Two years ago Anthony B. Creeden & Julia V. Hendrickson started the house gallery Permanent.Collection on the bustling East Side of Austin. Since then, Permanent.Collection has presented seven exhibitions pairing artists from Texas with artists from Creeden and Hendrickson’s last home, Chicago. With a strong belief in the platform of experimental spaces and the power of connecting artists based in disparate places, Permanent.Collection has proven to be an incredibly important presence in the Austin arts community.
How did Permanent.Collection begin and evolve over the past two years?
We (Anthony B. Creeden & Julia V. Hendrickson) came to Austin in 2014 with the intention to start an apartment gallery. We moved from Chicago, a city that has a long history of apartment galleries and DIY artist-run spaces, and we wanted to bring that here and share it with Austin, which has so many great parallels with Chicago already. The mission, or the idea, behind Permanent.Collection was always to pair up and connect an artist we knew of back in Chicago with an artist we met here in Texas. Two person shows. We haven’t changed the purpose of the space over time, but we’re glad to constantly expand the networks of artists around Texas whom we meet.
The gallery is so interwoven with your domestic space- how does this affect the choices that are made in terms of the artists and work shown?
We choose artists we respect and want to work with, and who make sense together. We don’t necessarily chose artists who make work about domesticity, and the domestic aspect of our space affects the shows as much or as little as the artists want it to. We don’t try to hide the fact that this is an actively lived-in place, but we also can make (the living room at least) a reasonably neutral space to show artwork. The furniture goes away, it’s just a room with some track lighting. But of course, where we are now, it is a quirky old house, with cream, mottled walls, and a brown patterned linoleum floor, and there are barely any right angles anywhere. So that’s a part of how we introduce the space to artists we work with.
However, although we didn’t know this going in, we’ve had a handful of artists whose work ended up playing really well in a domestic space. Our current exhibition features work by Houston-based artist Francesca Fuchs, who creates these beautiful paintings based on memories of other visual artwork from in and around her home, and the homes of her friends and family. Last spring we exhibited a piece by Chicago-based artist Sara Condo last spring—a video shot through a train window as she traveled cross-country—and we installed it as a reverse projection on our back porch, so you could sit in the kitchen and watch the video through the kitchen window, as if you were also on a train. And earlier this year, Chicago-based artist Lauren Anderson really took up the challenge of the house with a great sense of humor: she sewed a gigantic 8 by 8 by 4 foot tote bag, and we stored all of our living room furniture inside it, in the middle of the room, for the duration of the exhibition. It was awesome.
What is the place for apartment galleries/alternative spaces in contemporary art discourse? Chicago seems to have spearheaded this movement, how does Austin fit in?
We really view apartment galleries, and spaces like them, as providing avenues for experimentation. For flexibility and openness. In our case, we consider it to be a different platform than commercial galleries or museums can provide. It’s a space for artists to try out new ideas, to make work that might not be flashy or big or profit-driven.
It provides a different context for viewers, too. When you come over, it’s a welcoming environment and we’re inviting you in; it’s about community and a friendly atmosphere. The music scene in Austin really allows for this, promotes it, so we try to connect this to the visual arts as well. We try to make it a supportive space across the board.
The idea of the gallery as an “archive of simultaneity” is fascinating. How does this manifest?
This gets at two of our favorite things! We’re fascinated by archives, especially in relation to smaller spaces like ours that may or may not be fleeting, with a relatively short lifespan (depending on how long our lives allow us to keep it going). The name, the font we chose for the logo, the black and white imagery we use, the numbering systems—it all points to a traditional way of archiving and documenting artwork, but it’s of course tongue-in-cheek because we’re not permanent, this isn’t a collection. But, what we do want to capture and archive is our perspective on this current moment in contemporary art. That’s what we mean by “simultaneity.” To highlight artists in two different cities, thousands of miles away, who might be thinking about the same things, dealing with the same issues, have a kind of kinship with one another.
What future do you see for the arts in Austin and Permanent.Collection?
It’s really going to be about sustaining energy and activism, and retaining a collective community memory of all of the fabulous projects artists in Austin get into on a weekly basis. Going back to the idea of archives, Threewalls in Chicago has been publishing this epic collection of artist-run spaces called PHONEBOOK. Over the last year or so, in a similar vein, Conflict of Interest has been doing a great job documenting the local arts and lit scene(s).
It’s a really fascinating time to be in the arts in Austin. It’s hard to know, with all the commercial and real estate development popping up left and right, what will happen for the arts here specifically. But we’re hopeful that there will still be opportunities and spaces that encourage art to be made and artists to push themselves. Affordable housing and studio space is going to be a huge part of that, but there are definitely folks working to make this happen on the ground level. As far as Permanent.Collection goes, we’re conscious of the fact that we may not always be in the same space, but we are very open to growing and changing with the circumstances around us. The nice thing about the format we’ve set up is that Permanent.Collection can happen anywhere. We can make connections with artists in two different cities anywhere. And the simultaneity of it, that is something that we’re always going to pay attention to. That is the joy and the challenge that keeps us interested.