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How One Man Turned an Arkansas Garage into an International Art Gallery

Good Weather is a DIY space that brings artists from all over the world to North Little Rock, AR.

Beckett Mufson

Beckett Mufson

This article originally appeared on Creators.

Cruise down tree-lined Edgemere Road in North Little Rock, and you may unknowingly pass a garage that hides one of the city's most innovative art galleries. Good Weather is an open secret, invisible by day, but open to local artists, musicians, young collectors, and other Arkansans curious to see what experimental art founder Haynes Riley will choose to show.

Good Weather's offerings are mostly by Riley's friends from the Savannah College of Art and Design and Cranbrook Academy of Art, and the creators make themselves at home in the space. They scribble on the walls, sculpt laundry, or turn the whole room into a walk-in blue screen of death. Vallejo, CA-based artist Matthew Kerkhof parked a red, white, and blue car inside the space, harkening to its roots as a garage. Riley says his ideal collaborators are willing to create a dialogue and build relationships in both the art world and Little Rock. "They're someone I've met, had a studio visit, I'm interested in the practice, and has a bit of vulnerability. Someone that has room to grow through the exhibition, to develop," he explains.

Matthew Kerkhof, My Psychedelic American Dream Garage, 2016. Courtesy Good Weater

As a DIY space that serves international art to Little Rock's suburban audience, Good Weather is an anomaly. "Arkansas is a very rural state. There's a base of artwork that's been here since it was first being explored," Arkansas Art Council Director Patrick Ralston tells Creators. He adds that a healthy contemporary art market has grown over the past 50 years since corporations like Walmart set up headquarters in the state.

Riley describes Little Rock's mainstream art scene as dominated by contemporary Southern artists, regional artists, landscapes, geometric abstraction, smaller scale abstract expressionism, and neo-impressionism. "People come to Good Weather for conceptual, or maybe 'current' art," he says. "We're supporting emerging artists that are pursuing a lifelong practice that isn't necessarily focused on a market appeal."

The ability to focus on concepts, rather than cash is what has set Good Weather apart since its inception in 2011. "Riley is innovating and I'd like to see more people thinking the way he is," Ralston says. "Arkansas historically hasn't supported artists as a full-time occupation, but has supported them in niches. Being a guerrilla curator grants Riley that freedom."

Martha Mysko, It Was an OrdinaryDay, 2014. Courtesy Good Weather
Martha Mysko, It Was an Ordinary Day, 2014. Courtesy Good Weather

Good Weather started as a website, shortly after Riley earned his MFA in 2D Design. "On paper, I should have gone to New York City and become a graphic designer, but I wanted to become an artist," he says. "If I could accept moving home and teaching for a few years," he says, "I would have freedom."

In 2012 he cleared out his older brother Zach's garage and lined it with wooden two by fours, plywood, drywall, and paint. He replicated the Cranbrook Art Museum gallery where he installed his thesis, eschewing plain white paint for Lambert Sea Pearl Flat. All that's left of the original interior is the concrete floor, still oil stained from a previous resident's automobile. Artist Sarah Leflar, who exhibited there in 2014, describes Good Weather as an "elegant space that epitomizes whiteness and cubic-ness, while maintaining its conceptual base in garage-ness." The first show, Tony Garbarini's "cosmic nihilist" Shark Week paintings and sculptures, opened that October.

Now Riley splits his time between working in LA and living with his family in Arkansas, and in the process they've become a vital part of gallery. His mom and dad—a pharmacist and a corn dealer—two sisters, and two brothers all live in the area. Aside from Zach, who owns the Good Weather garage, Erin has become its de facto Associate Director, Riley's parents and younger brother regularly put up artists visiting from out of town, and Haynes's studio is at his sister Kelsey's place in West Helena. Only his twin, Hunter, lives out of state, running a hauling business in Chicago.

Sondra Perry, Netherrrrrr, 2016. Courtesy Good Weather

In 2015 Riley introduced Good Weather to the world outside Little Rock, building a market for his artists at fairs. First ARTBandini Los Angeles, then Material Art Fair and Rob Pruitt's Flea Market. In 2016 Good Weather joined the New Art Dealers Association and showed at their fairs alongside The Armory Show and Art Basel Miami.

New heights, unfortunately, lead to higher overhead. Living at home, Riley's costs were low, but new opportunities to promote and sell art cost him money. Travel, shipping, promotion, and booth space add up which is why, in 2018, Good Weather is going nomadic.

The specifics are still hazy. "Maybe I'll live in Detroit for a year," Riley says. But he's not alone. Good Weather will join the growing crowd of pop-up art organizations unmoored from a single geographic location, like 40Owls in Phoenix, SiTE:LAB in Grand Rapids, and Alt + Esc in New York, to name a few.

On September 22 Riley will install the garage's final artwork, a fresco. It will be permanent. "I could keep doing this forever and ever," Riley says. "But you need funding to grow."

Willie Wayne Smith, Loose Lips and Forgotten Lines, 2015. Courtesy Good Weather
Willie Wayne Smith, Loose Lips and Forgotten Lines, 2015. Courtesy Good Weather

Learn more about Good Weather on the official website.

All year, we're highlighting 50 States of Art projects around the United States. This month, we're covering Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana, and Arkansas. To learn more, click here .

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