Young Blood turns the big one-five
Indie art space celebrates 15 years in Atlanta with a retrospective exhibit
Three locations and more than 1,000 artists after its humble beginnings in a West End house, Young Blood Gallery & Boutique will celebrate its 15-year anniversary this weekend. Here, co-owners/founders Kelly Teasley and Maggie White discuss the house parties that helped shape an underground art movement in the late '90s and early 2000s and continue to inform the newest generations of emerging Atlanta artists and gallerists. For the The 15 Year Anniversary Retrospective, opening Sat., Oct. 6, 7-10 p.m., White and Teasley reached out to the artists they've done major shows with since 1997 and will be exhibiting 95 of them.
What were the origins of Young Blood?
Maggie White: Well we lived in the historic West End and we had found a house that was a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house, and it had a cathedral ceiling living room and we were inspired by the DIY music culture that we were a very much a part of in the early '90s. We went to a lot of house shows — you know bands were tired of trying to get major venues to host their shows so they decided to start hosting them themselves and at their friends' houses. It occurred to us that we could do with art what bands were doing with music and house shows.
Kelly Teasley: We did it for a couple years and then we literally had to move all our furniture from our living room and dining room into our garage. We took everything out, and did that every two or three months and it just got to the point where it was kind of a pain to do that.
Were your first artists friends?
MW: No, we did an open call. We really didn't know anyone. It's funny to think about how everyone we know now is more or less from Young Blood.
KT: We just made flyers and put them mostly in art supply stores and around some of the schools. Our first couple shows were like that, where we were just like bring whatever and people brought whatever. After we did a few, we started to meet some people and actually started seeing work that we liked so we could feature artists and start coming up with themes.
So how long did it take for you guys to move out of the house?
KT: Two years. We started to notice there was a lot of response and a lot of artists and people coming in, so we needed to find a space that we could fit more people in and kind of be more permanent — where we didn't have to move our furniture — so we looked around and found this old TV repair shop in Grant Park.
MW: That definitely dates us. And that was around the time the whole indie craft movement was gaining popularity. That was a whole new concept at that time and people really believed in it, even as a political way of life, so we primarily wanted to support these indie crafters because we started to think maybe we could make a business out of this. It is interesting to see how much an artist can grow when given an opportunity. That was our mission from the beginning. We were fine from the beginning with being a stepping-stone gallery; we don't rep artists and we encourage them to show with other galleries and pursue their personal art career.
Now it sounds like you might want to have that shift.
MW: There are challenges to doing shows with only emerging artists. And we've changed and grown. We are interested in working with artists who want to change and grow. We absolutely want to continue to show local emerging artists' work, but with artists who take their art seriously and who want to possibly make a living at it. And we are excited about the idea of bringing in some better known artists — even nationally if we can — and having a local artist be like the opening band and show on a smaller wall.
KT: I feel like we're filling another hole like we did in the past, which is showing kind of contemporary work that is different, that has a big following with a younger crowd, and is in kind of the same genre that we've dealt with before as far as street work and graffiti, more raw skateboard culture. A lot of people our age have grown up and now they have the money to spend on work that they want to collect. They're in a position now that they can do that and we want to be in a position where we can show it to them.
What are some of the biggest shifts you've seen in the arts in Atlanta over the last 15 years?
KT: I think a lot of it is the Internet. When we started, that didn't exist and there was no way to reach out to anyone besides people that you physically saw, so you kinda had to go out a lot and go to other spaces and other shows to meet artists.
MW: The professionalism that the newer independent art organizations have is really impressive to me. WonderRoot and Mint Gallery have really established themselves as serious art advocates and I've seen already how much it's changed the perception of art from within and outside of the art community.
Did you ever have a "Come-to-Jesus" moment where you were like, this might not work at all?
MW & KT: Every day.