Willis and Conrad Meyers have made a commitment to highlighting emerging artists at Aggregate Space.
Co-founded by Conrad and Willis Meyers, the gallery will be able to do more for emerging and underserved artists in the 2018-20 seasons.
Aggregate Space Gallery had reason to celebrate in July: It scored major funding — to the tune of $90,000 — for its 2018-20 seasons from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York.
“This funding is a game-changer for us and the community we serve, as it allows us to expand our keystone visual arts programming,” the Oakland gallery co-founder Willis Meyers said, citing eight yearly exhibitions and adding, “ … and new initiatives like ASG alumni/ae artist-led classes. It will also bolster ongoing projects like our annual Aggregate Animated Shorts Film Festival and Video Open Call, both of which collect and share emerging video art with the local community.”
Conrad and Willis Meyers co-founded Aggregate Space Gallery in 2011, after experiencing what Willis called “a storm of resources and determination.” They had been studying sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute and had, according to Willis, “the desire to push the envelope with big and bold new work.”
They breathed life into Aggregate Space, originally designed as a shared studio space. They built a wall between the workshop and the rest of the space to clearly define a gallery that was meant to be shared and host other’s work. Drawing on their experience as artists, Conrad and Willis — she has experience working in tech jobs for museums and arts organizations — have built their gallery into a vibrant and crucial piece of the East Bay art scene. Since showing its first exhibit, a solo exhibition by Paolo Salvagione, in November 2011, the gallery has continued to steadily grow and broaden its scope. It became a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 2015, a shift in status that presented the gallery co-founders with new administrative challenges, particularly, Willis said, a “four-year uphill struggle of all-volunteer work to make the switch from a small operation to a $100K+ organization.”
Their struggle has borne fruit: the gallery secured funding this summer from the nonprofit Warhol foundation, which was established in 1987 with the mission of furthering the advancement of the visual arts in accordance with artist Andy Warhol’s vision.
Although they both maintain full-time jobs, Conrad and Willis are committed to creating “opportunities for people who might otherwise not have them,” Willis said, adding that the gallery continues to “reach out to partner with artists from many historically underserved communities.” They both work for the gallery: Conrad serves as executive director, while Willis is the board president; however, they wear many hats. In addition to the ED and board president duties, they personally manage everything from the warehouse to the website and IT, as well as staff management, logistical support, and whatever else comes up. It’s the sort of homegrown, nose-to-the-grindstone effort that most people in the Bay Area can appreciate.
When asked what their general ethos is in choosing which artists to feature, Willis replied, “We show museum-quality sculpture and new media site-specific installations by emerging artists that couldn’t be seen elsewhere. We encourage the artists to take risks and dream big and provide a great deal of resources to make it all possible.”
This ethic has led the gallery to feature such local artists as Richard-Jonathan Nelson, Jamil Hellu, Dionne Lee, Dimitra Skandali, Shisi Huang, Alex Oslance, and other initiatives. Providing resources to artists who are “financially insecure,” Willis said, makes it possible for “ASG to provide these artists leverage and support to showcase their artwork and find an audience in Oakland, regionally in the Bay Area, and online.”
Aggregate Space is, Willis said, is “proud to be in a community among dozens of great visual arts spaces in the East Bay.”
Visit Aggregate Space Gallery at 801 West Grand Ave., Oakland, or online at AggregateSpacegallery.org.