How is the project operated?
We are an artist-run space. The members pay dues and that pays the bills. That way we don’t have to rely on sales to exist. If anyone sells anything 100% goes to the artist.
How long has it been in existence?
We just turned 5 years old.
What was your motivation?
Before Katrina in New Orleans there weren’t a lot of options for younger and emerging artists to show their work. After Katrina there was a ton of energy toward recreating the city from the ground up, not just accepting the way things were but making the city what we wanted it to be. Part of the result of that was a number of artist run galleries and spaces and projects opening up. The Front was one of those spaces. We wanted a place where we could do whatever we wanted and didn’t have to answer to any gallery owner or director or institution. We also wanted a place where we could bring in artists to show in New Orleans who were doing innovative and exciting work that otherwise wouldn’t get seen in our city.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
For the past 5 years it’s been 12 – 14 of us running the space together, but we’re just in the process of bumping that up to 18 members.
How are programs funded?
Mostly funded by the dues we pay. We’ve gotten a few small grants to pay for a handful of projects like our lecture series, catalogs, and exchanges with other artist collectives.
Who is responsible for the programming?
All of the members take turns organizing shows in the space. Our building has 4 rooms, so over the course of the year each member gets access to each of the rooms to do whatever they want with. Each member has complete autonomy to do whatever they want with their shows. Generally, I’d say about half the time we show our own work and half the time we show the work of non-members.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We have 1 – 4 new shows every month. Because of the 4 rooms we might have 4 separate shows all at the same time, or a show may spread into 2, 3, or 4 of the rooms. We also have a back yard that sometimes also becomes exhibition and installation space.
What kind of events are usually organized?
The Second Saturday of the month is the main focus of what we do. That’s when the shows open at The Front as well as at all the other galleries in the neighborhood. That’s when most people come out to see the shows. Additionally we have occasional lectures or artist talks or screenings, or whatever else may come up. We also try to have gallery walk-throughs each month where the artists in the shows talk about their work.
How is your programming determined?
We plan the calendar about a year or two in advance. We get together as a group and negotiate who’s going to take which rooms which month. Then it’s up to each individual member to plan what they’re going to do during the time they signed up for.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes. People can email email@example.com with pics of work or ideas for shows. It will get forwarded on to all the members and if any of the members likes it and wants to show it they would get in touch. I would say this is fairly rare, as most of us pretty much have an idea of what we want to show ahead of time, but it does happen on occasion.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We show all kinds of stuff but I would say the only overarching thing that we try to stick to is showing work that is “contemporary.” Of course that’s not easy to define and we all have different ideas about what that means, but I think that’s also a strength of ours that we have a fairly broad array of stuff we show, so a little something for almost anyone. You may not like the show in room 1, but the show in room 4 might blow your mind.
What’s working? What’s not working?
After 5 years we have a pretty decent system for getting things done. I’d say probably the biggest challenges are lack of funds and the fact that everything is done on a volunteer basis. Having funding or someone to play the role of gallery director (and get paid for it) would be amazing. Though on the other hand I think it would change the DIY nature of what we do. Mo money mo problems, right?
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
We hope to put on the most kick ass shows we can, providing artists a great venue to show their work in, and providing New Orleans with a great place to see earth shattering contemporary art.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
I’m really excited about the expansion of our members. We currently have 14 people involved but 4 are moving on and we’re bring on 8 new members. This means that almost half of our members will be brand new to the group. We’re hoping they bring new ideas and energy that will keep The Front moving forward with purpose into the future. We’re also excited about continuing to build our collective exchange program where we bring a collective from another city to show at The Front, then we go and show in their space. We just showed a group called Ginza Art Lab from Tokyo and in May we’ll be showing there!
Images courtesy of The Front.