Laying out the walls of Brothers Drake for each month’s sprawling new exhibition from 83 Gallery can feel a bit like playing a freeform game of Tetris.
“We have the space broken down into square inches,” said Maddy Beaumier, who joined Geoff Collins for a late-March interview at Brothers Drake, where 83 Gallery is set on Saturday, March 25. The reception features music from Mr. Molly and King Henry, along with an appearance from Art Clash – described by Collins as a WWE-style live wrestling troupe. “My sweet spot is within 2,000 square inches, but the math gets a little beyond me when you get into the margins and accounting for all of that, so…”
As a result of these scratch pad equations, each month the walls in the back room of the Short North meadery are transformed into a colorfully jam-packed mélange of artwork, stark black-and-white photos abutting a rainbow-hued impressionist piece, which fall near a pair of harrowing oil paintings by the artist Zeph, who embraces their work as a means of exorcizing a range of personal demons related to addiction, incarceration and the for-profit healthcare system.
“There’s a stigma surrounding addiction, and especially being someone experiencing chronic pain,” . “I’ve never really felt like I could be myself anywhere, so I guess [art] has created a way for me to do that. … This is a free space for me to talk about the things that affect me.”
This month alone, , including featured artist Phil Adams, whose works sit alone in the main bar area – the rare pieces given additional space to breathe. In comparison, the first exhibition at Brothers Drake, held in August, featured work by 46 artists. As a response to this demand, the monthly call from entries has gone from two weeks to four days – and even then, the number of submissions can overwhelm.
“We have so many amazing working artists, and it does feel like there are fewer opportunities for shows out there,” Beaumier said. “The amount of artists we know who are getting a show once a year, or once every two years, and submitting for 12 spots at Roy G Biv or something. It’s tough out there.”
Beaumier and Collins have embraced a “more is more” philosophy since reestablishing the gallery within Brothers Drake seven months ago, the resurrection following (The gallery launched in November 2008 as a pop-up in the basement of a house at 83 W. First Ave. and then moved through a handful of Short North locations before the initial run came to an end in 2014.)
“[Reestablishing the gallery] was a little bit of the hope when we first started talking about a reunion show,” Beaumier said. “But the extent to which that’s actually happened has been really wild.”
“We knew we were going to do 83 in some capacity [after the reunion], but then two months into these Brothers Drake shows it felt like 83 was coming back into what it was when we were on High Street,” Collins said. “We have maybe 10 or 15 original 83 artists who are still showing with us regularly – Deborah Danzy never misses a month, and it’s artists like her that make the gallery special – but then we’re getting 20 new artists every month. Friendships are forming, and we’re building a whole new community.”
Beginning in December, 83 Gallery started to hatch even bigger plans for the future – eyeing an airport-adjacent warehouse it hopes to rent and then build out to create a gallery and 13 artist studios. (Plans are emerging at a time when some artists might be looking for space, in Franklinton.)
“I got a quote of $45,000 for the full build-out, and I created a mock event schedule for six months to see if we could actually handle the workload,” said Beaumier of the planned gallery, which would be located across the parking lot from the makerspace . “I just want to make sure that we can fully follow through on it. And I want to make sure we can do it well, and in a way that it actually does what it needs to do for the community.”
As with everything 83-related, there is of course more.
Beaumier and Collins said if 83 decided to move forward on the new gallery/studio space, aiming for a late-summer opening, the monthly shows at Brothers Drake would still continue. Collins also talked about the possibility of kicking the space off with a summer music festival, looping in Cloudhaus and Skate Naked, along with an adjacent warehouse, to host a massive block party. He also mentioned the possibility of starting another gallery completely separate from the first – a comparatively high-end affair focused on solo shows by professional artists.
“We’ll wait and get this other space going first,” Collins said, and laughed. “But I’m always ready to go bigger and faster.”