One of the leaders of RVA’s art community talks about her decision to leave the gallery she founded in 2004.
Update #1 — April 12, 2013; 6:48 AM
Amanda Robinson, founder of Gallery5, surprised many last month when she announced that she’d leave the Jackson Ward gallery after nearly a decade of work (see below). Her final day will be sometime in June.
Below is an interview with Robinson about Gallery5’s beginnings, her decision to step away, and what’s in store for its (and her) future.
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When did you decide to leave Gallery5?
It was fall of 2011 during Gallery5’s observance of Dia de los Muertos, while a great group of staff, volunteers, and I were working on a larger than life altarpiece for the community. I was in the midst of making a life-size horse out of papier-mâché to pull our steam engine altarpiece, when I was made aware by staff that I had been working on this horse for the past 48 hours and needed to pull back to focus on the other tasks at hand. I stood back, took a deep breath and realized that since it had been so long since I had created anything of my own, I sort of lost it on this papier-mâché horse. As ridiculous as it sounds, the process of building this horse was helping me to relieve this built-up creative energy that I had been storing for so many years.
This experience led me to understand how important it was for me to focus on my own art and path in life. As much as I loved the years of developing new exhibitions and events, as well as working with young artists in hopes of furthering their careers, I knew that I needed to be my own artist and get back to creating full time.
How did Gallery5 came about?
I moved back to Richmond from college in August of 2004, came up with the idea of Gallery5, moved into the space that October, spent a lot of time (with help from Richmond’s community service program) renovating the building, and opened our doors (in collaboration with RVA Magazine’s Kick off) on April 15th, 2005. This organization was truly a grassroots project.
I started Gallery5 with absolutely no experience, so needless to say, it took me several years to fully understand the workings of a non profit and the duties of an executive director. We have always had a great group of folks helping with our performance art events, so my focus has always been on the visual art exhibitions, PR, and marketing.
I curated and coordinated about 90 percent of our exhibitions from 2005-2009 (I had wonderful support and help from a dedicated group of people–especially Parker and my husband, Bizhan). Later in 2009, we began bringing in more outside curators and hired an exhibition coordinator who helped to bring some very credible exhibitions to our space.
What reasons led you to leave?
I started Gallery5 when I was 22, fresh out of college. I came out of school with a painting degree and as a hyper-young artist ready to take on the world. Being involved in the art gallery world was the furthest from what I wanted to do in life. Yet, due to the potential demise of the building and its relationship to my family, I came up with the idea to create a short term fundraiser for the building. After eight years of being a vibrant hub for Richmond’s creative community, I can accept that this was no short term fundraiser, but a project that filled a real need in our community.
The relationships that I have made, the amazing programs that I have had the privilege of being involved in, and the projects that I have organized, have given me so much experience, as well as love and respect for our community of artists and art supporters. Now in my early 30s, it is time for me to get back to my own art and find time to be a mother to my 4-year-old daughter and a better wife to my husband.
Was it a difficult decision to make?
Of course it was, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. Gallery5 was and will always be like a child to me. I have been with it through its beginning stages, through all of its ups and downs and have put my heart and soul into it for years. However, my transition has been gradual (since 2011) and I know that we have a great group of dedicated board members and staff involved who care deeply about the gallery’s future and plan to continue to uphold our mission.
What are your plans now?
My personal immediate and long term plans are to focus on my own cake business which is doing very well (Sweet Fix) and my co-owned bridal boutique and collective, Blush on Berry. I spent all of my 20s running Gallery5 and would like to find more time to be a mother and get back to creating my own art. Perhaps one day, I will have my own exhibition at Gallery5.
What’s the future of Gallery5 look like?
Gallery5 will continue to thrive. For over a year and a half, for the most part, you’ve been experiencing Gallery5 without my involvement. Gallery5’s operation manager, Kim Nario, has been a big support while helping to take on many of my prior obligations with several additional staff and volunteers assisting with event coordinating, marketing, and daily operations. Our board of directors consists of a very active group of people, chaired by Justin Laughter. These guys have been working with staff to create new branded seasonal events and providing more offerings during the weekdays.
As always, they will continue to find creative ways to reach new communities and ensure our mission of facilitating artists, inspiring our community while preserving and celebrating the history of our building. I look forward to attending future events as a patron and becoming an annual donor. I am very excited about some of the new weekday programs in the works and feel that the staff and growing board bring a great and much needed energy to the organization and the community.
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Original — March 07, 2013
After nearly a decade at the helm of Jackson Ward staple Gallery5, Amanda Robinson is stepping down from her duties.
I would like to thank you all for your love and support these past years. After close to a decade of curating and coordinating exhibitions at Gallery5, June will sadly be my last month. My love for Gallery5 has been proven since 2005, but as many of you know, it is time for me to be my own artist and continue on the path that I have been creating throughout the past 3 years. I have had the #1 most amazing experience one could imagine from my time with Gallery5. I was given the golden opportunity to found and direct an ever-growing arts catalyst, which broke through molds and ideals set on a Richmond gallery, as well as create a large number of exhibits that have helped to spur so many new ideas and organizations within our city.
I feel privileged to witness countless emerging artists grow to new heights and mostly having been able to meet some of the most genuine, and quite simply, MOST AMAZING PEOPLE on the planet who have given both myself and Gallery5 more support than I could ever ask. I look forward to supporting this organization as an audience member and donor and hope that you all will also continue to show your love and support for a place that truly serves as a major catalyst for creative minds in Richmond.