There’s a whisper of excitement growing amongst some of the visual artists in Birmingham!
A new artist-run gallery, Ground Floor Contemporary Gallery, will open its doors to the public for its first show on July 14th at the 21st Street Studios building. The 21st Street Studios has been a haven for creative individuals for over 30 years. Bought by artist Sara Garden Armstrong in 1979, much of the space was opened up in 1982 as studios for area artists. Since then over 90 artists have taken advantage of the opportunity to make and create in the facility.
The new gallery is on the first floor on the site of a former beauty parlor, behind which more studios have been added, making the whole building fully dedicated to the creation of art. As building owner, visual artist, and gallery member Armstrong says of the gallery space, “I have thought about it because I have wanted the building to be completely art for a very long time, since art is really what I care about so much.”
Fellow artist Elizabeth Marie Farr will tell you quickly that she suggested the first floor gallery idea three years ago, but persuading building owner Armstrong took a few more suggestions and nudges from other studio artists. Once the idea was formed the process of creating the gallery began with the gusto and energy that only artists can bring to a project. The planning of the gallery had begun with a meeting in the first floor space while it was still a beauty parlor. Armstrong met with Lindsey Christina, Elisabeth Marie Farr, and Rae Trimmer to discuss the logistics of making the gallery and additional studio spaces work. With the departure of the beauty salon, enthusiasm grew for the new vision of the gallery. In quick succession walls went up and were painted.
The entrance to the Ground Floor Contemporary Gallery is located at 111 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. and is right next to the new Rotary Trail close to Railroad Park. With the area around it becoming more pedestrian friendly and the growth of weekend crowds, the gallery should see a fair amount of foot traffic. There will be monthly group shows to keep the exhibits on its walls fresh and new to the public. All members have the opportunity to show at least twice a year in addition to a full membership show every December.
The first meeting of the gallery members was held in the new space on April 10th, where several artists met each other for the first time and others got to reconnect with those they hadn’t seen in a while. Not all members of the gallery have studio space in the building, though most do. There is a diverse group of artists ranging from recent BFA graduates to those who graduated from UAB in the mid 1980s, and everyone works in a variety of mediums and styles. Some are full-time artists, while others balance additional careers, or are retired and following a second career path.
Artist member Anna Zoladz says of the gallery "I am so excited to start making work for Ground Floor. I know that it will motivate me to enter new territory and experiment with new approaches towards existing ideas. And I can't help but be so excited that we are all female artists! It is like a budding sisterhood of some sort. So many good things happen when you are working with other women--it is such a positive and fun dynamic.
The first show opening on July 14th will include artists Madeline Evans, Elizabeth Marie Farr, Barbra Hirschowitz, Rae Trimmier, and Ashley Wingo. The Ground Floor Contemporary Gallery will have a monthly rotation of artists with opening receptions on Thursday evenings.
Gallery Director and member artist Lindsey Christina, who was brought into the project early on, says of the gallery “It will become a place for Birmingham artists to be creative, show work, and build a strong community.” Christina will also curate two Director’s Shows each year where she will invite a guest artist or artists to exhibit, providing professional opportunities in the Birmingham area to other contemporary artists.
(As the July 14th opening date approaches we will introduce you to the individual artists who will be showing at the gallery throughout the year)