Erin Cluley Didn't Need a Psychic to Tell Her to Open a Gallery, But That's What Happened

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Erin Cluley, exhibitions director of the Dallas Contemporary, announced this week that she would be opening an eponymous gallery in Trinity Groves. And the narrative emerging (via CultureMap Dallas & Glasstire) is that we have a psychic to thank for the development. Certainly it's true that when Cluley sat down with a medium in Salem last summer, the prediction that she would open her own space was fortuitously timed. But Cluley had been busy lining up her own stars for a few years.

"Two to three years ago, I wouldn't feel as ready as I feel now," Cluley says by phone Tuesday afternoon. "Different things aligned personally. I had been building a relationship with Trinity Groves. There's a nice energy percolating over there."

This isn't Cluley's first gallery. Before accepting the position at the Dallas Contemporary, she was the director of C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland. When the Wichita Falls native moved back to Texas, she knew eventually opening her own space here wasn't out of the picture. But then she started having fun at the Dallas Contemporary, working with high profile artists like Julian Schnabel, FAILE, and Richard Phillips.

"After being at the Dallas Contemporary for a while I thought I would stay on this path," she says. "But about 2 years ago I started thinking what's next, like we all do."

What the psychic did for Cluley was ignite a latent desire to open her own space. The first thing she did upon returning to Dallas was set up a meeting with Butch McGregor -one of the investors in Trinity Groves. Cluley first worked with McGregor to bring one of the Dallas Contemporary's Shepard Fairey mural series to the area in 2012. And McGregor has been looking for ways to expand the focus on the arts - for the past year, local artist Arthur Peña has been programming music in Vice Palace and art in Ware:Wolf:Haus; and several theater companies have used the bright green warehouse for productions. But Cluley's gallery will be the first art space with daily operating hours.

"When I went to him with this idea, he had no hesitation," says Cluley. "Then we started talking about physical space, where it would land."

Eventually they settled on a 414 Fabrication St. It's smaller than the cavernous Dallas Contemporary - a fact Cluley is thankful for - and it's industrial but well lit. And things just sped along from there. The inaugural exhibition opens on September 13, featuring the Baltimore-based artist René Treviño. That will be followed with an exhibition of another artist she met in Baltimore, Jimmy Joe Roche, and then a string of local artists, including Josephine Durkin, Francisco Moreno and Kevin Todora.

"I've been thinking about what ties these artists together," she says methodically - during our phone call, she spoke slowly and thoughtfully. "This group's one common tie with the gallery is me. Much of the work is not necessarily painting, but has roots in painting. Whether it's Kevin Todora's sculptural photographs that are painterly or René Treviño's paintings."

When I asked her if the psychic predicted success for her gallery, she just laughed. If the gallery is Cluley's fate, it's her hard work that will get her there.

Erin Cluley Gallery officially opens to the public with a reception for RENÉ TREVIÑO: Estrellas at 6 p.m. September 13. More info is available at erincluley.com.

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