Observations from The Legume Room
Artblog’s newest correspondent, Logan Cryer, reports on the goings on at The Legume Room — the newest pop-up gallery in town, organized and operated by a cohort of recent Tyler BFA graduates. Through a thoughtfully-presented series of 7, week-long group shows, these emerging artist-curators have demonstrated care for the art without taking themselves too seriously. Scroll down for a great Q and A between Logan and the Legume Room founders, and visit their closing reception on Friday, June 1st.

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If you and your friends start a pop-up gallery right next to The Nut Hut on Frankford Avenue, there’s really only one name you can give it.

“I was jokingly like, ‘It needs to be The Legume Room!’ That caught on, and now I have to call it that.” Gillian Mead explained to me, shaking her head.

Gillian is one of several recent Tyler School of Art grads (congrats guys!) who run The Legume Room. She explained that with only a limited amount of space provided by the school for thesis shows, desire for additional locations to show work was strong. “We needed to create an opportunity for people who otherwise wouldn’t get it, and we needed to create an opportunity for ourselves. If we wanted to curate something, we just had to do it.”

So, a group of friends made an arrangement with a local artist: a two month rental of a studio space and the ability to transform it week-to-week for seven shows. The 7th and final show, “Game Trail,” features work from Sara Bakowski, Samantha Herman, Adam Franklin, Christine McDonald, Kate McGinley, Morgan Nitz, Alyssa Pizio, Cris Varela, and Elliot Wattenbarger. The closing reception is June 1st.

Performance by Christina McDonald and Samantha Herman. Photo taken by Tim Belknap
Performance by Christina McDonald and Samantha Herman. Photo taken by Tim Belknap

I wanted to learn more about The Legume Room after attending the third show in the space, which featured work by Morgan Nitz and Cris Varela. Morgan Nitz and I had previously worked together, and she invited me to the new space. The two sculptors titled their show [BETWEEN SOBS], which, mood. The works in [BETWEEN SOBS] prompted rumination, playing against the tone of brevity often found in DIY spaces. Nitz’s pieces were slow investigations of space and movement, while Varela utilized youthful imagery and symbols to articulate the peculiarities of adolescence. Together, the works made room for both humor and introspection.

With emerging artists there can be a tendency to rely on silliness or to lean into apathy. There is an immense pressure to succeed as an artist, and rejecting sincerity is a way to eliminate the ability to fail. I thoroughly enjoyed [BETWEEN SOBS] and decided to speak with the folks who run The Legume Room about starting a pop-up gallery as a response to the stresses and joys of being an art student. I spoke with Gillian Mead, Christine McDonald, Morgan Nitz, and Cristhian Varela. Here are some thoughts they shared with me:

Logan: What was it like working in The Legume Room compared to other art spaces?

Gillian: This space is different from other places I’ve worked in. It’s so much smaller and has the architecture of a room that wasn’t meant to have art in it. So we had to contend with that, which was really interesting.

Morgan: We are really into the challenge of working with the space. What is really nice about The Legume Room is that there are these weird features. You have to work with what’s around you.

Install shot from Gillian Mead’s show, “Thank You For Six Great Seasons!” image courtesy of the artist
Install shot from Gillian Mead’s show, “Thank You For Six Great Seasons!” image courtesy of the artist

Cristhian: For someone who has no lineage to galleries or the artworld, it’s still kinda exciting to me. I wanna bring people from outside into the gallery because it is a cool space. There is, to some an extent, a prestige to it and that doesn’t exist in my world, in my background.

Logan: How was humor important during this collaboration?

Christine: The name of the place is playful, and we had a lot of fun being a part of that for the last two months. The humor is good. I take myself so seriously, so I was like, let’s do something funny.

Morgan: We took things a lot less seriously but, that doesn’t mean there was less research or thought behind it. Being more playful with our work allows it to be a lot more accessible to other people.

Gillian: It’s important to not be too serious. Don’t take any sign of failure as a sign that you’re also a failure. That’s also my therapy coming through.

Logan: What are the benefits of working with friends?

Gillian: With this space we can all text each other and say, “Hey, can you give us some advice for curating?” People help in whatever way that they can — helping install things one day or giving people advice. It feels like a collective effort all the way through.

Christine: We have a really great thing with this group of people because everyone is a listener. Everyone has a strong voice and we make radically different stuff but, at the heart of it, everyone really cares and wants to be there. I think the reason it feels like everything worked out so well is that everyone feels so happy doing this.

“Straws” by Morgan Nitz. image courtesy of the artist
“Straws” by Morgan Nitz. image courtesyof the artist

Logan: What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?

Christine: Talk to a lot of people. Work with your friends and find a thing that you like to do. Talk to the people you’re the most productive around.

Gillian: Be gentle with yourself. Know that you have other things to do. You don’t need to be doing things all the time. Building relationships amongst ourselves as students forced me to look at art that I wasn’t looking at and talk with people who I didn’t necessarily know very well before.

Cristhian: It’s not really about the artwork, it’s about a personal transformation. That’s what I see more than anything — people becoming more comfortable with who they are. As long as you’re honest and open with yourself and others, it’s just easier to live your life and make artwork.

The Legume Room is located on 1863 Frankford Ave. “Game Trail” will have a closing reception June 1st 6-10pm. Appointments can be made to visit the show through Gillian Mead via email: g.mead21@gmail.com

Logan is a student currently studying at Moore College of Art & Design and an alum of Headlong Performance Institute. Logan participates in society as a curator, visual artist, designer, organizer, and writer. They have a soft spot for awkwardness and revel in the boldness that young, queer, and/or poc arists bring to the world.

Tags

Adam Franklin, Alyssa Pizio, Christine McDonald, Cris Varela, Cristhian Varela, Elliot Wattenbarger, Game Trail, Gillian Mead, Kate McGinley, Morgan Nitz, pop-up gallery, Samantha Herman, Sara Bakowski, The Legume Room, tyler school of art

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