Many people involved in the arts have, at one time of another, contemplated the prospect of opening a gallery. I’ve entertained the idea, but whatever excitement I gain from the prospect is quickly tempered by fear. The thought of starting a gallery is more than a little frightening. Nora Freeman, however, has the necessary guts. I’ve known Nora since the second grade, back when she was simply my friend’s cool older sister. A couple of years ago we interned at Water Street Studios together, and now I am excited to say that she has founded her very own art space, Så Gallery. I sat down with Nora to learn more about her motivations, aspirations, and what Så means.
Miles Johnson: Tell me a little a bit about Så Gallery.
Nora Freeman: Så Gallery is a little (232 sq. ft) space I started renting in February. Our first show was last month, and the second opens Saturday, March 26.
MJ: Why did you decide to start Så Gallery?
NF: I had been a big fan of Chicago’s alternative gallery scene and wanted to get more involved. I love contemporary art and I think my strength, in regards to creativity, is avidity. I get really excited about bringing peoples’ work to light and making connections between works and people.
MJ: Why did you choose the name Så Gallery?
NF: I wanted a name that didn’t mean anything. I read the word så in a Swedish-language magazine and, besides its meaninglessness (to me), I liked the way it looked.
MJ: What would you say is your niche in the Chicago art scene?
NF: It’s a fledgling gallery, me doing it all myself without a formal art background. I’d like to show artists whose work I believe in who are just emerging. I find artists I like often by looking at galleries of student work on art school websites, then following up with ones I like. So I see myself showing the work of artists who haven’t shown much or at all in Chicago.
MJ: What was the response like to your first show?
NF: People were so enthusiastic, so supportive of this new endeavor! It was a muted show. There were three really talented artists involved, all making pretty quiet work. The show was called Quasi-landscapes and I think people who came to the show in this new space not knowing what to expect were surprised, and pleased the work was a lot fresher than “landscapes” suggests. It was very fine work, which people noticed.
MJ: What kinds of artists are you looking to work with?
NF: Well, the kind of work I like is pretty spare, though at the same time I love the tactility of paint, ceramic, and fiber art. I would love to expand more into these areas. As far as viewpoint goes, I like works that are succinct. But it’s pretty wide open after that.
MJ: What do you think are the advantages of having a gallery in Chicago rather than in a city with a larger art scene like New York?
NF: Chicago has a really strong ”young” art scene with lots of high-quality work being made and exhibited. Thoughtful, exciting contemporary art is really accessible, and people are happy to go to all these small or alternative, non-commercial art spaces.
MJ: Where would you like to see Så Gallery in 5 years?
NF: I would love to show some artists from abroad. I would like to have a strong program of people engaging with the work through talks and things. But mainly to still be giving exposure to artists with a strong body of work.
Så Gallery’s upcoming show, Nobody to Have Any Fun With, opens Saturday March 26 at 7:30pm and runs through May 1st. It features the work of Mac Katter, Dylan Cale Jones, and Vanya Schroeder. More information can be found at Så Gallery’s website.