The Third Place[uds-billboard name=”thirdplace”]
The Third Place
How is the project operated?
The Third Place Gallery is artist-run in that everyone running it is an active artist. It is for-profit, at least from an accounting standpoint, but we mostly hope to break even.
How long has it been in existence?
The Third Place opened in May 2011 and hosted the first event in June of that year. Lead artist Wing Young Huie had a store front studio/gallery on East Franklin in Minneapolis for nine years, but The Third Place is the first space focused on the gallery aspect rather a gallery-like studio.
What was your motivation?
Wing’s most recently completed large-scale public project was the University Avenue Project, produced by Public Art Saint Paul. It was a six-mile outdoor exhibition of photographs that featured what we called The Project(ion) Site – an empty lot converted into a place where the people could gather to see projections of the photos. Once a month there was a cabaret that featured local musicians. Bringing together diverse groups of people for accessible but arts-focused evenings was a powerful part of the project, and something Wing wanted to continue. Just as The Third Place was opening, Wing participated in the first Northern Spark Festival in Minneapolis, projecting 1300 photos in a retrospective slide-show alongside 10 ping-pong tables arranged for drop-in, outdoor games. The ping-pong was a bit hit – there wasn’t an empty table until after 2 am, and people who had never met each other were playing and talking.
With The Third Place, we wanted to keep up some of what was awesome about Wing’s past public projects – accessible, informal, arts-centric entertainment. We also wanted to nurture connections between artists and different kinds of artists: musicians, playwrights, filmmakers, etc.
The name comes from a sociological term. Ray Oldenburg (The Great Good Place, 1989) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place. Oldenburg calls one’s “first place” the home and those that one lives with. The “second place” is the workplace – where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
Wing works full-time on his own artwork, which includes the gallery. There are also two very part-time workers, a Gallery Director and an Assistant, who make the events and exhibitions happen. We also couldn’t do what we do without volunteers and friends who believe in the project and lend time and equipment.
How are programs funded?
There’s a suggested donation for every event. That usually covers the refreshments and a small honorarium for the guest artist. Wing does a lot of lectures and workshops about his work, and that subsidizes everything not covered by free-will donations. The Walker Art Center and Northern Lights.mn co-sponsored one of our events, and that did come with some funding.
We’ve thought about applying for grants with a fiscal sponsor, but for now are enjoying the freedom that comes from not having to do that. Financially, the money is a good investment in the community we’re in, even if it doesn’t yield monetary rewards.
Who is responsible for the programming?
Everything is co-curated by Wing and Gallery Director Stephanie L. Rogers.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
Twelve to fourteen one-night events – there’s one main event every month, and sometimes we do additional events that fit our evolving concepts and make sense for our community.
What kind of events are usually organized?
Events are all over the place in terms of the kind of art presented, though the evenings follow a similar structure. They feature guest artists who do something (i.e. music, film, or performance art) that has a component of interacting with the audience. It’s very informal, and afterwards we encourage people to stay and connect over ping-pong and karaoke (the gallery director likes to call it a built-in after party). The guest artist portion is usually about 1.5 to 2 hours long, and the after party goes for a few hours.
How is your programming determined?
We challenge artists to suggest an idea that lets the audience in on their artistic process and is edifying to the artists as well. For example, we’ve shown works-in-progress alongside artists’ finished pieces and had people do interactive performances. Sometimes we do artistic match-making of people in different disciplines whose work would be interesting together. Often, after artists present ideas, the curators will challenge them to take it further outside of their comfort zone. Being vulnerable and honest with the audience is a big part of what we do.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
There’s no formal process in place for reviewing submissions, but both curators have an ear to the ground of the local arts scene. We strongly encourage artists who are interested in submitting to come to an event at the gallery first and get a feel for the space and audience. We are as interested in building community in South Minneapolis as we are in showcasing the latest, greatest thing.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
It’s very eclectic. Everything we do has to resonate with both of the co-curators. Beyond that, there are a lot of great opportunities locally, and we don’t want to reproduce what is being done elsewhere. We want to present events that are diverse in every sense, though audience engagement is a common theme.
What’s working? What’s not working?
We make a point of encouraging people to introduce themselves to someone they don’t know. We’ve been seeing the kind of connections we are hoping for, where the art is thought-provoking and afterwards people who just met each other are having in-depth conversations about it, not just small talk. One first time visitor who had recently moved to the Twin Cities said that it was fun and edifying, and even though she didn’t know anyone she felt right at home.
The gallery is intimate and we are having some space constraints. We don’t do tickets, so we’re struggling with how to address that issue. It’s not a formal performance space – more living room theatre style performance. We love the informality of it but we also don’t want to turn anyone away.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
We talk a lot about being an arts incubator. We hope to be the kind of place that gives promising emerging artists a break, pushes established artists to do something new, encourages interaction within our inner city neighborhood, moves artists out of their comfort zones, and inspires collaboration across genre and medium.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
A consortium of local leaders including Pillsbury House + Theatre, which is three blocks from us, got an ArtPlace grant to do 20 public art projects in one year along a ten block stretch of Chicago Avenue that includes our gallery. Both Wing Young Huie and Gallery Director Stephanie Rogers are among the artists working on projects. We can’t wait to see the impact that has on our neighborhoods and the artistic community here!
Images courtesy of The Third Place. Photos by Wing Young Huie unless otherwise noted.