I met with Běěh Becvar and Secura Hatch in their living room-cum-office to talk to them about their Rocket Grant funded project, Glass Box (2019 grant recipient). Běěh and Secura are both video installation artists and collaborators in a video production company, Lost Thought Productions.
The pair envision a mobile arts space set in the cargo area of a box truck that will provide opportunities for artists. They already have six artists slated to exhibit once the project begins. While Secura’s six-month old puppy gamboled around the room scattering the stuffing of a toy, we talked about the changing state of Kansas City’s DIY arts scene and the challenges facing Glass Box.
Secura: Initially we had actually talked to a couple of DIY arts spaces about partnering, but then right after that a lot of spaces started rapid fire closing.
Drea: So you had planned to partner with arts spaces as well as with individual artists?
Secura: Right. The Glass Box is a community-facing thing meant serve the KC arts community. We were really hoping to get established spaces involved with it. It’s been disheartening because it really shows the climate of the arts scene, but at the same time it shows how important a project like this is right now.
Drea: Do you feel an added responsibility to get this project going because of that?
Běěh: I don’t think we feel responsible in a savior-y sense, but just a responsibility of doing this the right way. We could realistically start right now if we really, really wanted to. We could go out and buy a $200 box truck or something and just start.
Drea: $200? Is that how much they cost??
Běěh: I pulled that number out of my ass. But the pressure is more in making sure that this is going to be sustainable. It’s true that DIY spaces don’t exist forever, but when so many places closed in a span of months, we knew it wasn’t incidental. People are being priced out. A big difference between Glass Box and other DIY spaces is that we will own the space and won’t have to pay rent to anybody.
Secura: The whole project was a challenge to the direction that the city has gone in terms of making rent impossible, making access to resources difficult, and not providing artists incentives to remain in Kansas City. The city is now designed in a way that doesn’t allow artists to really thrive. And this was our reaction to that. We felt we had to build our own space and it had to be a space that no one else could control but us.
Drea: You’re speaking to the idea of DIY art spaces in particular as important. There are institutions like art museums in town and those institutions do provide some support. But there’s gatekeeping and also ethical questions of how those institutions are funded. There’s the controversy with the Kemper’s connection with UMB, for example. I think it’s important to ask how these art institutions are financially beholden to other interests. Artists and arts communities care about that.
Secura: Having a DIY space allows you to control the ethics of that space. You know who runs the space, you know who’s in charge. The community will hold you accountable. We also feel that the establishment institutions in town are not taking chances on up-and-coming artists, especially the femme and Queer artists, and artists of color we are working with. It’s not like there aren’t any Queer artists of color who have opportunities, but far fewer than there should be.
Běěh: We have to get more creative about where our money comes from and having a DIY space allows the means of fundraising to be more diverse. One of our ideas is for people and businesses to donate physical materials rather than giving us money. We know how our Rocket Grant was funded, but we’ve applied to other grants where we didn’t know the source of the funding.
Drea: Let’s talk about the funding. So you guys got the Rocket Grant in May. Was that the first grant that you guys applied to? To kind of see if this thing had legs and if people responded to it and would be willing to fund it?
Secura: First we applied for a couple small ones, but we hadn’t fully fleshed out the idea until we applied for the Rocket Grant. We had to sit down and ask ourselves if we were serious about this. Here was our idea, but were we ready to do it? The Rocket Grant was the one thing where we thought, Okay we’ll just do it. Let’s just do it. Let’s see. Can’t hurt.
Běěh: I actually think it wasn’t getting the money that gave us the legs, it was the process of applying for it and having to go through all of those steps and having to really consider each aspect of it. Then we got lucky: we got the Rocket Grant. But that’s the only money we have right now.
Drea: What questions did you have to ask and answer through that process?
Běěh: We had to think beyond just putting artists in a U-Haul. What are the logistics of building out the interior and making it into a gallery? How much does that cost? What kind of materials do we need? Is that gonna affect the way that we’re able to move the truck? Can we put however many hundred pounds of wood in the back of it? Those kinds of things.
Secura: There’s so many aspects of it. What are we gonna do for insulation? Are we going to do generators? Are we going to do LED lights? Are they battery powered? The to-do list just kept growing. At the end of that process we thought, Yeah, Rocket Grant could be enough to cover it. But now it’s like, no, not even.
Drea: Did you guys consult with anyone else about logistics?
