Branding KiCK Gallery: an Interview by Laurel Smith

prairie02 Calgarian, Jfry Craig is a promoter of art who recently KiCKed up his online non-traditional gallery. Craig currently has a roster of five local artists whose sample artworks are featured online alongside an array of one-night events where the works appear ‘live’. KiCK moves in wider circles by tapping into the entertainment industry. Gigs include local clubs, the 2009 Sled Island festival, and the RightToPlay charity event. KiCK also has an online store where you can purchase trendy art and swag. Laurel Smith eInterviews Jfry Craig to learn more about the direction of his gallery: LS: Why KiCK? JC: I wanted a short name that was easy to remember. I wanted it to sound energetic and aggressive. A name I could make a bold brand from. LS: What prompted you to start an on-line gallery? My belief is that I’ll have more success throwing shows all over the world than sitting in a fixed location hoping the recession goes away. An online gallery seemed a more natural fit with our audience where KiCK can create campaigns for the artists that are more in tune with the tech crowd now emerging as significant collectors. I still operate out of an office where I meet collectors to show work and I have studio space for the artists to work in. In that sense, we’re not that different than a fixed-location agency or gallery. We’re just going to be more active in promoting our artists abroad. LS: Who is your target audience? I want dynamic aggressive artists and I think they’ll attract a similar following. We’re focusing on emerging independent collectors on the art side; there seems to be an appetite for commissions. For the fans who might not be able to buy into the art, we’re hoping that they enjoy the shows we throw and support the artists by picking up a T or a bag, much like they would at a festival or concert. We’d like everyone to feel like they can be involved with the artists to some capacity. LS: Is KiCK an exclusive vanity gallery? How do you decide who gets to show? KiCK is absolutely not a vanity gallery. KiCK has a vested interest in each artist. We provide studio space, help artists apply for grants, and produce promotional material for them. Our primary goal is to allow artists to focus on their art first and foremost. We are featuring Canadian artists that I felt were under-represented in galleries. I believe there are opportunities to increase the market and prestige both domestically and abroad. LS: Is it a deliberate decision to have one illustrator, one photographer, one painter in your group? Will you open the gallery to other media? I think it’s just coincidence; that’s what we had up when you went to the site as we were still building out content. Because KiCK is so new, many of the artists are still preparing their first series of work. Most of the artists are painters, but there are a couple of photographers and illustrators. I would like to represent new media and installation artists in the future, but that’s more of a phase 2 thing. LS: Do you see yourselves as an art collective? Do you collaborate on content and projects? KiCK shares many of the ideas of a collective but I’m not sure if It’d really qualify as one at this point. Right now it’s more like an agency of like-minded clients, but there will definitely be collaborative work coming down the pipe this summer. I admire many of the things that groups like Lifetime Collective are doing and would be pumped if we could follow in a similar path. LS: Can anyone submit and post on your gallery or do you have submission criteria? Anyone can submit to KiCK, but right now, there’s a set roster and I’d be hesitant to include many more artists than I currently have. We’re trying to be a positive part of the community by promoting other shows and events, like Out Of Context 3 in June (as part of Sled Island). So while there might not be an opportunity to be represented by KiCK, we’ll definitely be trying to help out if we can. LS: You are based out of Calgary. What are the benefits of a Calgary location? We have office and artist studio space in Calgary, but the idea is to promote shows internationally, so our physical location isn’t quite as important as a more traditional gallery. That said, Calgary has a lot of people really trying to do their most for the arts and it’s a really positive atmosphere. There is a lot of talent and you can really see the push and pull of aesthetics at work here. It’s a nice place to run a business. LS: What are the challenges for Calgary artists? Not being sucked up by galleries and losing your sense of self. Getting thoughtful critiques of your work. Finding suitable and affordable studio space. Getting grant and government funding. Gaining access to collectors, not just fans. I don’t think Calgary is very different than many other scenes in that respect. Hopefully KiCK can help with some of that. LS: How do you see your gallery contributing to the wider arts scene? KiCK plans to co-present art and music shows in cities across Canada and to provide whatever support we can to others trying to do the same. There’s a nice positive outlook among the young people involved in the art scene in Canada and it’s nice to be able to help foster that energy in any way we can. LS: How do you measure your success? If I can achieve my goals, which are to show the KiCK roster of artists internationally, I will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, but real quantifiable success is measured in sales, commissions and buzz. If I can help take some of the burden off of artists and help them focus on their work, I’m on the right path. LS: Tell us about the Montreal exchange program and what inspired this? Do you have sponsors, funding for this project? We will be having a month long show in Montreal, which takes place during the Just for Laughs and Jazz Festivals. The launch will feature a big party with DJs and live art. We’re happy to be partnering with Eric Amber, owner of Theatre Ste. Catherine to present the show. We are hoping to have a show in TO in the early winter and then a show in Mexico next spring. Right now everything is funded by KiCK (aka me) although we will be seeking some funding and government assistance in the future to help the artists attend their shows and to set up installations. - L.S. Calgary original