Four years ago, friends and University of Guelph arts students Emily Pittman and Natalie Field had a vision: to create an online space where they could celebrate the art and artists they love while at the same time, giving artists a platform and the chance to make connections and learn practical skills to help them on their creative paths. From that vision, The Gathered Gallery was born.
The Gathered Gallery is so much more than a website. It is a creative community and support network that shines the spotlight on artists through interviews, reviews, features and digital residencies, while also offering online workshops, virtual studio visits and other resources for professional development. The current pandemic has helped spur one of their most ambitious projects yet. When art schools across the country were forced to cancel their graduate shows, Emily and Natalie launched “The Class of 2020,” which gives graduating arts students the opportunity to build community and showcase their work via a virtual gallery. For emerging artists, it’s opportunities like this that make all the difference.
Business & Arts NL recently caught up with Emily (located in St. John’s) and Natalie (Toronto) to talk about The Gathered Gallery’s mission and exciting new projects in the pipeline.
Business & Arts NL: The Gathered Gallery’s “Class of 2020” is an excellent concept! When did you launch this initiative and do you know about how long it will go on?
Emily & Natalie: At the beginning of March we spent a week in Guelph speaking to current students of the Studio Art Program, of which we are alumni. With only a month until their classes were to be completed, most students were excited to hang their work in their final class shows and participate in the oldest student-run juried art show in Canada.
We launched the Class of 2020 on March 14th after learning that the Juried Art Show at the University of Guelph had been cancelled. Every art school across Canada was also cancelling student events, including graduation shows and celebrations. This was an opportunity for us to give back to the graduating class and provide a platform to showcase their hard work. While it is by no means the equivalent of a final exhibition in a gallery space, it’s a way we can show our support.
We will be accepting and sharing submissions for the Class of 2020 until September, when the new graduating class of 2021 begin their school year.
Business & Arts NL: Can you give me an idea of how many artists have availed of this opportunity and how it’s been received overall?
E & N: So far we’ve received over 40 submissions from Canadian art schools across the country. Each time we share a student’s work it is met with appreciation and support, showing us that this showcase is needed and valued.
Business & Arts NL: The digital artist-in-residence program is also very cool and of course, very fitting for the moment. Do you have an artist chosen for summer 2020? Besides the chance to be introspective and having a virtual space to think and write about their work, what else do you hope artists will take from this experience?
E & N: We’ve been running our digital artist-in-residence program since 2018 and highlight three artists a year through this program. We have picked our artist for the summer of 2020, but we’ll let that be a surprise!
By having a dedicated page on our website, artists are able to share a unique look into their practice and insight into the work. We enjoy following along with the artist and learning about their process as much as our community does!
Business & Arts NL: I understand you’re also launching a new service for artists. Can you tell us a bit about that?
E & N: Since 2020 began we’ve been reflecting on the experience of leaving art school and building an art career, a process that is unclear and often lonely. As well as launching the Class of 2020, we have been offering virtual studio visits for artists to curb some of the isolation we are all feeling in the current climate. We realized that having even one person who sees your work, supports your progress, and cheers you on is crucial for a thriving art practice, and so many of the artists we spoke with emphasized a lack of connection and community in their own creative life.
In response to the feedback from artists, we decided to create a virtual critique group called Studio Mates. With a focus on kind feedback and support, these small groups will be accessible to artists wherever they are and create accountability and community. Studio Mates will use Google Docs as a “Virtual Crit Wall” and group Zoom meetings to turn feedback into creative friendship.
This service will be launched soon and artists who are interested can sign our interest form on our website at https://www.thegatheredgallery.com/studiomates.
Business & Arts NL: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
E & N: The Gathered Gallery has three main goals: to give artists connections and opportunities to be seen and heard, to build a community with our peers, and to help artists gain practical skills and knowledge to navigate the world of being a professional artist. It is run remotely in two locations, with Natalie in Toronto, ON and Emily in St. John’s, NL.
We strive to build a gathering of artists that are consistently hitting the sweet spot of creative success through kindness, curiosity and commitment.
At the end of June we have the next in a series of online professional development workshops coming up! The workshops are called Trade Secrets to play on the exchange of career-building knowledge that often feels exclusive and inaccessible in the art world, such as writing a grant. The upcoming topic is all about artist residencies: how to get them, how to make the most of them, and how to run them. The workshop will be led by Spark Box Studio, a duo that runs an incredible residency in Prince Edward County, ON.
The workshop is on June 23 at 7:00 pm EST (8:30 pm NL). It is hosted on Zoom and artists can sign up at https://www.thegatheredgallery.com/workshops.