The first time I visited Kettle Art, someone handed me a beer before I got inside. The party had flowed into the street. Musicians and a puppeteer were set up, busking for change. A keg was floated. Several artists boasted proudly, claiming the moment as their first time they'd publicly hung their work.
That little showroom, just the size of a studio apartment, was an aesthetic petri dish, an artistic gateway drug. It was the gallery equivalent of the punk club you grew up in -- an intersection of inspiration, commerce and community.
With its longtime Elm Street space now undergoing renovation, Kettle was recently pushed out, forced to find an address with cheaper rent. Now founder Frank Campagna says those potential lease negotiations have stalled. The group still hopes it can find a venue or financial backer by fall so that it can continue its mission to foster growth in the emerging arts by filling walls with work by promising local talent.
But with things in flux, we thought we'd take a moment for reflection -- asking ten Kettle artists about their personal relationships with the gallery.
Artist: Richard Ross Medium: Mixed Years making art: 30-plus How has Kettle impacted your life? It's brought me off the couch and out of my own thoughts, into a community of ideas, dreams and acts of grace with perspiration.
Artist: Paul Adams Medium: Printmaking Years making art: 20 Favorite Kettle Memory? I stumbled upon Kettle while visiting the nearby pizza joint and fell in immediately. A Katrina evacuee, Kettle took me in as a local when I knew no one in Dallas. The Campagnas are family.
Artist: Corey Godfrey Medium: Yarn and paint Years making art: 28 Did you ever have an opportunity that came from showing at Kettle that you wouldn't have had otherwise? I was struggling after college to find a gallery that was open to showing my genre of work (erotic). Even though the art world has expanded in Dallas extensively since then, it was disheartening at the time to be rejected. I met Frank and was so admirable of his work and sense of self. He viewed my work and welcomed me... I have been loyal to this gallery ever since.
Artist: Amber Campagna Medium: Acrylic Years making art: All Favorite Kettle memory? 1.) The first meeting: A handful of individuals, artistically differentiated and hopeful. We held our first meeting and found our name on a brick wall. 2.) 6x6: Amazing show. 66 pieces, $66, 66 artists on 6x6 boards. Absolutely stellar showcase of local art. Haven't seen a line that long before or since. 3.) Art of the Guitar: Our first fundraiser for suicide prevention after my brother passed.
Artist: Brad Albright Medium: Pen & ink, scratchboard, digital, silkscreen Years making art: All How has Kettle impacted your life? It has been the creative outlet, home, and hub of artist family I always knew I needed but just hadn't found yet. The network of artists, friends, patrons and neighbors I've gained is truly unmatched.
Artist: Justin Clumpner Medium: Acrylic & Collage Years making art: Always Did you get an opportunity from showing at Kettle that you wouldn't have had otherwise? I don't think I took myself seriously until I started showing at Kettle. It wasn't until I started showing art and people started buying it that I realized there is a value to the stacks of art hiding in my closets.
Artist: Danny Rose Medium: Mulit-Media Years making art: 12 Did you get an opportunity from showing at Kettle that you wouldn't have had otherwise? I feel being given the opportunity to be apart of Kettle in all regards was and is an amazing opportunity. This family of artists embraces community culture and allows new/emerging artists to show their ideas to an eager public. This was my first gallery to show work in Texas, and I am forever grateful for Kettle -- and all of the beautiful shows that occupy its walls. To the future of a movement: one grounded in art, community and cultural baddassness.
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Artist: Clint Scism Medium: Layered Illustrations and Wire Sculpting Years making art: 22 Favorite Kettle memory? The day I first brought some art for a Kettle show and I was unsure as to what price range to sell my pieces. I asked Frank what he would put on them. He replied, "Well, it doesn't look like you worked very hard, so... $50." It wound up selling for $200, but Frank is a great guy and will always shoot you straight. I love that about him.
Artist: Frank Campagna I'd have to say on January 1, 2011 (the day Frankie died) was one of the most touching moments of my life, as the artists decided it best to open the gallery to allow a gathering of hundreds of mourners. It was a really rough time but we all were drawn together in sadness yet gave each other strength, like only true communities do.
Artist: Brain Hamm Medium: Photography Years making art: 3 Did you get an opportunity from showing at Kettle that you wouldn't have had otherwise? I've met so many people in so many different art circles here. Kettle is one of those places where everyone is welcome. I've gone on to other shows in Dallas, Fort Worth and even Austin from the connections I've made here, and because of the confidence I've gained.