Check out GATEKEEPERS, the latest issue of Sixty Inches From Center.
How does one become an artist? It’s difficult, but at least it’s straightforward—you work on your art. How does one become a successful artist? That’s where it gets more complicated. First, you have to define what “successful” means. Then, you have to know the right people. You have to show at the right galleries. You have to have the right connections. And you need the right amount of luck. There are a hundred gates in your path, and the keys that open them might be anything from a $100,000 MFA to a politically-connected relative to having the time and energy to volunteer for someone else. Who’s “in” and who’s “out” in the mainstream art world can be as much about returning favors and cultivating the right donors as who produces the best work. So perhaps it’s not surprising that many creators opt to find alternate definitions of success that don’t require such political maneuvering.
In GATEKEEPERS, we wanted to explore some of those ways around the gates—over the walls, you might say. We also wanted to speak with artists who’d created their own spaces as a way of avoiding the politics game, thus becoming gatekeepers in their own way. And finally, we wanted to challenge some of the assumptions that lead to these gates being created in the first place.
But it’s important to remember that gate keeping doesn’t always mean locking people out. It also means letting people in. And so we wanted to explore the more positive side of the story by speaking to artists and facilitators who make it their business to uplift others and give them the space and resources they need to achieve their own creative goals.
Carlos Matallana does exactly that in his comic strip interview with Vanessa Sanchez at the youth art center Yollocalli, and in Jennifer Patiño‘s examination of artistic communities for survivors of sexual abuse, she interviews three facilitators and finds out how the artists who find safe spaces there are barred and discouraged from other galleries and performance venues. A performer and facilitator herself, Felicia Holman quizzes three of her fellow underground leaders on their own personal tips for running a space, and Melissa Potter speaks with the Sabina Ott about carving out a space for herself when others wouldn’t make room for her. Finally, Mario Contreras covers a move at PBS to restrict the works of filmmakers of color, and Maya Mackrandilal and Eunsong Kim light a fuse with their blistering analysis of the way the art world buys into capitalist systems.
There’s no avoiding a degree of gate-keeping. We all do it in our day to day lives. But maybe the secret is to realize that just because a gate is closed, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get in—nor does it mean that “in” is a place you should want to be.
That said, please step inside, and enjoy GATEKEEPERS.
Reuben Westmaas and Toby zur Loye, Editors, Sixty Inches From Center
Image: Cover design by Caroline Walp, 2015.