Julia Greenway, the Director of Interstitial in Seattle, WA, on the challenge of being an early-career artist in Seattle.
This article originally appeared on Creators.
As part of 50 States of Art, Creators is inviting artists to contribute first person accounts of what it is like to live and create in their communities. Julia Greenway is the Director of Interstitial, a "space between the studio and the commercial gallery for artists to explore ideas related to the creation and consumption of new media," in Seattle, WA.
Five years ago, I relocated to Seattle from Michigan. I was a painter back then, and feeling that my creative practice needed to change. I hated sitting in my studio all alone; it absolutely wasn't for me. I felt curation allowed more room for personal experimentation and gave me the opportunity to be socially connected with my community. At the time, there were no dedicated spaces for new media art in the city. Local artists did not have exhibition outlets for their work, and our arts community didn't really know how to engage with video and new media art. It was clear that there was a void to be filled.
Interstitial, the gallery where I am director and curator, was founded in 2010 by Kira Burge and Julia Bruk. I was brought on in 2011 and began curating pop-up exhibitions at various established venues within the region before opening a brick and mortar space in 2015. The gallery, located in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood, exists as a platform for artists to realize personal, large-scale, interdisciplinary work that would not otherwise fit within commercial galleries.
Holding space for ephemeral new media experiences in Seattle is both rewarding and complex. Like many cities across the country, ours is changing at an incredible rate. We have international tech corporations based here, causing huge bursts of development and gentrification. The city already has a reputation for being a white, upper-middle class monoculture. As a result many Seattleites, even those who haven't lived here for long, experience a sense of loss and placelessness. With the relentless focus on corporate media and technology, our art community often feels stagnant and left behind.
This is not from lack of talent. We have amazing younger artists working in digital mediums. The University of Washington and Cornish College of Art have rigorous instruction in photomedia and other tech-based programs. Yet there are only so many exhibition outlets for an early-career artist in Seattle. You can show with me at Interstitial or maybe you'll get an opportunity with Glass Box or SOIL art collective, and possibly a few other venues. But a commercial gallery isn't likely to pick you up. Unless you're a massive success elsewhere, larger institutions aren't going to give a shit about you; and then that's it. Young talented artists that have been fostered in Seattle are moving to LA or New York, where there are so many more opportunities to flourish.
I recognize that this isn't the most positive narrative, and it's not all negative. I'm fortunate to share a building with two other innovative, politically engaged galleries: Bridge Productions and The Alice Gallery. I'm grateful to have these strong supportive colleagues around me to fight that good fight. At the end of the day it's about the cultivation of a younger, more diversified community of artists and curators who can guide the future of our arts culture in Seattle. I'm here, doing the best work I know how to do. And I'll continue to be here sitting at Interstitial during gallery hours, probably overdressed, and willing to hand you a can of Rainier and talk to you about why this work matters.
Click here to visit Interstitial's website.