Threesquared Curator Sara Estes Makes a Space of Her Own
By Joe Nolan
If memory serves, I met Sara Estes at the Seed Space gallery at the Chestnut Square building. I was at an opening for a show, chatting with a group of friends and one person I didn’t know. Estes and I had been in touch about various art happenings via Facebook, but, as is often the case, the real person wasn’t what I’d expected.
Online, the curator/writer/gallery manager had always been friendly, funny and polite – she was in real life too. However, she was also talkative and energetic – she brought an intensity to our conversation and when she spoke about Nashville’s art scene, she was admirably opinionated and clearly determined. These are both qualities that make things happen in the art world and they also add a lot to an interview. Estes was good enough to entertain some questions from Dancing Noodle Magazine, touching on how galleries evolve, her favorite part of curating an exhibition and the question of what makes great art.
DN: Threesquared has hosted shows for years, but has only recently become a space with regular exhibitions. Tell me a bit about how the space came to be a gallery.
SE: In 2008, (Nashville artist) Dane Carder decided to open a portion of his large studio space up for other artists to show work. The studio’s main white wall is perfect for displaying art, and he was nice enough to share it with artist-friends of his. So there were about six exhibitions, all very different, over the next three years. It was during that time that he started to refer to it as Threesquared. After the success of those first shows, he began tossing around the idea of having someone come in to turn it into a regularly curated exhibition space. That’s when I entered the picture.
DN: How did you come to run the space?
SE: The great Lain York (Nashville artist/Gallery Director at Zeitgeist Gallery) put me in contact with Dane. I had been working in the gallery/museum world for a few years, and Lain knew I was itching to curate some exhibitions on my own. I jumped at the opportunity.
DN: For readers who aren’t familiar with Threesquared, tell me a bit about how you operate the space now.
SE: I’ve been directing and curating Threesquared since the spring of 2011. As for our exhibitions, we mainly stick to a bi-monthly exhibition schedule, though there are some exceptions. As a curator, I like to know the artists and their work well, and that takes time. It usually includes weeks of studio visits, discussions about exhibition design, and attempts to narrow down the show’s key concepts and themes. So the dates vary as to when we have openings. We also try to partner up with our friends at the neighboring gallery, Seed Space, for joint openings and events. We want people to experience as much of the wonderful Chestnut Square vibe as possible during openings.
Our vision for Threesquared has always been to oust the “stuffy gallery” vibe in which people silently walk by the art and leave. Instead, we try to make it a place where people want to hang out and talk to each other about what they’re seeing. Nashville needed another space for artists to exhibit their work to an audience with a critical eye, a space that would create a forum for discussion and foster a greater sense of artistic community. Since day one, we’ve worked towards providing that.
DN: You’re not a traditional gallery in the sense that you don’t represent artists and sell their work. How do you find the artists you show?
SE: When we sat down to make the first year’s exhibition schedule, we both came in with an big list of artists whose work we admired and felt would be appropriate for the space. We were lucky to be able to get most of them. We’ve found our other artists by keeping our eyes and ears wide open constantly. Both Dane and I are always on the look out for potential exhibitions. For 2013, we will be doing an open call for artist proposals, which I’ve been extremely eager to do for quite some time.
DN: What might catch your eye about a particular artist’s work?
SE: Above all else, great art masters two things: concept and craftsmanship. After that, it’s simply a matter of whether it sings or doesn’t sing.
DN: What do you enjoy most about the curatorial process?
SE: If I had to choose, I’d say writing the curatorial statement. I’ve been a writer all my life, and visual art has long been my topic of choice. As a curator, I get to pick the artists’ brains for a several weeks. After digesting the work and analyzing my conversations with them, it’s great to sit down and churn out a new perspective on their work.
DN: What does Threesquared have in store for the coming months and 2013?
SE: On November 30th, we were excited to hold our very first — but certainly not our last — Author’s Night. Writer and curator Veronica Kavass did a reading from her recently released book Artists in Love with a Q&A and discussion. We made our official call for artists in November and will announce our 2013 exhibition schedule shortly. December 7th marks five years since our first exhibition! We’re certainly celebrating that. So stay tuned!
Keep up with Threesquared via their Facebook page and website. Join their email list at email@example.com to receive updates on all the latest happenings at the gallery. Threesquared is located in the Chestnut Square building at 427 Chestnut Street in studio 223.