macheteMACHETE Contemporary Art Gallery
macheteMACHETE was a small contemporary art gallery created by me and my fiance on the island of St. Croix. To draw support, we dedicated 2011's last show to educating the community about the expenses behind operating a small gallery and the impact of DIY philosophy and support for local arts in an underserved community. Pieces included an empty paper towel dispenser and Francis's photographs superimposed with our electricity bill, our wish list and an open letter to visitors in which I discussed the hidden costs of operating a gallery. On opening night, guests enjoyed refreshments while Francis gave himself a DIY tattoo and I stood by the bathroom and encouraged visitors exiting the bathroom to dry their hands on my jeans. Visitors were offered a refreshing transparency that left a lasting impression and moved them to contribute, while educating them important yet accessible items like paper towels and framing supplies.
We didn’t start macheteMACHETE to get rich off of exhorbitantly priced contemporary art. We started it so you could see something you might not normally see in Christiansted, on Art Thursday, and up on our blog. We did it so we would have something new to talk about every time we were waiting in line next to each other at the post office. It’s a great ingredient for our local culture. Plus, we like having somewHere in town to meet up and hang out. Art is a good time and we like to have a good time!
But macheteMACHETE is still a business, and good intentions don’t waive our business expenses. We know that when someone walks into the gallery and falls in love with a piece, they’re not falling in love with our air conditioning, our flushing toilet, the glass over a photograph or the time we spent doing touch up work on the white wall. But our annual licensing fees are still $260, our water and power deposit is still $650 - $800, our monthly utility bill is still $100, printing fliers still a minimum of $50 per show, and there are always two months of preparation before any show.
A Buyer isn't paying for all those things when they take home a piece that they love. They are primarily supporting the Artist. The gallery’s percentage goes to all of the above, and more; meanwhile, the director of the gallery is working for free. How do we negotiate the absorption of hidden costs?
We eat a lot of it. We keep things as DIY as possible. This means painting, sleeping, washing windows, framing art, even electrical work in carpentry. From utility costs to interior upgrades, we find innovative ways to improve the space for maintaining our focus as a contemporary art space. We do all web maintenance and event fliers in-house. We have no advertising budget and we rely on the web and word-of-mouth to spread the word about our events. At show openings, we are well loved for our homemade hummus, and rather than buying sugary non-alcoholic beverages we make lemongrass or basil tea. All of this keeps costs down for the Artist, Gallery, and the Buyer.
People have asked, ‘How can we help?’ So we put together a macheteMACHETE wishlist. You can do more than purchase art to support the gallery and its artists. If you want to donate an item on our wishlist, get in touch with us! If you'd rather send in a donation via PayPal, that's great too! Your support makes a difference to us, and to everyone who walks into macheteMACHETE