to do that. We definitely feel that the lot needs to be more activated for the events so we’re thinking about adding more seating. That’s maybe the more physical element that we’re working on.

HL: With our Lecture series, we are hoping to live stream a national speaker and have that conversation with a local moderator. Kind of within the idea of half analog and half digital. One kind of logistical thing is that we don’t have Wi-Fi. We’re work-shopping with the staff on how to approach our Lecture series. Where we record the interview doesn’t matter, we’re rethinking on how to program it. Our original grant proposal has stayed the same, which is surprising because we’re not the kind of organization to stay strict, we’re more responsive and reactive to the immediacy of the community.

PG: So the hole you’ve identified is a need for more emerging artists?

CP: Also, cross-pollination. We see a pretty black and white representation of local artists and national artists and not a lot of shows that are putting out our “Midwest” voice that we are always talking about as a community. People are going to the coasts for resources but it is important to talk about our resources. Our community does have some gems, amazing artists, and opportunities for artists, so being able to showcase work side-by-side.

HL: We’re younger, too. Our idea of emerging artists is something that other areas and institutions are thinking of differently – taking risks on artists like Patricia Bordallo Dibildox who is in the upcoming show, “Things to Be Read.” She is recently graduated and she is not currently in the United Sates. She is malleable in her practice, which maybe not all curators would be attuned to. She is going to print in a manner that she never has before. We are championing artists taking risks within her practice.

CP: I think that is an important distinction. We are not taking a risk on Patricia. Patricia is taking a risk within her practice.

HL: Also, emerging doesn’t necessarily mean young. Ari Fish is a great example who currently has the Billboard up. She is a Charlotte Street Foundation winner. She’s been on Project Runway. She hasn’t shown recently, but maybe her name is still in the Kansas City Art Institute community. So, emerging is something that is malleable and transitory.

CP: I think also ’emerging’ viewed from a national scale is really important because we think about our community and if an artist has gone for all opportunities that we do provide, what does that leave them five years from now?

HL: Emerging is really fluid and there is not definition for emerging, it is a really subjective term. Emerging to 50/50  is not the same to a national art gallery.

CP: We like to let it live within the risk-taking.

PG: How are you finding artists nationally that fall under your definition of emerging?

CP: It depends, we work collectively on this using the internet as a tool where you can come across a variety of artists that you would never encounter.  There are many different ways of encountering art now. We usually start with an idea for an exhibition.

HL: We keep a library or spreadsheet of artists as a dumping ground, with no organizational structures. We divide it by local and national artists and our staff can plug into it.

CP: I like this question in that it allows for transparency. We always view our Billboard open call as an opportunity where artists know about us and now we know about them. We archive that information.

HL: A big goal with our recent call for entries with our Billboard series is that we are hoping to do studio visits. How can we supplement the art community? And there’s a problem after graduation of not having access to other artists – so, being an open resource to anyone who wants it.

CP: So, we recently went to Minneapolis for the Hand-in-Glove conference – we will have staff trips that we plan to take – so, if we notice three artists on our list in a central area we could take a trip and have studio visits in those areas. There is a tendency to get out of the academic bubble and [then] not have a community. We want to be able to foster that with studio visits and with a group of people that are interested.

PG: So the initial idea of 50/50 happened 2 years ago?

CP: Yes, December 2013.

PG: How do you feel like the first show went?

CP: Really, really well. It was important for me since it was established in December 2013; we identified the artists for the first show in 2013 for showcasing in grant writing. It’s fascinating that we’ve been in conversation with these artists for two years.

HL: It’s a good first exhibition. Our space is going to drastically change with each exhibition. For instance, our next show will have prints, sculpture, photo books out of fabric, and posters, so we’ll have a more traditional show where we’ll actually use our lights. It’s not traditional, but we won’t be using projections for instance. Our space is very malleable, because it’s so small, it’s accessible for us to ship work because larger work won’t fit into our 350 foot space.”Co-host” will always be special.

CP: It makes me excited to see the investment.




Image courtesy of 50/50.
Published in partnership with PLUG Projects.

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