In January of 2012 we (myself and collaborators at Permanent Art and Design) set out to find a space for this exciting new project. In June 2012 we showed our final exhibit at XYandZ Gallery and started the transition out of that space on Minnehaha Ave and our additional gallery project, Co Exhibitions on Stinson Ave NE. We spent 3 months brainstorming the name, which you now know as Public Functionary (fondly named for President Buchanan, our street’s namesake), and over 6 months deciding how to build out the gallery and shared workspace with Permanent and The Lab. In October 2012 we launched a most ambitious Kickstarter campaign to crowd source $30,000 in 30 days, which we accomplished! While that month is still looked upon with relief from the stress and energy it required, we gained irreplaceable community, support, validation and funding to start the build-out process. (Thank you supporters!) For the past 5 months we’ve been building, communicating, sharing our process and testing our ideas. What sometimes came up throughout this time, were questions and skepticism from people wondering, “what exactly is it?” or “what are they about?” With good reason, because we have certainly thrown out a million ideas and speculation about what we are, long before the doors have even opened. We even opened the raw space, throwing an impromptu colorful party that had the potential to define us.
The possibility that people might not “get” Public Functionary was a risk we decided to take and part of our unconventional approach. People often prefer explanations in a nice little package, but our sense is that neatly wrapped packages can be limiting. Instead, we invited observation as we worked through a mess of inspiration, revealing how everything fit into place each step of the way. Transparency to the fullest extent. We wanted to create a modern exhibit space to fill a void and add to our community, but we needed to understand what people connected to before we made decisions. We created a presence built around ideas and watched it grow. We experimented and thought about everything to understand how to authentically make the space feel welcome.
Over the past year, we’ve changed the floor plan many times and we’ve revised the mission statement even more times. We’ve made plenty of mistakes but we’ve celebrated small victories and smart choices. We added a wall because someone we respect suggested it, we incorporated programs an artist initiated and we shelved more concepts than we can remember. One thing that hasn’t changed is our initial claim that we will be responsive. We are learning that being responsive means that there will be resistance when you introduce change, or your focus shifts. It is the human way to chase comfort. But, despite the challenges of a transparent approach, we’re sticking with it. Over time, we will make sense in a way that connects to diverse individuals, because we are not limited by what is comfortable for select individuals. This is the way of the modern world– things move fast, things change fast– and people adapt. Growth is never without slight discomfort. Creativity thrives on change and challenge.
We have just opened and everything you know of us, was cultivated during our time of building and creating. Would you disregard an artist because he decides that a painting he spent months on doesn’t fit in the final show? Or would you oppose of an artist abandoning her signature style because she discovers something new that inspires? Certainly not if you value the creative process. One of the most important things we face as an art organization is to remain fresh and relevant. With that task we are resigned to constant change and growth relative to the speed of modern life. So here we are after more transition than we can begin to explain, our doors are finally open. Now is the official moment that begins our story as an exhibition and social space, because before this we were nothing but an ever-evolving concept. But don’t get comfortable because we’ve announced ourselves with a gunshot at the starting line, our organically evolving nature is here to stay and there is no finish line.
Welcome to Public Functionary.
Director and Curator