- Address: 2213 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78702
- Owner: Jill Schroeder
Jill Schroeder (J): As you approach the gallery from the outside, it looks like an unassuming east Austin house. When you enter, you are hit with a visual surprise. The space is much larger than expected and is a mixture of old and new elements. The front of the gallery has wood floors and a shiplap accent wall, and the back of the gallery expands with higher ceilings and a contemporary cement slab floor. The mixture of old and new makes visitors comfortable in the space, while at the same time highlighting and elevating the artwork.
J: I have a fine arts background and experience in marketing and branding. When I moved down to Austin, I decided to put that all together and open an art gallery. A good friend of mine owned a well-loved art space in Minneapolis. He had a great vibe at his gallery that I wanted to emulate, and he encouraged me to start my own space.
J: Are you familiar with the children’s game Duck, Duck, Goose? Only in Minnesota is the game called Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. The kid who is “it” taps each kid’s head and says Blue Duck, Green Duck, Red Duck…GRAY DUCK. I’m from Minnesota, and I wanted to acknowledge where I’m from and how it shaped my aesthetic.
J: I like to think of the gallery as a for-profit/non-profit hybrid. Art sales are important, but that is not the only reason to have a show. I want to keep the calendar of exhibitions open to installation, film, and sound pieces, as well as traditional mediums. I want to expose audiences to strong shows, even if they are not sellable.
J: I love our space and the location, but I wish Austin had a concentrated area of art spaces. I wish I had a few galleries as neighbors.
Is there any consistent message, regardless of different shows, that you want your gallery to deliver to visitors?
J: I’m trying to fill a space between DIY, artist run spaces, and high-end, exclusive galleries here in Austin. Giving local artists a place to show their work is grayDUCK’s primary goal, but we also like to bring in art from all around the country. We want to expose viewers to what else is going on nationally and give artists from other places the opportunity to show in Central Texas.
‘Emerging artists’ may be an overused term, but it’s primarily what I show. This can mean: not yet discovered, outsider art, or artists emerging in a new direction. What I’m looking for are solid ideas, excitement, and craftsmanship. I want people to know that you could instantly fall in love with a piece, and that you don’t need to read an entire dissertation to be connected to a work of art. That being said, knowing more about what you’re looking at gives the viewer more perspective, and there’s always a story, whether it’s how, why, or where it was created, or even with what.
J: Austin is a scrappy art city that never gives up. There are quite a few artist-run galleries here, and with property costs continually rising, it’s made having a physical space harder and harder. But the creative community here is very supportive and friendly. Artists, galleries, and non-profits all try to help each other. There are some smart, talented, and determined people who care about the art scene and are here for the long haul to continue to make this place better.
J: This is a difficult question to answer. While at my gallery, I try to give my full attention to the work that is in front of me. It’s like I have a new favorite artist every month.
I have also found that for me art, like music, represents different times in my life. When I was in school, the gothic, dark feel of the Quay Brother’s stop-motion puppet animations communicated deeply to me. Visually, they made discarded doll heads and dirt into beauty. MOMA had a retrospective on their work in 2012, and I was lucky enough to get to go. To see their sets, props, and characters in real life was fantastic.
Cindy Sherman is another artist I looked up to in school and still do. Her Black and White Untitled Film Stills was the first I had seen of her work. My medium was also photography, and her dialogue on how women’s roles were represented in society intrigued me.
When I moved to Austin, I volunteered at the Blanton Museum of Art, and there I was exposed to many more Latin American artists. One of the shows that stood out for me was Jorge Macchi. He has the ability to take ordinary items and transform them into something completely different – visual poetry.
J: I can’t say enough about networking. Go to every opening in your city and meet people. Every artist, curator, and patron will end up helping you in some way. It’s easier to get an exhibition if you know the person who runs the space.
J: I think every artist has a different path, and it doesn’t necessarily include a MFA. Hardworking, talented artists will succeed because their art is compelling, not because they have a degree. I think MFA programs can help you reevaluate how you make and talk about art. But that’s not for everyone.
- Featured image on the top: Predators, Prey, & Pixels by Shawn Smith
- Photos courtesy of grayDUCK Gallery