Changes are underway at monOrchid, a creative space in Phoenix's Roosevelt Row arts district founded by photographer Wayne Rainey in 1999. The renovated 1930s warehouse is home to not only Rainey Studios, but also gallery, retail, co-working, and event space.
The changes include both physical modifications to the building and shifts in the way monOrchid approaches exhibiting artworks, Rainey says.
Gallery-goers have already seen evidence of both.
Chandler artist Nicole Royse, who joined monOrchid in 2012, left in December after curating two final exhibitions. One, featuring work by Constance McBride, relocated to the Coe House to assure artwork wasn’t damaged by renovation work underway at monOrchid.
Recent structural changes at monOrchid are designed to add capacity, Rainey says. The changes include adding bathroom stalls and fire sprinklers to a northern area of the building. He added some smaller touches, too — a row of refurbished stadium chairs and bathroom doors painted a coat of Pantone 448C paint. (That shade was dubbed the ugliest color by Australian researchers in 2016.)
Having more bathrooms will make monOrchid more desirable as an event venue, Rainey says. So, too, will the opening of the Dressing Room, a restaurant that opened on the east side of the monOrchid building in January. The Dressing Room's owners will also operate a catering business called Conceptually Social, serving monOrchid and additional downtown Phoenix venues A liquor license for the whole address comes with it, Rainey says, adding, “That changes the whole paradigm.”
“We want to reinforce the idea that this is an important third space,” Rainey says. It’s a reference to the idea that communities need places beyond home and work where people can gather. “There will be a completely different feel here.”
The gallery has long done weddings and other events, but the renovations will help monOrchid ramp up its special-events capacity. Bentley Gallery made a similar shift in late 2015, consolidating exhibition space at Bentley Projects and dedicating space it now calls Warehouse215 to special events.
Rainey also plans a significant shift in the way monOrchid brings art to the community.
He’s working with Mark Jay Freedman, an artist with Arizona roots who recently returned from a decade spent in New York. They’re replacing the old model of monthly exhibitions with a new one, Rainey says.
“This next year will be all about narrowing and picking a smaller talent pool of artists,” Rainey says. Expect quarterly exhibitions instead of monthly ones, with more emphasis on selling rather than merely showing artwork. “Our mission is to find the best new brilliant artists and make them financially viable.”
Monthly exhibitions will continue through the end of April, says Freedman, who uses the title "aesthetic director" rather than curator. The featured artist in February is Thuong Nguyen, whose solo show at Chartreuse last year was well-received.
Exhibitions of artists represented by monOrchid will launch in May, says Freedman, who is currently in the process of making studio visits and talking with artists about possible gallery representation. He's focusing on both metro Phoenix and Tucson artists, including several who trained at ASU or University of Arizona. Eventually, he says, they'll represent artists at various national or international art fairs. "We want to bring the eyes of the art world to Phoenix," Freedman says.
Recognizing not everyone can afford an original work of art, Rainey is repurposing part of the former Bokeh Gallery space as a place to sell prints. Artists will also be able to sell items such as T-shirts, books, and stickers, Freedman says. Rainey figures the shift to including retail space is well-timed considering all the new developments going in nearby, which mean more new apartment dwellers looking for art to decorate their living spaces.
Taken together, the changes reflect some pretty big-picture thinking.
"It's important to contribute to the art dialogue of the 21st century," Freedman says. "I'm not sure many Phoenix galleries have that focus right now."
Correction: This post has been updated from its original version to correct the year monOrchid was founded and to clarify that the Dressing Room is a restaurant, not a catering business..
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