THERE’S ART on the walls again at 6 East Liberty.
Roots Up left that spot last year, making way for Mamie Ruth’s Emily Bargeron to open East and Up, a vintage clothing and accessories store. Employee and artist Ymke Franssen came into the store and instantly felt a need for art.
“When she had the idea to open this store and she told me she didn’t know what to do with it, my first thought was, ‘Gallery.’ Right away,” Franssen recalls. “One, it’ll bring in people for you, and two, it’ll be fun to showcase people’s work.”
In came ‘Along the Lines,’ the result of Franssen and creative partner Harry Dean Werner’s call for entries.
“We had the name and the idea for this show before Emily even knew she was going to have this space,” Franssen says. “We had already designed our look, but what Emily wanted for the brand was something kind of retro and fun, and I was like, ‘Hm, let’s work with lines.’”
“We had a lot people asking, ‘What’s the theme? What can I send in?’ Our response was, ‘What’s your best work? What are you most proud of?’” Werner explains. “We want to see what you’re working with, how you push your limited medium and space you’re in and then see if it all fits.”
It’s impressive that this is Franssen and Werner’s first curated show, not only because the pieces fit so well together but because they’re so young.
Franssen is 21 and just graduated from SCAD’s photography department. Werner is also 21 and has one quarter left in SCAD’s advertising program.
“What’s nice is there’s no bar to meet or standard to hit,” Werner says. “That’s what we were going for.”
“People don’t even expect you to put this on,” laughs Franssen, “so if you do, you’re already there.”
Age doesn’t matter, though. What does matter is that Werner and Franssen work hard and know what they’re doing.
“As a freelance photographer, people often don’t know what to expect when they hire someone who’s 21, straight out of college. But I think if you show great organizational skills, if you can put on a show that you organize everything for, that shows what you’re capable of,” she says. “It’s mostly a great learning process, because now that we’ve put on this show, we’re ready for a bigger, even better one. We know the amount of work it took, how long it took to do certain things.”
“Along the Lines” consists of over 50 pieces, all from artists who are current students or recent graduates, that they took great care in placing together. But, as they explain, curation isn’t a skill they learned in school.
“Really, the only thing I truly learned [in class] was the salon style of 1800s France, hanging all these pieces really tight together,” Werner reminisces. “They’d have huge rooms but they’d be edge to edge up against each other. You can almost take everything in from just standing in one spot.”
“There were pieces of mine that I really wanted to show people, but I didn’t put it in [the show] because it wouldn’t have fit with the rest of the work,” Franssen says.
“At that point it just becomes an outlier,” Werner adds. “It was a lot of rounds of looking at stuff. The day of, everything was laid out across the floor.”
Werner’s art in the show, bright oil paintings, is a deviation from his typical work, but that type of work pays off.
“I came [to SCAD] with a fairly decent fine art portfolio, but I knew I was going into advertising,” he says. “There’s a different kind of feeling you get when you have something else you do that’s providing your income and livelihood, and then you get to make this. There’s such a stronger connection to this stuff—there’s more feeling behind it. Whether or not it sells, I don’t care. It’s what I wanted to produce, and after liking it, I wanted to show it. And that’s really the end of the path with it. Anything else that happens is unexpected and great.”
“It’s not about selling,” Franssen adds, “it’s about the process of making it and being proud of it and showing it.”
As Franssen explains, the impetus for her and Werner to create their own show was because they needed an opportunity to do so.
“The photo department used to have a show yearly, Silver and Ink, and they lost funding for that,” she says. “We only had it my freshman year. Because of the lack of shows, people have been taking it on themselves to make a show. Most of the other majors still have some sort of showcase.”
“There’s a big drive for photographers to submit work because there’s an opportunity that’s lacking,” adds Werner.
“Hopefully our next one, we could do on an even bigger scale. We’d like to have more space and more work,” Franssen says.
“Along the Lines” will remain at East and Up until March 16.