SG: Can you give us a little background on yourself and a brief summary on how the gallery came about?
Wug: I’ve been an Indianapolis artist for over twenty years. During that time I’ve belonged to several organizations, including the Coalition of Indianapolis Artists, which sort of got the ball rolling for the modern era of Indianapolis artists in 1987, along with the Massachusetts Avenue scene. I’ve started or been a founding member of numerous galleries and artist spaces, including the Glendale Mall Co-op, School 30, and Art in Hand Gallery in Zionsville. I’ve exhibited my work in just about every kind of venue locally, from hallway shows to formal gallery spaces and retail spaces.
In late fall 2006, I began to look for working space for myself, since a 10’ x 10’ room in my house was just too cramped for everything I do, from paintings to woodworking to lamp making. I explored the usual places like the Stutz and Murphy but they just didn’t feel right. I was talking with a friend, Jennifer Kaye Laughner, and she mentioned looking into the Circle City Industrial Complex. I checked it out, and found the perfect space at the perfect price. It wasn’t my intention to open a gallery, but I had enough room. I figured, why not, so I began showing my work and the work of friends, and publicizing the place, and it’s just built from there.
SG: How would you define the galleries mission and/or niche with in the local art community?
Wug: From the beginning, the intention has been to exhibit thoughtful, beautiful art that challenges and inspires and is suitable for the home or office. This is definitely a commercial space that has to earn its keep, so I can’t always take the risks I might like to, but I do try to show developing or unknown local artists who have a high level of artistic integrity, intelligence and talent. I don’t focus on a particular school or genre, just the highest quality of thought and skill I can find. It’s been a distinct pleasure to introduce some new artists to Indianapolis, like Mark Pack, Cagney King, Rachel Steely, Eric Hudgins, and Paul D’Andrea, to name a few, whose work should be seen and contemplated.
SG: If an artist is looking for an opportunity to exhibit, are you open to submissions or do you prefer to curate your own work? If you are open to submissions, what is the preferred process an artist should consider when approaching the gallery?
Wug: I’m always interested in looking at peoples work, so yes, I accept submissions, but having been around for as long as I have, I know a lot of artists and approach them as well. I almost always curate and hang the shows, unless someone has something very specific they’d like to do that I agree to.
For submissions, I prefer a cd with imagery, but email or a website works, too. A resume/cv and bio are nice, but I’m more interested in an artist’s statement that tells me what they’re trying to accomplish with their art in general. A specific statement for an exhibition can be done later.
I might add, it’s great to introduce yourself during an opening, but it’s probably not the best time to try and set up a show. Send me your info, and if it fits the gallery, we’ll set up an appointment.
SG: What have been the biggest challenges running a local art gallery and what thoughts do you have on how to overcome them?
Wug: For me, probably the biggest challenge has been location. It’s a bit off the beaten path, not in a storefront, and it’s in a neighborhood that’s had some perception problems. It’s actually quite safe here, but due to the lack of urban upscale housing, I’ve had to rely on pulling the suburbs in, and they’re not familiar with the changes that have come about in this area the last several years. There’s still the perception that this is the ghetto, when it’s actually quite suburban around here. The Monon Trail ends here, the Cultural Trail starts here, Mass. Ave. is right around the corner, and Cottage Homes neighborhood is home to the Dorman Street Bar, the hippest bar in town.
Beyond that, it’s the same problems Indianapolis has had for years supporting venues like mine. Lots of lookers, very few buyers. We seem to be viewed as entertainment for an evening or an afternoon. People lack knowledge of art and fear their own opinions. They seem to be afraid to take the risk of buying a piece of art and possibly facing the ridicule of their friends. My view is, you’ve just gotten yourself one helluva conversation piece, quite possibly the means to get to know one another even better.
As artists, we have to be aware during openings that we need to involve ourselves with the newcomers. Too often we settle for what’s comfortable and stand around talking to our friends and wind up alienating possible supporters by ignoring them. Get out of your comfort zone and introduce somebody to your art and your processes. I know my list of friends just keeps getting longer and longer. Clients, too.
We used to attribute some of the purchasing problems to Midwest financial practicality, but I don’t think that’s an issue anymore. I mean, how practical is a jet ski or a 60” TV? Somehow, we have to find a way to show why we matter on a daily basis, beyond filling space in a pleasant way. We’re not something you just visit now and then to get your culture fix.
SG: What plans do you have for the future? Any upcoming exhibitions you would like to share with us?
Wug: For July, I’m showing the work of Shawn Causey, a talented new Herron grad, who’s discovering and exploring her processes via the Ab-Ex school of painting.
In August, I’m showing Rachel Steely again, with her butterfly series, ‘Patterns In Flight’. Much like her series of bone and joint paintings, ‘Action, Unification’, it deals with how animating an object can be portrayed and brought to life. It also goes directly to how art can be something much more than pleasant space filler, and instead challenge and inspire by offering a fresh perspective. Some of the imagery can be seen on the exterior of the Arts Councils new offices at 924 Pennsylvania Street, right next door to the Central Library.
For September, I hope to be showing photographs from my Creative Renewal Fellowship trip to Scotland.
In October, Dan Cooper is bringing in new work. It takes a look at worm holes and string theory through the use of illustrative painting.
There are a couple of other shows still in the planning stages that should be exciting, and some new changes coming to the space itself in the new year.
Wug Laku, Owner
wUG LAKU’S STUDIO & gARAGE
1125 Brookside Avenue C7
Indianapolis IN 46202
Fridays and Saturdays, 12-4, excepting First Fridays, 6-10,
by Scott Grow, email@example.com