Platform Gallery Bridges the gap between Baltimore Art Galleries and Scenes
By Julianne Wilson
With their latest exhibition, Platform Gallery has extended an olive branch to the Baltimore art community. The space, run by recent MICA graduates Abigail Parrish and Lydia Pettit, hosted a collaborative event called All That, showcasing art from fifteen different Baltimore galleries in an effort to encourage creative camaraderie.
The intimacy of the space—a cozy one-room gallery with a fireplace, a tiny bar in the corner, and giant storefront window—helped highlight the diverse range of artists and galleries involved. Some of the most interesting pieces included a can opener cover made to look like a manicured fingertip (‘Human Animal’ by Seth Crawford, from ICA Baltimore,) a painting of bones in the ear juxtaposed with a telephone cord (‘Untitled’ by John Bohl, from Current Space,) and a box on the floor filled with fun objects such as a pogo stick, a plastic flamingo, and balloons (‘Goodie Box’ by Claire Felon and Sara Grose, from Lil’ Gallery.) The pieces sat well together in this crowded exhibit. Despite their differences was a cohesiveness, suggesting the crystallization of a distinctly Baltimorean aesthetic.
I first encountered Lydia Pettit serving drinks behind the bar, laughing and embracing everyone who came up to her with a warm welcome. “I want the other gallery owners to take my hands and be my friends,” she told me. “Our mission in this gallery is to be inclusive and make it accessible to everybody. We’re also really interested in connecting with other spaces, instead of being like little islands who don’t talk to each other and are competitive. Baltimore really isn’t a competitive city, and that’s why it’s so great. Everyone’s really supportive of each other here.”
Pettit and Parrish had been thinking about doing some version of this show for the past year. They dreamt of creating their own version of Miami’s Art Basel, a “Baby B’more Basel,” as Pettit called it—part art fair, part celebration. They reached out to a number of Baltimore’s DIY and commercial spaces alike, asking them to exhibit one piece that the gallery believed would best represent their space. Neither Parrish nor Pettit knew which galleries would reply, or what artwork they would submit, making All That a bit of a gamble. Keeping this in mind, the two women made sure not to take the exhibit, or themselves, too seriously. Pettit owns the building, allowing for her and Parrish to be flexible with the one room gallery.
“Fifteen replied which is perfect, because that’s pretty much our capacity,” Pettit remarked, laughing. “I don’t think we could fit much more than what is out there.”
All That was all about giving back to the greater Baltimore art scene and giving new and lesser known galleries, such as XOL Gallery, which showcases Middle Eastern artwork, the chance to get to know other great minds within the Baltimore art world.
“We had a connection with their directors for a while, and they’re really awesome, but didn’t really know a lot of people,” Pettit told me. “We really wanted to connect people to them, and artists to more commercial spaces, DIY spaces, and nonprofits. We just wanted to bring everyone together.”
True to its’ name, All That showcased much that Baltimore has to gain from connecting the disjointed, but thriving art scenes within the city. For as long as it has existed, Baltimore has been a city characterized by deliberately fragmented neighborhoods, communities, and ideologies, but Pettit believes that art could be the first step to making these apparent divides a little bit smaller.
“There isn’t only one art scene here, and we’re trying to blend the African American poetry and performance scene and independent contemporary visual art with the MICA bubble,” said Pettit. “I’m very happy with what’s going on, and I think that we as a city are only getting more inclusive.”
Despite the assumption that differences in style and aesthetic divide many of Baltimore’s artists and galleries, an event like All That exposes more commonalities than you would expect. All That successfully gave Baltimore artists and gallery owners who would have never otherwise interacted the chance to get to know each other, and sets the stage for future creative collaborations. Diversifying the art world means attracting a greater audience, and more exposure for all those involved. Parrish and Pettit have positively proven that if we all learn to leave our comfortable doorsteps, we find out that there’s a lot more to see and learn.
All That at Platform Gallery from April 10 – May 11, 2015
116 W Mulberry St, Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Author Julianne Wilson is a writer, filmmaker, and beach bum from Rowayton, CT.
Scene Seen Photos by Joan Cox for BmoreArt