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Subterranean Gallery

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Subterranean Gallery

Address: 4124 Warwick Blvd. Apt. B Kansas City, MO
Contact: Ayla Rexroth, Founder and Director
Open Hours: Open by appointment


How is the project operated? 
Subterranean Gallery is an artist run space operated out of my basement apartment. It does not run for profit, but is not a registered non profit. Funds come from community donations and paychecks from my teaching jobs.

How long has it been in existence?
2.5 years

What was your motivation?
Before I started the gallery my studio practice revolved around displaying the lifestyle of artists through performances and installations. I created scenes from artist’s studio practices, portrayed their homes and their material collections, and gave tours of neighborhoods where artists reside. My apartment was in terrible condition so remodeling and creating a space for artists meant I was able to have a more permanent art and design playground, with a community of artists in it.

Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project
I’m the founder and Director. Clayton Skidmore is a major contributor: He has co-curated programming with me, acted as a preparator, and has supported and bounced ideas around with me since the gallery’s beginnings. We also have interns from KCAI help with event planning and execution, and they often contribute their writing to our website. Much of the time the artists I work with help to install and design exhibitions and my friends have been extremely supportive!

How are programs funded? 
In the past funding has come out of pocket, but we have also received a small grant from Bread KC, received donations from the community and run a successful Kickstarter campaign. Any artworks sold as a result of an exhibition are privately done through the artist.

Who is responsible for the programming? 
I am the chief curator, but I sometimes work collaboratively.

Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We produce around 5 major events per year usually with smaller film screenings and events in between. Exhibitions are usually on display for a month.

What kind of events are usually organized?
So far we have held artist and arts professional hot tub lectures, exhibited emerging and mid career artists, public critiques, and film screenings.

How is your programming determined?
I determine programming based on the quality of the artwork I see and the artists ability to convey its worth through their writing and professionalism. For me it’s all about the dialogue I can have with artists. With programming that isn’t an art exhibition I usually (through conversations with other artists) come across really great ideas to reformat a traditional way of viewing or dissecting the art world. It usually revolves around idea’s of intimacy such as The One Night Stand Exhibition, and Morning After Critique.

Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes! Just email me to set up a studio visit or to introduce yourself! A well crafted exhibition proposal is always a treat!

What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
My curatorial approach places a lot of trust in the artists I work with. Existing as an underground operation allows me to easily say if it physically works and doesn’t endanger anyone, I’m down! I’m excited about the idea of artists testing what I can live with. My favorite part of Subterranean events it facilitating the exhibition spatially. I love working with fabrication, interior design, and altering my life to accommodate programming.

My role is always changing because I am curator, director, preparator, graphic designer, hostess, as well the communications and development department. This means when I commit to working with artists I am very involved.

What’s working? What’s not working?
People are interested in what we’re doing! I make my own yearly schedule and have gaps between events where I can make artwork at home. It also allows me to work thoughtfully and make large improvements between events and hold down two other jobs. Opportunities are being provided to artists and I love being a voice in KC’s art community.

Not working: As an artist run/residential space, it takes tremendous amount of time and financially doesn’t have a payoff. I have to believe that as I learn and grow this will lead to opportunities that are more profitable. Its not a sustainable business model, navigating this is a slow process and probably work be resolved in the lifespan of Subterranean Gallery.

What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
I’m already a teacher, designer, curator, and artist. Its really fun and I want to be all or some of these things in a paid position and possibly within my own business.

What idea are you most excited about for the future?
What’s exciting is that my original intentions for the gallery are slowly being realized and incorporated in ways I never could have imagined when I started. I’m excited to approach future programming with the level of intention that my experience affords me and continue to problem solve until I can make a living at this!


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