Co-Curators Cambria Potter and Hannah Lodwick, in conversation about the 50/50 Gallery with Digital Archivist Chris Daharsh, and Mary Rogers from the Kansas City Design Center.
Link to video
An alternative gallery space in form and function
Cambria: 50/50 is a platform for fostering progressive dialogues. We feature both emerging national and local artists. We have six exhibitions a year and six billboards, as well as a lecture series and digital archive… We also have a gallery built out of shipping containers, and that is the way we activate an unused parking lot.
We are located in the West Bottoms. Specifically, the Stockyards District of the West Bottoms, in Kansas City Missouri.
Chris: I think that there’s a lot of different outlets for art here, but to have… an outlet that maybe shows artists that other places don’t normally show, or voices that aren’t normally heard… We like to deal with that and so far each of our exhibitions has been a half local and half national. And so we try to bring in new voices when also… uplifting some voices here that haven’t been heard.
The whole project was built through partnership and collaboration
Cambria: The Rocket Grant was our first funding and our seed money to really… push our ideas forward, and so with that it’s really what opened the can of worms for collaboration… Because it is more than an idea, it takes, you know, a village in order to see something like this from start to finish.
50/50 has received a lot of support from our immediate community, and one of our huge, huge supporters is Bill Haw who has donated our parking lot for a two-year time line.
Hannah: Our project… has engaged our community in a multitude of ways. In our immediate surroundings we engage the West Bottoms community, which has many different art galleries, including… Bill Haw and Plug Projects as well as Red Lady Gallery. We’ve also engaged the larger Kansas City community through having internships with the Kansas City Art Institute.
The value of 50/50 is itself being a collaborative team
Hannah: Our team is comprised of many different arts professionals. Myself and Cambria, and Chris and Wendy and Keller have all graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute and are all practicing artists. And we all have varying roles within 50/50.
Chris: And I would also say that… while we each bring something to the table in terms of… our own expertise in programming, or setting up the exhibition, or doing the lectures, or whatever it may be – I think also we’re all learning from this process. I’m learning about curation, I’m learning about prep work and shipping, and handling of artwork, even though that’s not my department – because we’re all working… in tandem.
Hannah: With friction, with differing ideas – especially in such a subjective realm of arts curating – comes a lot of beneficial opportunities to discuss… hard topics.
Chris: I think that we… provoke each other and have each other grow in different ways as a team. I think bouncing ideas off of each other is always both a challenge and… a good thing because it allows each of our ideas to grow incrementally…
Cambria: In order to see this project to fruition… there was a lot of collaboration in regards to the idea of design-build… we’ve worked with… the Kansas City Design Center – which is fourth and fifth year architecture students, and then we’ve also collaborated with Generator Studio who… helped us go through the city, and achieve getting our permits and having a structurally sound building…
So the Kansas City Design Center is known for putting out these really great… ambitious designs that are fulfilled and maybe not fulfilled, and so being able to say, well, at the end of this you actually get to see your ideas come to fruition I think was a huge opportunity for both parties… Mary and Christina, as well as Jacob were really the students that stood out when we came to the table with the idea.
Mary: So I know when they approached the Kansas City Design Center I was really excited… we typically… work with the city or people who are already established. … to have just someone from the community- artists – come, it was something totally different than what we are used to.
Rethinking vacant urban space
Mary: It’s definitely an idea that is becoming more popular – to use temporary projects to help infill the urban fabric… the West Bottoms site… is an empty parking lot for most of the year, and people come there usually just on one event a year.
Cambria: Artists can serve as catalysts in many ways. So in this particular lens, I think, viewing that idea of starting with a place as a motivation for what we could do with it… the West Bottoms… was identified for 50/50 specifically because it’s a non-residential area, so a lot of the businesses and anything that is occupying space there really it’s kind of temporary traffic – so it might be restaurants or, you know, these other galleries that are located there…
The shipping container being… prevalent… – the train tracks are, you know, just a couple yards away and you can see them – helped us to… afford a sense of… urban camouflage, really meshing with our environment.
Mary: And for people to come there and see that, it will help them to get thinking, you know, there [are] these things we can do with empty parking lots. It doesn’t always have to be empty urban spaces or have to be just there for a car.
Low overheads mean more support for participating artists
Cambria: The other thing is that they are cost effective. We found used shipping containers, and… considering a new way in which you can create a sustainable space and a sustainable project was really important to us from the start… We don’t have the overhead that comes with renting a space. We’re not paying an electric bill. We are completely off-grid and so this affords us a lot because all of our operational budget does go back to our immediate artist community through the form of stipends.
The importance of taking creative risks
Cambria: So talking about the design of the project and how
we could utilize shipping containers as an alternative building material was really, really beneficial to taking risks – and that’s something… we’ve mentioned a lot is this idea of risk taking – and how big you can really go without failing.
Hannah: It has been really beneficial to push yourself in ways that are uncomfortable and are ways that you are maybe afraid of doing… And that was very beneficial and very scary. But we did it! And I think that without collaboration and without our team we wouldn’t have been able to do so.
The Rocket Grant provide[d] 50/50 with the opportunity to take risks and support[ed] us in doing so.
Sensitivity to impact and future opportunity
Cambria: Looking to the future, I think, the nice thing about all of the work that we’ve done and the sweat that we’ve put into this project is that we have a new set of skills that [encourage us to] consider how either 50/50 grows or a new iteration is born out of the original idea.
It allows for us to think about a future in which maybe we are no longer situated on this lot. Maybe there’s another part of town we need to move our shipping container gallery to, to activate a different space in a different way.
That’s why 50/50 is temporary to begin with, is that it’s really significant to think about the ways in which maybe you have changed the community and what that community looks like two years down the line, and is it a community you’re still contributing to in the way that you originally intended – and if not what’s the next step? … we’re always thinking about the future and the ways in which we can continue to be an active voice in our community and not just become status quo…