Friday, August 13, 2010

Gallery Perspective: Christian Pitt from MAINSITE Contemporary (2 of 2)

Organizing exhibitions and mentoring artists, Christian Pitt has been the Managing Director of MAINSITE Contemporary Art since 2003.  This is the second of a two-part interview.  See the first post here.
Joshua Meier, Perhaps This Time, Silver gelatin photograph, 9”x11.5”
Q: In what ways do you communicate/work with artists after you’ve scheduled an exhibition? 

CP: Typically, I give them a list of deadlines when we schedule the exhibition. This is a list of dates we have for getting their invitations to the printers or press releases out in time to be included in different publications and other obligations. I encourage them to write an artist statement and sometimes need to assist in the editing of that. I visit the studio to see that the work is progressing, or to choose work for the show from the artist's existing work. I facilitate framing deadlines and assist in picking up that work and arrange for transport of the work to the gallery from the artist's studio. Sometimes I find myself organizing surprise gifts for the artists from loved ones to congratulate them on their accomplishment of the exhibit.

I think in a nutshell though I act as support in whatever way I can to make the exhibition process as smooth as possible for the artist. It can be stressful- installations don't always pan out, frames don't always fit, prints aren't always perfect, and I think it is very important to communicate as closely as possible with the artist to circumnavigate any issues and encourage the artist in a way that makes them feel that no matter what adversities, the exhibition will be wonderful and that the main reason we decided to show them is because we believe in them. That is the most important communication to convey.
MAINSITE Contemporary Art gallery space
Q: What do you think has changed about the art scene in Oklahoma and/or Norman since you have started working at Mainsite?

I really credit the biggest change in our Oklahoma art scene over the past decade with the move of the OKCMoA to the Center Theater building. I think that because of that many smaller entities were able to be taken seriously and it put a nationally professional face on the arts in Oklahoma.

MAINSITE at its beginning was unique because of its Contemporary art focus, and because it is a for profit entity.  I think this opened a door to a new way to see the arts in Oklahoma. When I started working at MAINSITE I was awe struck by the amount of wonderful artists that we represented. I also noticed that MAINSITE was part of a very small group of galleries and arts organizations. During the past 7-8 years both of those numbers have changed tremendously with the added bonus of explosions of new arts districts. This has also given rise to the possibility of an individual to make a living as an independent curator due to the amount of possibilities for exhibition spaces. Artists are prevalent now and that creates a more diverse culture for Oklahoma, a renaissance feeling so to speak. I love that now any weekend you can find about 5 or 6 things to see or do in the arts in Oklahoma. i think that is the biggest visible change.

Q: How does your work as an artist inform your role as gallerist or curator and vice versa? 

CP: I think as an artist I have knowledge of process that can be valuable in sales in the gallery- I can tell collectors or potential buyers about the way the artist made a work usually because I have actually done something similar or seen another artist do something similar. I also think that because of my art school training I use my learned aesthetic to decide how or what will hang in the gallery or in what way the artists are combined. I enjoy a mind puzzle and play is very important in my own art work and I hope that I infuse the gallery with that lightness of being.

See a more personal feature of Pitt, her artwork and videos.
MAINSITE Contemporary is open Wednesday-Saturday 11:30- 5:00pm, the 2nd Friday of each month 6-10pm, and by appointment. The photography exhibition opens with a reception this Friday, August 13, 6-10 pm. 

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