a charlotte street 15 year anniversary project considering the history and future of artist-driven pioneering in Kansas City and the changing nature of the city's "frontiers"

CSF History: Interview with Barry Anderson, curator of “Truck” at UCP’s La Esquina in 2007, by Theresa Bembnister

The following text is from an email interview conducted with Barry Anderson in May 2007. Anderson co-curated Truck, an exchange show consisting of two exhibitions — one in Kansas City, the other in St. Louis. White Flag Projects hosted seven Kansas Citians hand-picked by director Matt Strauss, while works by eleven St. Louis-based artists chosen by Anderson appeared at the Urban Culture Project’s La Esquina.

-Theresa Bembnister

Theresa Bembnister: How did this exchange get its start?

Barry Anderson: The exchange came about by a chance meeting between me and Matt Strauss. I was in STL last March (2006) for a show I had at Gallery 210 there. A good friend of mine is a painter in STL and he had taken me to his gallery to introduce me to the owner. As we were leaving, Matt walked in (he was also represented by the gallery, Bruno David) and, after chatting for a bit, he invited us to see his new “project.” He had bought a building to house his studio and decided to open up the front half of it as a non-profit art gallery, which is something that was lacking in the STL art scene. As we were looking at the space Matt tossed out the idea of putting together an exchange show with KC to open up a dialog between our two art scenes. Since I’m on the curatorial board of UCP, I immediately approached them with the idea and everyone was excited. The project then stream-rolled from there.

TB: How did you find the artists you selected for this show? What criteria did you use for selection?

BA: I selected the artists through studio visits suggested by Matt, as well as by an open call. When we began discussing this exchange show we thought about somehow fitting it together thematically, but a theme never stuck out to us. I basically just chose artists that I thought were doing interesting work that was somewhat different from anything I was seeing in KC. I guess I conceived of it as somewhat of a survey of the STL, trying to give a nice representation of the variety of concepts and media being used in STL. Of course, like any show of this kind, I wouldn’t say that I am giving a “complete” picture of the STL scene. There were a number of really good artists that I wasn’t able to include.

TB: What differences or similarities did you notice between the art being made in St. Louis and Kansas City?

BA: I think there are definitely some strong differences between the KC and STL art scenes. The biggest seems to be that STL is based more around commercial galleries, while KC has a more robust non-profit/institutional structure. In the art itself, this seems to translate into edgier, more experimental work being made in KC. Of course, KCAI adds to that equation as well. On the flipside, there is more gallery support and representation in STL, which seems to add a degree of professionalism that is sometimes lacking in KC. When I went to STL to pick up the artwork, 90% of it was dealt with through the galleries rather than directly from the artists. When Matt came here to KC to the art, 100% of it was dealt with directly through the artists. Some of the KC artists included don’t even have gallery representation.

Another difference seemed to be that a lower number of STL artists are active on a broader national or international scale than artists in KC. That again might have something to do with KC artists having to be more in charge of their own careers.


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