Běěh: We mostly just figured it out through a lot of research. We’ve had some experience with building things, so we know the basics of the types of materials we would need. As installation artists we’re able to to picture ourselves in a space. We know what questions we need to ask logistically. We drew this tape line here on the living room floor that’s the size of the interior of the box truck to try to visual the area we’re working in. We watched a four-hour video of some Canadian guy making walls in a basement. We have also been considering the artists we want to work with, and what their specific needs are. For example one of artists, Paige Gordon’s initial idea was to plaster the walls with ladybugs, which would probably destroy them. We spent a lot of time studying our artists’ work.
Drea: Where are you guys now in terms of how much money you have versus how much money you need percentage wise?
Běěh: Our budget has grown dramatically. We’ve realized that our original idea of buying a truck for $2,000 probably wasn’t smart because a truck that cheap probably won’t last long. We’ve applied to some bigger grants, but at this point percentage-wise we have the $5,000 from the Rocket Grant which is a fourth of what we actually need.
Drea: And you haven’t touched it yet be you need all this other funding to really get the project going?
Secura: We’re thinking about using some of the Rocket Grant money to put on a fundraiser to show people what the project could actually be, to do a test run essentially. We would rent a box truck for that. All of our fundraiser ideas are ways to extend the project and give artists a space while we’re also raising money for the permanent box truck.
Běěh: We’re also going to continue to keep applying for grants. It’s almost passive at this point because we’ve already done all of the work of putting together an application, we’re just sending it out.
Drea: How many grants have you applied to so far?
Běěh: Six altogether, including Rocket Grant. And a few other small ones here and there.
Drea: Are you waiting to hear back from anyone?
Běěh: I think there’s only one that hasn’t gotten back yet. Most of them were just like, Fuck you, you guys are terrible humans.
Secura: No they weren’t!
Běěh: But that’s how it feels!
Drea: Can you talk about the lofty, ideal vision of this project?
Běěh: Ideally Glass Box is a gallery that has rotating artists making installation-based and experiential work. Because it’s mobile we will be able to take it to different parts of the city, including places outside of the Arts District. We will also have a series of micro-documentaries about each artist, documenting their process of installing in our space. We want to screen them in the truck as well, making it a micro-theater.
Secura: When thinking about the project as a whole, we want it to be something that can be easily transformable and easily transportable. We do understand the inevitability of the death of the project, but the video aspect is meant to be archival. In marking these milestones with video, it will live on. It will advocate for DIY spaces by illustrating the impact they can have even after they cease to exist.
Drea: How does it feel to be in limbo with the status of the project?
Secura: I’m really anxious to get moving. I really want to start doing things. I want to get the donation wishlist together and start promoting it. I want to start sending things out. I want to start the fundraisers. I want to do all of that right now. But it’s just a matter of patience. We’ve had to do a lot of restructuring over the last few months. Over the summer we took a hiatus and when we came back it was with the understanding that things needed to be more foolproof. There needed to be protocol put in place for future problems. Like what happens if we disagree about the Glass Box project? What happens when one of us doesn’t want to do it anymore? We spent a lot of time over the last few months writing out agreements about how we’re going to deal with conflict. That’s not to say that there is that looming threat, it’s just the reality of the situation. I want to be able to address that because not only have we worked really hard on Glass Box, but we’ve been in this partnership for going on three years now. We’re just trying really hard to make sure that all of our bases are covered so we can take that next step forward.
Drea: You two have multiple sorts of relationships with each other as friends and roommates and collaborators with the production company and then collaborators with Glass Box. You can’t rely on just being friends to deal with conflict.
Secura: Exactly. This is something that we both care a lot about. We spend a lot of time making sure that we can have this relationship long term. There’s a lot of moving parts and other people involved besides the two of us.
Běěh: We were always serious about what we were doing, but now with support from Charlotte Street it feels like there’s more accountability injected into the project.
Secura: I think we really thrive off of that.
Drea: How are you guys continuing to plan in a state of limbo?
Secura: We have bi-monthly meetings. Right now our meetings have been centralized in the fundraising sphere of things because that’s clearly going to be the next thing that we do. So there is a lot of planning going on as far as how we’re going to make those things happen.
Drea: Is there going to reach a point in time where you’re going to just have to do it even without your full funding?
Secura: I think we’re right on the edge of that. At some point we’ll just have to use five grand from the Rocket Grant, bite the bullet, and go buy a fucking truck. What do you think, Běěh?
Běěh: As soon as the box truck parked in the backyard like we’ve always been dreaming about, we will be on a roll, even if we don’t have all the money we need. That will really be the big turning point, and after that nothing can stop us.
Drea DiCarlo, November 2019