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Paul Coors Talks About Publico



Over Christmas I journeyed back to my hometown; Cincinnati, Ohio and caught up with an old classmate, Paul Coors, who also happens to be one of the founders of one of the best independent non-commercial, artist-run galleries in the country. Publico Gallery, located at 1308 Clay Street in the under-privileged neighborhood of Over-the Rhine and at via the internet, was opened five years ago, quickly becoming a beacon of culture in the vast desert of the mid-west.

Paul plans to shut Publico’s doors this month, hosting a final hurrah that you can find out more about on the website, so I thought it was the perfect time to ask him why he feels the need to quit, and learn a bit from the things he learned.
Unsurprisingly, the conversation hit home and Mr. Coors was able to articulate some of my own thoughts about artist-run out-of-pocket gallery ventures (Publico was probably one of the biggest inspirations for my own participation in Black Floor and Copy gallery) as well as make some optimistic points about the future of using the internet to create your own art culture.

If you’re more a listener then a reader, please try out my newest inter-web adventure by checking out this interview on my podcast.


Annette: When did you start Publico?

Paul: January of 2003.

Annette: What was your first show?

Paul: It was called Wintry Mix and it was a group show of the three founders, who are myself, my brother Matt [Coors] and Dan Reddinger.

Annette: When you say founders what does that mean?

Paul: The people that lived here at the time and built all the walls and stuff.

Annette: How has Publico been a part of the art community here in Cincinnati? How has the community responded?

Paul: We started holding fund-raisers to fund the gallery, we’ve never been a non-profit or anything like that. I’ve always felt that that’s a good way to not only provide cheap art to people in the community but also so people in the community have the opportunity to support what you’re doing. The first year anniversary show was about that in particular, as it was basically a way for local artists to provide a service or action for their local gallery.

Annette: I really liked that show, do you wanna talk about it?

Paul: Sure. Yeah. I don’t have the press release in front of me. . .

Annette: You don’t have to spell it out. Actually don’t. If that show wasn’t important to you. . .

Paul: Oh, I can talk about it. . .

Annette: Let’s talk about what shows were important to you. What shows were important for you?

Paul: Nearly every show has been important to me in one way or another. There are the big obvious examples; the satellite exhibition for the Beautiful Losers show, Good World. . .

Annette: That brought in a lot of big names to the gallery didn’t it?

Paul: Yeah. That was, what? Thirteen months after we opened and Barry McGee was in my living room which was pretty cool.

So that was obviously important. That was actually the show right after the one year anniversary show, which I forgot to mention was called WINTERRemix and the first show was called Wintry Mix. We often have really bad puns in our titles.


Annette: Is membership pretty much the same? is there a lot of turn-over? Do you even call it membership?

Paul: We call it membership just for a word to call it.

Annette: Do you pay dues?

Paul: We tried that. We had meetings once a week and we tried to do this thing where at every meeting people would throw five bucks in a pot, and that was good and it was a good way to do things but people have to remember to do things. I have to remember to put the jar out and these people are my friends, so there’s a lot of catching up to do, joking around and coming up with stupid titles. Dana Ward is one of the funniest people I ever met in my life.

Publico's kitchen/front desk.
Publico’s kitchen/front desk.

Annette: And he’s one of the people helping out with the gallery now?

Paul: Yeah. Some people have moved on, my brother is in grad school in San Diego right now. The people currently involved are myself, Dana, who I just mentioned, Britni Bicknavor, Beth Graves, Russell Ihrig, Matt Waldbillig, Evan Commander. . . I believe that’s it. That’s seven right?

Annette: I wasn’t really counting.

Paul: If I left anyone out you can check it out on our brand new website.

Annette: I know! You finally got your new website and now you’re closing down. . .

Paul: I think that’s kind of poetic. Being that I’m doing so much, I run a bar now (The Gypsy Hut), I am am artist myself. . . curating shows here, I’ve shown in shows in the past. . .PR I’m not very good at, and I feel like it’s just one extra thing on my plate that I’m not very good at. . .

Annette: You must be alright at it. The gallery’s gotten pretty much recognition considering where it’s located and what you’re doing.

Paul: Yeah. I’m getting to that. You can think of it like it’s a gimmick, and a lot of the press does this which really used to piss me off, that the gallery is in our living room, basically.

My standpoint has always been, from the very beginning, that we have to operate on a very professional level, and professional can mean a number of different things.

Annette: Yeah.

Paul: It’s not just monetary, because obviously this has nothing to do with money.


Annette: So what does professionalism mean for Publico?

Paul: I don’t know, how do I say professional? You put on good shows, and if the person who is interviewing you from a paper who is a lifestyles writer who doesn’t really know that much about contemporary art uses gimmicks like ‘it’s in their apartment, blah, blah, blah’. . . then whatever.

How do you know what good art is? You look at a lot of art, you read, I don’t know, you talk to cool people. You hold yourself to the same level that the people you admire hold themselves to.

Annette: Does Publico have an aesthetic?

Paul: People could always say that. I do design most of the show announcements, posters, web. . . I design at least ninety-five percent of anything that radiates out from the gallery.

Annette: If you had to describe your aesthetic what is it?

Paul: I don’t even want to go down that road.

Annette: No? Try it.

Paul: Um.

Annette: I mean. I could say that usually I come to a show here and it’s very clean.

Paul: Okay, but clean is such an odd thing to say. . .

Annette: I don’t think it’s so odd and I don’t mean it in a negative way.


Paul: I would say that I lean to more polished things, in general, but that can go in a lot of different directions. I feel we’ve had a lot of variety in the shows here.

If you look at our website you can see that a lot of the things I’ve designed, and I harp on the fact that it’s my design because the things I’ve designed have become the closest thing to an identity for the gallery outside of the gallery walls, and these things have my personal aesthetic, which is not necessarily Publico’s total aesthetic.

Annette: Yes. But, I would go as far as to say that it seems to match what goes on inside the gallery walls.

Publico from the back.

Paul: I think so. I think that goes back to the level of professionalism that has taken this place beyond the level of the ‘isn’t that cute they have a gallery in their apartment’. We actually have good shows here and show relevant contemporary work.

Annette: Have you seen a gallery in someone’s apartment that you would say is a non-professional gallery?

Paul: I would never say that. If someone is putting a gallery in their apartment I applaud that. I don’t rag on people who are trying to do a good thing.

Although you can compare the two and people do, the house art show is way different then the house music show. The house music show is a one-night performance, but the house art show? There is so much more planning that goes into it.

I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself into anything, to be honest with you, there could be a really good, crazy, house art show.


Annette: The “Publico collective” had a show at Vox Populi in Philadelphia and I was struck by how much the work looked like it belonged together.

Paul: It did didn’t it? That’s something that we all agreed on post-show too; We looked like a unit. But if you take those works out of context, piece-by-piece there isn’t a whole lot of similarity.

Annette: The themes are all very different, but the execution of the ideas seems to run a similar path. It looks like you all speak the same visual language.

Paul: Basically, if the gallery had a mission statement I would say it was; Do everything the best you can and try to do it better next time, but there is no mission statement for the gallery.

Look for part two of this interview tomorrow!. . .