If artwork could get motion sickness, two of the first exhibits at downtown Waco’s Cultivate 7twelve gallery likely could qualify for some Dramamine.
The Art Center of Waco’s show “This, That or The Other: Considering the Emerging Trends and Vernacular in Photography,” was originally set to open last week at the center at McLennan Community College but ended up debuting in ground floor and second floor spaces at Cultivate 7twelve.
The student part of the show, displayed in a second floor room, was shelved after opening weekend because of space considerations, making way for the exhibition’s professional part, which moved upstairs.
To make room for “This, That or The Other,” Cultivate 7twelve took down its first art show, ”Transformation,” days after it opened, then returned “Transformation” art back to its first-floor walls starting last weekend. Cultivate 7twelve’s gift shop also disappeared briefly during “This, That Or The Other’s” Oct. 13 reception, returning over the weekend.
This weekend finds both art shows in place for the remainder of their runs, which end Oct. 28.
The moves, however, left a few Waco artists more uneasy than queasy, bothered by a last-minute switch of “Transformation” that they felt hadn’t been communicated sufficiently and which they believed violated the gallery’s part of their exhibition contracts.
Other groups praised gallery owner Rebekah Hagman for her willingness to provide exhibition space for the Art Center of Waco after discovery of a structural problem in the art center building forced its evacuation a scant two weeks before “This, That or The Other” was to open.
“This week saw a small miracle with big-picture repercussions for Waco’s reputation as a community with a vibrant, connected and welcoming community of artists and arts professionals,” the Waco arts nonprofit Creative Waco posted on its blog last week.
Art Center of Waco director Meg Gilbert agreed with the sentiment.
“Thankfully, Rebekah in Cultivate 7twelve was so gracious,” Gilbert said.
“This, That Or The Other” features photographic works from 33 artists in a juried show by the Society for Photographic Education — South Central. The show was being displayed in conjunction with the SPE regional conference, which covers a seven-state area, held last week at Baylor University. The photographic exhibit’s reception, attended by several hundred people, was part of the conference schedule.
Hagman, who co-owns the gallery with her husband Jeremy, said she decided to accommodate the Art Center of Waco show as an effort to help the larger Waco arts community.
“I felt it was in line with our vision in elevating Waco culture,” she said. “On one side, I totally understand those artists who felt it was the best chance to have their work seen and sold. … (But) for the greater arts community, it was a step in the right direction.”
Some Waco artists in the “Transformation” show found out about the move indirectly, however, through a mention in the Art Center of Waco newsletter.
“At this point, the biggest thing is we were not informed,” painter Mark Kieran said. “I felt they were hoping we weren’t going to notice.”
Compounding the issue for others was the timing of the move, with the Art Center of Waco show opening during Silobration weekend, an event by Magnolia Market at the Silos expected to draw some 20,000 to 30,000 tourists to town.
Artist Susan Sistrunk had created extra prints of her painting of the Silos in anticipation of Silobration, then heard “Transformation” would not be on display that weekend.
“The biggest weekend in Waco, and our art is in a closet somewhere,” Sistrunk said.
For Sistrunk, the change violated the exhibition contract between artist and gallery, which holds both parties to show the agreed-upon works for a specific range of dates, she said.
“It was something I have never encountered in 20 years as an artist,” she said.
Gilbert, whose Art Center office and staff temporarily occupy a second-floor space at Cultivate 7twelve, said center, gallery and Baylor volunteers worked to minimize the 7twelve artists’ displacement, starting to put “Transformation” pieces back on their first-floor walls the morning after the reception.
Kieran, however, refused to let his work go back up in protest.
“If they would have sent an email to ask if we would agree to it, I would have been fine with it,” he said.
Two other artists admitted they were conflicted about continuing in the show. Some noted that Waco’s limited gallery space for local artists to show and sell their work heightened the emotions some felt about the exhibition moves.
Not all participating artists felt a red line had been crossed.
Waco artist Marsha Wilson, whose specialty is finely detailed wood burning, said the days during which the exhibits were in transition were a little turbulent, but ultimately for a good cause.
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but we’ve survived,” said Wilson, who works in a second-floor studio at Cultivate 7twelve. “I think it’s been good for everybody. It’s nice to see businesses open their doors for others.”
Hagman regretted the hurt feelings the exhibit switchovers may have caused and said she would work toward repairing any damaged relationship between Cultivate 7twelve and artists.
“I look forward to earning the trust of the art community here,” she said.
A new Cultivate 7twelve exhibit will go up Nov. 3 with the downtown arts space holding a formal Grand Opening on Dec. 1.