werd: james niche
I'm a big art fan. I always love to see something new, something gritty and something different.
All too often in this town, we are confronted with overwhelming amounts of boring landscape pictures, flowers and pictures of random deer doing random things. I prefer a something with a sharp edge to it, something thought provoking, or, just something off the wall. I don't like playing safe.
The Gallery At Potential Life Studios has become the place for me to touch the "sharp edge" in Rochester art.
They pride themselves on the strange, the "avant garde" and the experimental as they showcase local art for artists on the "fringes, as owner Jeremy states.
They have been around for close to 2 years now and have been gaining steam as a strong leader in the First Fridays and art community.
If music is your thing, this a great spot to get that as well. They feature local and international "noise" artists weekly in their Output Noise segment on Sunday evenings.
Noise artists seem to have a hunger so fierce that they will travel hundreds of miles to play even the shortest sets. That must mean there is something very special in the air of there on Elton St.
One thing I really enjoy about the branding of their studio and philosophy is the imaging. The flier work and poster work is amazing. It's urban, fresh and has got that edge I keep talking about.
I sat down and spoke with Jeremy and Colleen, the husband and wife gallery partners that keep the studio alive weekly with fresh ideas and family like hospitality.
Here's what they had to say...
ACT:LIVE: What brought you to Rochester, NY from Pennsylvania, Jeremy?
I came up to go to RIT for graphic design. That’s what brought me up. I was born in Redding, Pennsylvania.
That’s also where I met Colleen, she was a photo student. We have also been active as creators of art, but wasn’t until we opened the gallery that we started giving Rochester artists that are kind of on the fringes a place to exhibit their art.
There’s a lot going on in Rochester, but not a lot that caters to the experimental or ‘avant garde’ artists.
ACT:LIVE: When did you open the gallery doors to the public?
Colleen: We had our first show was in July, 2007. We kicked off with a theme exhibit and a few noise bands.
Everyone in our building was like, “Uh, can you shut your doors, please?” (laughs)
Jeremy: The theme of the first show was based on origami pink elephants…the art was all focused on the details and process of creating these origami elephants. We did some photo shoots for those that are pretty bizarre.
The music portion of the opening was a noise production comprised of the actual sound effects gathered from the creasing and folding of the (origami) paper.
ACT:LIVE: What kind of exhibits and shows do you like to produce?
We have lots of different elements we like to explore. We have installation based art, performance art, audio and video as well. It’s a lot to pull together and organize.
ACT:LIVE: What’s the response been in the community from your experience?
Colleen: I think that the more people have heard about the gallery and what we are doing, the more they are into it.
Word of mouth has been everything for us. Both of us moved back to Rochester after two years, so we have had to build our social network back up and gather artists, but as we do the exhibits will expand more and more.
Jeremy: I think the word on the street is fairly strong. We hear from many people that want to come down and check out what we’re doing but haven’t been able to make it yet.
When they do make it down they are really into what we’re doing.
We would like to get out more and explore some of the other art spaces, on days like First Fridays, but having our own studio limits our time to get other places.
ACT:LIVE: Explain to our audience the space you are working with. (The gallery is located at 34 Elton St. on the first floor, just past the Freetime Magazine offices at the corner of University and Elton St.)
Jeremy: It’s a loft space that was constructed by the building owner to suit our needs.
There is a pretty diverse crowd in the building. The landlord is pretty laid back, which is good and bad. The owner also appreciates and seeks for diversity among tenants in the building.
Colleen: I’m not sure what the building used to be, but I think it was some form of manufacturing space.
ACT:LIVE: Experimental music seems to place a large part in your events. Tell us about that.
Jeremy: A lot of bands in the noise and experimental community contact us regularly to perform. We have a hard time booking them during the week because of neighboring tenants that we don’t want to disturb. Those are usually weeknights.
Despite the fact that we have to turn down a lot of musician’s requests, but there is definitely a lot of intrigue from that community.
ACT:LIVE: Are these out of town acts that are contacting you?
Colleen: Yeah, from all over the map. We had a duo from Norway play and countless people who are touring and want to play at our gallery.
Jeremy: We’ve even had a man drive from Long Island, only to play for 16 minutes and then drive home. And, he said he would do it again. (laughs)
These noise artists will travel far and long to perform their music and they usually have short sets. Their dedication is amazing.
There aren’t many opportunities to play noise music outside of major cities.
Colleen: Rochester has a really good noise scene, but it’s mostly in people’s basements.
We really like bringing them into our space.
Jeremy: We always try to have some sort of interesting art displayed as the musicians perform. I know one bands that was here recently stated that playing in front of (.chickenbone.’s) ‘shrine’ of art on the wall was like playing to all these strange faces that were watching them. The band really got a kick out of it and some inspiration, too.
ACT:LIVE: What are some challenges that you face as a young gallery in this city?
Colleen: The number one challenge is having a family and the time and energy to spend after that.
The number two problem is helping people to find the location of the gallery. (laughs)
Jeremy: Finding the money to fund advertising is tough, too. We end up relying on a lot of word of mouth at the moment and that takes time to develop.
It took City Newspaper almost a year to even acknowledge us.
Luckily, we meet people like you, but it just takes time.
ACT:LIVE: What are some of your favorite things about being in Rochester?
Colleen: The reason I wanted to return to Rochester from Buffalo was the fact that there really is a lot going on here for being a ‘small’ city.
There are so many quality events going on, there is so much art, there are so many creative people.
We also like the fact that so many people are into what we are doing. I know that sometimes the house mom from Pittsford may not get it, but we have so many other people that wished they had known about us sooner.
Not to knock anybody else, but this city is filled with more paintings of landscapes and flowers than I can stand. We are the alternative to that, something new.
ACT:LIVE: What are some goals that you two have planned for the gallery?
Jeremy: Eventually I would like to open up a bigger space that has a bar. I’m not trying to start a bar, but the space would serve alcohol. I guess that might qualify as a bar (laughs), but that’s not the goal.
Something with cool music playing all the time and local art on display. I’d like a place that I could invest some time into and create from the ground up, per say.
Colleen: I think the first goal we actually have is to be at the point where we can pay the rent.
Jeremy: Yes, we need to be at a point where we can cover our expenses. Hopefully, I could quit my day job and work at the gallery full-time.
You can join them every Sunday evening from 6-9 for the 'Output Noise' jam, or, be sure to stop down for the Gregory Paul CD release that's going on January 24th @ 8pm.
The Gallery At Potential Life Studios is located at 34 Elton St. (behind Freetime Magazine on University Ave.)
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