Sharon Arnold, formerly of LxWxH and Roq La Rue, has a young venture in Georgetown, where she continues her work as a “producer of things related to the visual art world, music, literature, and performance.”
When I met with Sharon Arnold to talk about the first anniversary of her gallery, Bridge Productions, it was raining in Georgetown. Holding her coffee, Arnold unlocked the door to the old building she shares with two other art venues, hauled the gallery’s sandwich board outside, checked out the bathroom, then turned on the heat for her one-room space.
I thought, “Oh, the glamorous life of a gallerist.”
From these mundane machinations, you might not guess how important Arnold is to so many in the art world, how her candor and warmth invite engagement with art and politics, how her creative endeavors have overlapped and rippled out.
IF YOU GO
“Paths” by David Andrew Nelson, exhibition through April 1; “Coyoteways” by Nat Evans, live album release on March 25; Bridge Productions, 2-7 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, Hamilton Work Studios, second floor, 6007 12th Ave. S, Seattle; (bridge.productions).
“Bridge Productions is a convening space for discussion, ideas and community. It is an experiment in how a gallery can expand beyond its walls and its city. Sharon’s role is that of a facilitator,” says Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, former director of the Frye Art Museum.
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While this anniversary marks one year for the gallery in its current location, Arnold’s overarching company, Bridge Productions, has been around since 2010. Along the way, Arnold has organized exhibitions, sold curated box sets online, written about art, and facilitated literary projects and music performances.
In 2015, she stepped away from her gallery LxWxH (Length Width Height) to partner with the (now-closed) gallery Roq La Rue. In 2016, she opened the current space in her beloved Georgetown.
So how does she feel one year later? Arnold says, “I feel more solid in my role as a curator, as a gallery owner, as someone trying to step into publications. I am more comfortable with the idea of being a producer of things related to the visual art world, music, literature and performance.”
Bridge Productions represents six Seattle-based artists — Julie Alpert, Tim Cross, Sue Danielson, Emily Gherard, Dave Kennedy and Kat Larson — and also shows emerging and national artists, and projects by guest curators.
The current exhibition by David Andrew Nelson — who received his BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in 2015 — is a testament to Arnold’s commitment to compelling art, regardless of how established an artist is. “To have a show at Bridge Productions feels like a big step,” Nelson says. “Sharon is so well-respected and for her to trust me to give her quality work? It’s comforting and really exciting. It’s reinforcement.”
The art she’s shown over the past year is remarkably varied. But all the paintings, sculpture, video, photographs and hard-to-categorize works insist on process. They whisper about their own making and they hint at more: conceptual systems, politics, or philosophy. And, laughing, Arnold says there’s usually a serendipitous connection to science fiction.
This is art you can spend hours looking at and thinking about, or a lifetime living with. And that’s a primary goal for Arnold. She wants to widen the art audience in Seattle, for people to feel welcome in her space and to feel comfortable looking at and buying art. She is upfront about offering payment plans.
“Some of my favorite moments are on Saturdays when all the building’s curators [of The Alice and Interstitial galleries] are here and we’re in each other’s spaces, and I’ll come back and people are sitting on the floor, in the chairs. They’ve pulled books off the bookshelf to read,” she says. “That’s exciting.”
The curated box sets, which she continues to produce and sell, are also “all about accessibility.” She says, “Some people are intimidated to come into galleries, so I thought, ‘What if the gallery comes to you? Shrunk down to a 9-and-a-half-by-12-inch box.’” Each one, handmade by local woodworker Steve Leroux, contains work by two different artists and a literary project by a featured writer.
For artists, Arnold not only provides different outlets for their work to be seen and sold, she offers encouragement. “That kind of support is the key to feeling safe in taking creative risks,” artist Larson says.
And so, while this is an anniversary of a brick-and-mortar gallery, Larson notes, “Bridge Productions is not a place. It is a movement. Sharon is creating an intersection for viewers, critics, artists, curators, writers, dreamers, believers and activists — a junction where valuable and culturally influential ideas can cross-pollinate.”