St. Louis Magazine: New Cherokee gallery Flood Plain aims to make St. Louis' arts ecosystem all the richer

The new gallery is an addition to the city's rich community of artist-run projects.

BY STEFENE RUSSELL  JANUARY 18, 2018   4:00 AM

 

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PHOTO BY MATT MARCINKOWSKI

Amelia-Collette Jones, Liz Wolfson, and Trina Van Ryn

 A floodplain is one of the richest ecosystems on earth. Flood Plain, a new gallery in an old familiar space—3151 Cherokee, formerly known as fort gondo—aims to be similarly wild, fertile, and diverse. 

Last year, gondo shut its doors after 15 years around the same time other artist-run spaces, such as White Flag Projects, also shuttered. “It just felt like a ton of bricks,” says Liz Wolfson, who began exploring the idea of starting another project in gondo’s space soon after its closure.

By March 2017, Brigid Flynn and Liz Deichmann at Midwest Artist Project Services had connected Wolfson with artist Amelia-Colette Jones, who was looking to open an art space, too. Both women were friends with sculptor Trina Van Ryn, and she soon became the third co-director. Jones says the process was so effortless, “it almost felt like ‘It is written,’” she says with a laugh.

The trio contemplated a few names, including Lost Islands, but Flood Plain best captured their vision. “We were looking for something that was grounded in the local, or regional, geography,”  Wolfson says. “We want to show artists from the Midwest and South, and the Mississippi River connects all of that,” Van Ryn adds.

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PHOTO BY MATT MARCINKOWSKI

The first exhibit, Brandon Anschultz’s solo show Time Won’t Give Me Time, opened last fall. Van Ryn says Anschultz, who'd shown there before, was so familiar with the space, he didn’t need a studfinder when he placed “Black Ladder,” a mirrored sculptural piece hung from the ceiling. “He knew exactly what was underneath it—he’d seen it before it was redone,” she says. But this work was unlike anything he’d showed at gondo before, radically new work catalyzed by the psychic shock of the 2016 election and what it might mean for him as a gay man. Instead of the abstract pieces he showed at the Great Rivers Biennial, these works were narrative, exploring his coming of age as an LGBT youth in the ’80s, when figures like Boy George offered liberation from rigid gender roles even as the AIDS epidemic loomed.

“I think of the space ideally as a laboratory, first and foremost,” Wolfson says. “It’s a place where artists can bring work in and have audiences interact with it and see it and see how it goes. I feel like that really happened with that show. For it to happen right off the bat was just affirming.”

Jones says helping Flood Plain find its place in a thriving environment of other local artist-run projects—The Luminary, Paul Artspace, The Bermuda Project, Granite City Art and Design District, and the brand-new Monaco—is also greatly affirming. 

“Things are changing,” she says. “There are great things happening. It’s exciting to contribute to that and to be part of the momentum.”

Upcoming shows at Flood Plain

  • Youthful Discretion (February 3–mid-March): The title is a play on the phrase “youthful indiscretion,” suggesting that some young people are mature and fully formed enough to make a serious mark on the world, says Jones, despite their age; the group show features the work of St. Louis BFA and MFA students.
  • Amy Reidel (early April): Best known for her works combining weather radar, glitter, and floor mandalas, Reidel will be creating all-new work for this solo show. She will also collaborate with Jones on a limited-edition print. (The print series will be an ongoing feature of Flood Plain shows).
  • Rose Raft Pop-Up Show (summer 2018): Flood Plain will collaborate with Southern Illinois artist and music collective Rose Raft for this group show, which will display work from artists-in-residence and include a shuttle to Rose Raft’s space in New Douglas, Illinois.

 

  Stefene Russell   Russell is the culture editor for St. Louis Magazine, executive editor for St. Louis At Home, and oversees SLM’s online arts and history sections.

Stefene Russell

Russell is the culture editor for St. Louis Magazine, executive editor for St. Louis At Home, and oversees SLM’s online arts and history sections.