Bowing Out of the Spotlight: Trio Gallery Provided Experimental Art Spaces Before Closure

In between the six permanent art galleries and museums in Athens, short-lived galleries remain in the dialog of art in the Classic City. Trio gallery is the most recent of the temporary art galleries to stick around just long enough to make an impression before falling off the radar again. Trio announced its closure in Sept. 2018 after serving the art community for just over a year.

 Why It’s Newsworthy: Though short lived, Trio provided a space for Athens’ arts to collaborate and thrive. Tatiana Veneruso, the curator of the gallery, strived to blend the DIY art scene with the more contemporary art commonly seen in galleries like the Lyndon House. 

 

“I like to bridge the gap between contemporary art and things that are really accessible for local artist as well,” Veneruso said. “I wanted to create shows that kind of brought them together.”

Trio gallery opened summer 2017 and closed just over a year later. From June 2017 to Sept. 2018, Trio hosted nine exhibits featuring a range themes from contemporary color theory to multimedia use of human hair and even a spotlight on young Athens artists in grade 12 and younger. Beyond the exhibits, Trio carved out its place in the community by hosting events like Experimentique night or screening of local films like “Athens Rising.”

In Sept. 2018, the decision to close was an obvious one, though nonetheless hard. In the growing town of Athens with its increasing property values, hosting a nonprofit space is as difficult as it sounds.

Venerus’s mission in Trio was to provide a donation-based art space that captured the essence of commercial art while capitalizing on accessibility. Because the art space was mostly donation based, the goal of maintaining accessibility while paying bills proved to be unsustainable over time.
“That was our goal and that’s what we did, but it’s hard to maintain that. You still have to pay bills,” Veneruso said. “Its difficult to have a space and have it be accessible and keep it going. We wanted to keep it going as long as we could.”

Behind the art space

Over the past two decades, the three story concrete building at 766 West Broad Street served as an after-hours venue catering to the underground music scene in Athens. This space was known by the Secret Squirrel or Money Machine. In the basement of this location, the party started at 2 a.m. and raged on until dawn.

New to Athens, Veneruso was immediately drawn to the community of this niche art space.
When the Secret Squirel closed down, Veneruso, Carolyn Crist and Laulea Taylor jumped on the opportunity to reinvent the space once again. Crist and Taylor transformed it into Pixel & Ink, a printing and framing studio, and gifted the upper third story to Veneruso to reinvent into an art space for the community.

T-shirts hang in the Expunge exhibit. For six hours, Melissa Joseph hand-washed T-shirts that are screenprinted with bullet holes. She washed 122 shirts in all, the number of people killed in mass shootings on school campuses in the U.S. since the Columbine shooting to date. (Courtesy of Trio)

“All three of us loved working with artists, were artists ourselves, and while being business minded, very community driven as well,” Veneruso said. “We wanted to have a commercial gallery space that was still very community driven and supportive of our local artists.”

While Pixel & Ink will continue on, the upstairs gallery took its final bow on Sept. 13 with the screening of the newly-released film “Athens Rising.” Its final gallery, “1996!” the exploration of an era, closed the Saturday of the same week.

Galleries and events

Over the extent of Trios time within the community, the doors were open to the exploration of art in various forms. Events were hosted along with the temporary galleries, some encapsulating the political climate at the time, as “Nasty Women” did, while other events welcomed the used of unconventional mediums, as seen within “Artwerk.” Each event attempting to bring together all corners of the arts of Athens in celebration of the evolving culture.

Experimentique Night is one example of the kind of events Trio strived to provide a space. This night was organized for women, women-identified and non-binary individuals to gather for a night of experimental creativity and expression. Performances included poetry readings, improv storytelling and impromptu jam sessions.

CatFest featured everything cats. Artwork ranged from paper-mache to mixed-media collages and colorful oil portraits. Artists featured include Cameron Bliss, Tom Zarrilli and Ari Ritcher. (Courtesy of Trio)

“My goal is to kind of create a safe and a welcoming space where there is no pressure and everyone is in the same boat because everyone is putting themselves out there and trying something new together,” event organizer Marie Uhler said.

One of the participants, Jennie Cain, a 36-year-old within the Athens art scene, found both a sense of identity and of belonging through this event.

“They encouraged me to believe that I am actually an artist,” Cain said. “They convinced me that I can create art in experimental settings and it has made me feel more of a sense of community in Athens.”

The “Media Circus” exhibit showcased over two dozen artist’s work made out of unexpected materials. By unexpected, this could range from soap with human hair, artwork made out of various spice-cabinet materials like cinnamon and nutmeg, and an especially interesting use of human skin.

Ari Richter, a multi-disciplinary artist who works with non-conventional materials from the human body, displayed a depiction of popular superheroes including Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Rogue and Cyclops. The catch? Each superhero was made using human skin and tattoo ink. Richter collected the skin from the inside of his cheeks, froze it and once he gathered enough skin to work with, he cut it into shapes, soaked in ink, and dried it into the form he wants.

Specter showcased art that explored folklore, fantasy and fear. (Courtesy of Trio)

Richter’s art was displayed with Trio in their exhibition CatFest as well. He is a close friend with Veneruso and was drawn to Trio not just because of the atmosphere, but because he supports the goals and vision of Veneruso.

“It was less about the space for me and more about the person,” Richter said. “I have a mutual respect and trust with Veneruso and what her ideas are and her vision. It’s really just to support her and her endeavors.”

Though Trio has taken a step out of the spotlight, it made room for a new pop-up art space to provide a new take on interpreting Athens art culture and how it evolves over time.

“There’s a need for these kind of galleries. But they come and go over time,” Veneruso said. “The creative spirit of Athens will always provide us with new spaces.”

Maggie Holland is a senior majoring in Journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. 

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