Impractical Spaces involves a symposium and a publication organized by Melaney Ann Mitchell and Cory Imig focused on the history and impact of artist-run spaces in Kansas City.
Artist-run spaces are galleries and collectives run by artists that provide alternatives to established institutions and commercial galleries of a city. These spaces respond directly to the needs of the local arts community. They are some of the deepest advocates for alternative practices, working with shoestring budgets to create contexts for and conversations about what artists are exploring. They are rich in risk, advocate for the sticky, the uncomfortable, the experimental, and the avant-garde. Kansas City’s art history is dependent upon them. Because of their DIY nature, and small budgets, the documentation of these spaces often falls short or remains ephemeral. Through conducting extensive research, hosting a symposium, and printing this free limited-run publication, Melaney and Cory would like to honor these Impractical Spaces and their impact.
This project is also a partnership with the national Impractical Spaces project, which is a collaboration between Art F City and Beyond Alternatives. The national project aims to document the history of artist-run spaces in at least 50 cities across the United States. Because the KC Edition of this project will be one of the first to be completed it will contextualize Kansas City within a larger national conversation about these types of spaces, as well as set a precedent and highlight the Kansas City art scene. Through associated public programming and the subsequent publication, Melaney and Cory will create an historical object with lasting effect, and develop a scalable strategy for archiving these types of spaces and their impacts.
Previous publications, such as The Phonebook (produced by Three Walls in Chicago) have showcased an overview of the current national scope of artist-run spaces. Impractical Spaces will dive deep into their larger socio-cultural impact by establishing a symposium at its core to invite community engagement. The team hopes to record stories, gather ephemera, and provide a platform for conversations – featuring both artists who currently run spaces and those who have done so in the past. The symposium will also include panel discussions with current and former artist-run space leaders, and both lectures and workshops from Impractical Spaces national editorial partners Paddy Johnson (Art F City) and Dulcee Boehm (Beyond Alternatives).
The symposium will feature a curated display of ephemera: postcards, posters, letters, images, press clippings, and other leftovers from collective work. The walls will create an intentional space to honor pre-internet archives, and these materials will then be documented for use in the publication. Such memory traces will be augmented by published interviews and commissioned essays that will discuss the development of the Kansas City artist community and the impact of alternative spaces. Impractical Spaces aims to foster dialogues about these histories, bring awareness to already existing archives (such as the CSF Living Archive), and provide a platform for the current artist-run community to engage and grow from the experimentation and lessons from the past.
At the intersection between cataloguing the history of the artist-run movement and interactive public programming, Impractical Spaces hopes to inspire and grow future spaces that will respond to Kansas City’s unique environment.
Melaney Ann Mitchell is an artist, writer, and organizer based in KC, MO. Mitchell is a current studio resident at The Drugstore in midtown. She was the Founder and Senior Editor of Informality Blog, an online arts criticism platform for documenting the conversation about Kansas City contemporary art and culture, where she remains an Editor at Large. In addition, she was a Co-Director/Curator at PLUG Projects (2016-2017) and the Director of Subterranean Gallery (2012-2015). Her curatorial, writing, and visual art practices all revolve around the intersection of our lives with digital culture and its impact on our identities.
Cory Imig is an artist, educator and arts administrator based in the Midwest. Her work takes the form of large-scale installations that alter spaces physically, visually, and temporally. Cory has exhibited in numerous exhibitions across the United States, in spaces such as Savannah College of Art and Design, Museum of Art and Southwest School of Art (San Antonio) as well as attended residencies at Art Omi International Art Center and ACRE. In addition to her studio practice, she is a founding member of PLUG Projects (2011), a curatorial collaboration in the Stockyards District of Kansas City, as well as Say Uncle (2015), a nomadic residency and exhibition program. She is currently co-director of Beyond Alternatives, a symposium that focuses on artist-led organizing outside of large metropolitan areas and co-editor of Impractical Spaces a forthcoming book documenting the artist-run community across the United States.
IMPRACTICAL SPACES is a collaborative national project and groundbreaking anthology of publications that offer an historical look at defunct artist-run projects throughout the United States in small to mid-sized cities. This seven-year project will engage at least fifty cities in fifty states with the intent of assembling all publications for distribution in the form of a book charting the national significance of the artist-run scene.
IMPRACTICAL SPACES is a joint partnership between Art F City and Beyond Alternatives. This project builds connections with artists and regions that are functioning outside of traditionally defined art contexts while working to broaden the definition of that context.
Founded in 2005, Art F City’s more than 15-year history focusing on the liminal spaces artists occupy demonstrates its dedication to artist-run spaces. Recent projects include Stay In New York (2015), a conference held at the Queens Museum that included a resource center that connected artists with non-profit organizations, and a full day of panels discussing gentrification and studio affordability. Geographically Indeterminate Fantasies, an exhibition launched with Providence College explored how shrinking public space and affordable spaces impacted the art of animated GIF makers.
Beyond Alternatives focuses on bringing together artists and organizers outside of large metropolitan areas. The first iteration, which took place in April 2018 in Central Illinois, emerged naturally from visiting and spending time in the region. The landscape became distinct, revealing small art communities in cities scattered throughout the state. Beyond Alternatives aspires to have a critical conversation that is open to the specificity of place, sustaining both the challenges and opportunities those places present to artists.