Extrapolating Ethos: An Interview with Springsteen Gallery

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Springsteen is an artist-run gallery that recently made Baltimore art history: they were accepted into NADA, the National Art Dealer’s Alliance for the Spring 2014 New York Fair. Not only is NADA a showcase of the youngest, best galleries in the world, it presents an international platform of collectors for the Baltimore artists shown by the gallery, including Seth Adelsberger and BmoreArt contributor Alex Ebstein.

Springsteen Gallery, located in The Copycat Building, is dedicated to showing young, newly established, and critically engaged artists. The space is co-directed by Hunter Bradley and Amelia Szpiech, who also live on the premises. So far, Springsteen has served up a smart mix of Baltimore-based talent combined with artists from New York, and their gleaming white cube space with serious lighting is an opportunity for artists to have their work seen in an elegantly neutral environment. What remains to be seen is whether this city and its collectors, as well as national art fairs like NADA, will invest this space with the necessary funding to continue to rapidly move forward. -CO

Amelia Spziech and Hunter Bradley in Springsteen

BmoreArt: When and why did you start the space?

Bradley & Spziech: Springsteen officially had its first show in April 2013 after working and building out the gallery over the previous eight months. We had recently graduated from MICA and were both interested in creating our own curatorial platform.  We also wanted to expand our practice and broaden our engagement with artists and the community. We each took exhibition design and curatorial studies so we naturally had the urge to curate in a nonacademic environment.

B: What did you do to renovate what was originally a copycat apartment/ studio? Why did you choose such strong lighting? What kind of lights are they?

B&S: The copycat has a long history of being an incubator for the Baltimore arts community. Upon graduation we both already had roots in the area so it felt like the best fit for us.  The space we moved into had several existing structures dividing, and defining the studio, but not too many, it was a very open layout. To clarify – we still use it as a live/work space and live in the unit. We built out a partition to separate our living space from the gallery. The final partition was the last thing we did a couple weeks before our first show. Prior to that, we spent the months before taking out old cabinetry, a stage that was falling apart, odd walls, and repairing a lot of the existing walls and surfaces. Everything in the space was multi-colored so we spent a lot of time sanding, prepping, painting, treating the windows, and installing the lighting. It was an awesome apartment when we moved in, it was pretty fun to just live and make work in the space as it was, but we decided to commit to the specific type of gallery we envisioned. Neither of us had much experience with the type of work it took to make it what it is, so that really evolved into our art practice for that time.


Several factors impacted our lighting decisions. The T8 fluorescents add a stark contrast to the existing building lighting, but in a way are also a nod to its industrial heritage. We chose to use ‘Daylight’ for the bulb color to get at a truer representation of the objects shown. The physical experience of an almost blown out but smooth even light creates a fresh baseline for viewership. On a conceptual level the lighting at Springsteen feels reminiscent of any of our screen-based devices. The context in which a lot of artwork is now viewed is through various online platforms and social media sites like Instagram. To borrow a term from Guthrie Lonergan, we could say that the lighting scenario in the gallery is “internet aware” in that, in a post-internet sense, it acknowledges the potential online stream of circulation an exhibition may have.

B: How would you describe your exhibitions program?

B&S: Thus far our program has remained relatively loose as we continue to explore our roles as curators. Initially we began with a lot of interest in those that influenced us while we were still students. We have been focusing on extrapolating that ethos to get at what our interests are and what the voice of the gallery is. This in part has been the foundation of our rigorous programming over the past year. When we began art school in 2007, it was during the Web 2.0 shift. This change marked the nexus of what became mass-networked culture which in turn changed pretty much the world as we know it (including art itself).  A networked society has given rise to a new contemporary art landscape where production can be outsourced and new fabrication, printing, and distribution modes are accessed by almost anyone with a computer. It’s by being influenced by these shifts that our program has begun to take form.


B: What is coming up next – in terms of exhibits, projects, and fairs?

B&S: We will be following up our current show with a 2-person exhibition featuring the work of Erika Ceruzzi and Alex Ito – both are currently living and working in New York. We are really excited for this show! Erika and Alex have been awesome to work with thus far and we can’t wait to have them in Baltimore.  We also have some other projects in the works including showing some of our own work and possibly another fair. The past year has been extremely busy for us, and in some ways we want to work on finding more of a balance between Springsteen our personal practices.

B: Why are you choosing to run a gallery in Baltimore?

B&S: We originally moved here to go to school, and wanted to stay. First, we love Baltimore, and all it’s nuances.  We love that there is such a healthy/thriving arts community and also some pretty awesome people! There’s plenty or room here for artists, musicians, and other creative people to really explore what they love. We hope that never changes. Second, previous guidelines for being in a major city (like New York) with a centralized gallery system are no longer necessary. The ubiquity of the web has aided in a decentralization of the art world that offers realistic and affordable options to actually create something holistic without ridiculous amounts of capital or wealthy backers.

That said, sustaining artist-run spaces like Springsteen can be challenging in a city with a relatively small collector base and limited grant opportunities. Mostly what’s facilitating these spaces is a labor-of-love ethic, day jobs and overwhelming community support. These issues of sustainability are on a lot of people’s minds involved with the arts, and we are excited to see individuals’ and organizations’ efforts and programs – connectivity and communication are key. All in all, we feel lucky to be a part of a dynamic city and around people that work insanely hard to make things happen.

Hours: Saturdays 1 – 4pm when exhibition on view. Appointments also available.
Address: 1511 Guilford Ave Unit B303 Baltimore, Md 21202

This interview was conducted by Cara Ober, Founding Editor at BmoreArt. 

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