Artists For Artists: Q&A with Shelter-in-Place Gallery
by Nina Bellucci & Roya Amigh
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Eben Haines and Delaney Dameron, directors of the Boston-based gallery, Shelter In Place. The miniature, uniquely-built space provides artists an opportunity to experiment and to celebrate creative victories, however small. The work is photographed and exhibited online in such a way as to appear life-size, and this has inspired artists working in various disciplines to think big and to push the boundaries of their chosen medium, but in a manageable way. We recognize what a precious commodity this is during an era of unprecedented hardships and are grateful to Eben and Delaney, creatives in their own right who graciously share their own time and resources with other New England artists. Here, we pose a few questions to Eben and Delaney to learn more about their process and future plans:
(L to R) Lu Valena, Oct. 20-23, 2020; Eben Haines, May 20-23, 2020; Sachiko Akiyama, Sept. 10-13, 2020
Musa Collective: Can you tell us a bit about how Shelter In Place Gallery came to be?
Shelter In Place Gallery: The original gallery was a maquette that Eben built for his own artwork. When the pandemic hit, we brought it home from his studio thinking it might be a good project that he could work on at home. He worked on it for a few weeks and we started photographing his work in it. Seeing how realistic it looked, we decided to invite friends and family who were artists to make miniatures of their work and mail it to us. Our hope was that these photographs might help promote their work and even act as supporting images for show and grant proposals in the future.
MC: How does your gallery function to aid artists in their creative practice? What role has the gallery played in helping artists during this time of isolation?
SIP: The gallery allows artists to have a solo show and use the entire space to make their vision for a full installation happen. Obviously, the miniature scale makes this much more accessible for the artist in terms of budget and also difficulty of installation. It allows artists to think about what work they would show in a non-commercial environment, if resources were not so limited.
We have heard that it helps artists get 'un-stuck' after a year where so many artists feel like opportunities and their creativity have been sucked dry.
MC: What tools do you implement to create a life-size, in-person experience for online viewers? How do you actually get a video camera into that tiny space??
SIP: We take all of the photos just with an iphone! The second gallery space that we build has two doors that can be taken off so that the shows can be photographed from two different angles, which gives the illusion of a four walled, enclosed space. We then post those images, along with supporting text, to instagram and to our website.
(L&R) Sean Tyler, Dec. 18-21, 2020
MC: Has the process of maintaining a gallery and encountering artwork on a daily basis, in a range of media and styles, affected your own artistic practice(s)? If yes, how?
SIP: For Eben, it has changed a lot about how he actually constructs his work, and has motivated him to make work on a large scale using the same techniques he's used in miniature. Seeing work by such a wide range of contemporary artists, especially in person during the pandemic, has been such a huge privilege for us, and for Eben in particular has been a major catalyst for his own practice. Seeing what's possible in miniature, and how it might be translated into full scale, has been an amazing experience.
MC: Do you see the gallery's model changing at all in the coming months or years, as we work to get back to pre-pandemic life and visiting galleries/museums in person?
SIP: It has become really apparent to us in the past year that free-admission and approachable art spaces are greatly needed. Both for artists and viewers. We feel that until there is no longer a need for our mini-gallery, we will keep the lights on.
MC: Our country has faced many challenges this year, including recognizing the basic human rights of BIPOC and calling out injustices. Do you feel arts organizations have a responsibility to address the challenges BIPOC are facing today?
SIP: Absolutely. We strongly believe in the influence of art and arts institutions to be a voice for the human experience, and address injustices going on in the world and our country. No museum or gallery is neutral territory.
MC: What are the steps Shelter in Place Gallery has taken, or what plans do you have to foster inclusion and diversity in your community or in your programming?
SIP: SIP gallery prioritizes proposals that address social issues like police brutality, racism, LGBTQI rights, climate change, capitalism, and the intersectionality of movements that demand civil rights and equity for all. We also utilize our platform on social media to share resources and news about issues and different ways that our followers can support and help their communities. Because this is a nights and weekends project for us, we have to rely on a passive submission process, where we ask artists to come to us. We work on a largely blind submission process, to try and limit our bias when viewing proposals, but in the end we have a limited pool to choose from, which often skews white. We've been lucky enough to work with a number of outside curators with different networks than our own, who reach out directly to artists rather than waiting for them to submit work on their own, which goes a long way in expanding our reach and diversifying our artists. We're excited to have more outside curators in the future, pulling us in new directions, knowing that there is always more work to be done.
(L-R) Alyssa Ackerman, Jan. 3-6, 2021; Barry Hazard, "Beach Day", Aug. 12-16, 2020; Katelyn Ledford, "Lock it Down", June 23-26, 2020
MC: Tell us about any upcoming events or exhibitions:
SIP: Our May exhibition schedule includes: Boston based sculptor Kyle Brown, a group show by painter/sculptor Nicole Eisenman and her studio assistants Sara Coffin and Sam Roeck, Chicago based painter Maggie Hubbard, and Boston painter Sean Downey.