Joint venture: A new artists’ collective unites recent Ringling graduates and current students

SIX OF THE 10 MEMBERS OF JOINT: Jack Gessley, Michelle Fisher, Natalie Molinari, Alex Wallis, Katie Foster and Annie Schor (left to right) (Tim Sukits)

Published Sept. 11, 2009

8 p.m. Fri., Sept. 18, 1335 12th St., Sarasota, entrance free, $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap or BYOB.

The city’s art scene has a new youth movement boiling up from underground, and its goal is something heard often around town: keeping art school graduates in Sarasota. The group, which consists of recent Ringling College grads and current students, formed over the summer after an open call to establish an arts community.

“We’ve always wanted to do something,” says Katie Foster, the 2009 Ringling fine art grad spearheading the effort. “Something non-school affiliated, something on our own. It’s trying to come up with a solution where we can still stick around here and make art and show it and start some kind of a community. It would be a way to keep people here in Sarasota. Everyone else has left to seek out something like this because it’s already established in other cities.”

The first step was finding a space. Originally, they started looking at empty hotels on the North Trail, but soon realized that for a bunch of broke college students, the cost of a lawyer, an accountant and rent, even split 10 ways, was out of their budget. Luckily, the parents of Annie Schor — another 2009 Ringling fine art grad — own a few fixer-uppers on 12th Street. The couple offered to let the kids use the house at 1335 for their project.

“There’s nothing in our community,” says Schor. “There’s Ringling, but it’s this little bubble, and there’s not even really that much going on at Ringling. There’s no alternative stuff going on. A lot of the galleries around here are not showing contemporary stuff; they’re showing things that are more marketable to the Sarasota people. It’s terrible. We want the art to have quality. We don’t want it to look like the galleries downtown. We don’t want it to be Palm Avenue. That would be awful.”

“It’s really kind of bland,” says Ringling photography senior Michelle Fisher. “Once you graduate there’s nothing until you get to your 30s, and then there’s the S/ART/Q group. But in between there you’re like, ‘Now what can I do? I’m not going to graduate school. I don’t have enough money to move up to New York. What do I do?’”

Schor also complains that Ringling doesn’t give students opportunities to collaborate with other mediums. “Our majors are so separated, nothing is integrated. I really find that frustrating,” she says. “The only chance we get is the Crossley Gallery. There’s a show every Friday and you have to jump on it to get your own show. That’s when you can choose who you want to be with, but that’s the only chance.”

The kids explain how even the shows they land outside school leave something to be desired. “We got a gallery in Art Center [Sarasota] and they put a huge Szambelan sign in the middle of the room,” says Ringling grad Alex Wallis. “They moved all the pedestals to line the walls and there was a chick serving screwdrivers in the middle of the room.” Schor chimes in: “Yeah, and we had priced all of our work hoping that we could sell something and maybe make some money, but somehow they lost all the price tags and shoved our work into the corner and put a big vodka stand up. I don’t think anyone went in there other than to get a drink. It was very disappointing.”

Foster says the house-turned-art space — which the group calls “Joint,” referring to their joint effort and joining of styles — is more gathering than gallery. “It’s about the event and the art working together,” she says, “and the fact that we have music too. Music is so not a part of Ringling in anything, and it’s a lot of local and experimental music that doesn’t get any kind of recognition really.”

Joint will hold its first “Art and Music Event” on Sept. 18. “The show is called ‘Sparse,’” says Foster. “It’s referring to the lack of this type of thing going on.” Each of the house’s three bedrooms will have an installation piece by one artist and the living room will feature works from a number of artists. A keg of PBR will be tapped and Skunk Ape, Staring Contest and Stead & His Larson will perform.

“It’s kind of overwhelming to say, ‘Let’s start a community,’” says Foster. “Even for this one show there’s so much planning and work involved. It’s sort of like, ‘Why would you do this if you could just go to New York and it’s already there for you?’ I considered it, but then I was like, ‘No, I really want to see if we can start something.’ I’d like to be able to give somebody a reason to stay here. I think there is great potential, especially in our generation. We want this kind of thing going on and we’re willing to work for it.”


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