My main role as Director of James May Gallery is that of curator. I seek submissions from regional and national artists via call for entry sites online as well as from word of mouth. The most difficult part is coordinating what artists will show well together in our space.
I also am in charge of the manager, Jimmy Eddings- who happens to be my partner- as well as two interns that we are really lucky to have. Everyone is involved in hanging the shows and keeping the gallery open. Our longest running intern, Kara Slamka will also be curating a show all on her own for the month of August. There is also the marketing, PR as well as the book- keeping, house-keeping, and general maintenance. All the things that no one really wants to do!
I have always been into the arts from a very young age and I received both my BFA and MFA in painting. My main goal was to obtain a tenure track teaching job at a University and both my partner and I chased that dream for over 7 years, teaching at various schools across the country. We got burned out and when we had two kids, both with special needs, we determined it was time to put down roots and find a community we liked relatively close to family.
I taught at UWGB a few years ago while my partner had a artist residency with Clay on Steele in Algoma, WI. Part of the arrangement for the residency was housing in Kewaunee. We fell in love with the area and decided if everything fell through, which it eventually did, we would move to one of these great lakeside communities.
We ultimately chose Algoma because of its walkability and historic downtown. Our friends at Clay on Steele suggested the old Anderson Appliance building that had been vacant for years. Real estate was also affordable.
What do you feel your gallery has brought to your community that did not exist before? What is your definition of building an art community?
We feel that it is a great meeting place and incubator of ideas. It is a place where people can come and see contemporary art and craft in a small community that normally would be shown in a larger city. We have a great group of core people and clients that have really supported us and believed in what we are creating from the beginning. We could not do this without them, they are key in not only helping to keep the lights on but also in working to get the word out and expand our network of clients, artists, supporters, and viewers.
It really feels like we were the impetus to something great within the community, more artists are moving in and creating spaces, and the Clay on Steele co-op continues to grow. We feel that Algoma has so much potential as an arts community, welcoming artists and young entrepreneurs! It has so much to offer. We have the gorgeous beach, biking trails, a great local grocery and farmers market, new businesses popping up, a great school system, and really great people. We are always encouraging our friends to move here!
What are a few of the greatest challenges and successes that you’ve had with your gallery?
I would say the most difficult task is keeping contact with all the artists and coordinating the exhibitions. It is a lot more difficult to curate a good show than I had ever imagined. It has also been challenging to get the word out about the gallery on a very limited budget, but luckily really great free press does exist (thanks to Frank Juarez)!
It has been amazing to see the interest grow within the community and surrounding area and all the positive feedback that we have been getting regarding the quality of work and the space itself. It has been really amazing to be a part of the growing arts community within Algoma and to watch it start to flourish. It has also been great to have a small studio within the gallery so that I can paint and keep the gallery open. I mostly paint throughout the slower winter months but I think it’s great for people to see an artist working within the space and have a more personal connection with the work.
How can people get a hold of you and your gallery? What is your address? Feel free to list social media outlets and URLs.
We do free in home art consulting as well as private showings to those that are interested. Our normal hours are Thursday- Saturday 10am -7pm and Sunday – Monday 10am -1pm. We also have opening receptions with every new exhibition on the first Friday of every month from 5:30-8pm
Stay Connected: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @jamesmaygallery