Some of the most informed collectistas are in the dark about the many amazing nonprofit art spaces in our own backyards. When it comes to viewing the best art, our immediate go-to resources tend to be galleries or museums. However, somewhere between these two extremes are smaller, nonprofit spaces that support and promote artists. In my mind, I think of them as Kunsthalles. Some call them nonprofit galleries. You say potato, I say patata. Regardless of their label, these special places all promote artistic and curatorial freedom, support, education, and gathering spaces for artists and collectors. In honor of Women’s History Month, I was superexcited to download with Lauri Firstenberg of LAXART, Tricia Khutoretsky of Public Functionary, and Kris Kuramitsu of the Mistake Room.
Director and Curator of LAXART
Lauri Firstenberg founded LAXART in 2005 because she saw a void between larger art institutions and the commercial art sector. Artists need space, time, and support for new projects. LAXART is a non-collecting, non-selling space for artists, led by artists. It is a flexible laboratory that supports emerging, midcareer, national, and international artists in executing experimental ideas. Exhibiting artists have included figures like Wyatt Kahn, Mark Boulos, David Hartt, and Jonas Wood. Jonas, for example, recently staged his first public project in West Hollywood as part of LAXART’s public art initiatives program, L.A.P.D. (Los Angeles Public Domain). They even offer a unique curatorial residence program. “It is similar to Sundance in the 1970s,” says Lauri. “Support of curators is key.” The space is extremely focused on education. As such, they have an incubator for collectives. Lauri looks forward to creating an inviting art library that immerses visitors in book-lined walls in their new home. They are currently working with “Slanguage.” LAXART is a nonprofit space that challenges artists to take risks and leads the dialogue on contemporary art in Los Angeles.
7000 Santa Monica Boulevard
Director of Public Functionary
Tricia Khutorestsky is a self-taught curator who has her master’s degree in Arts Management. She founded Public Functionary in Minneapolis as a hybrid of an exhibiting institution and a commercial gallery. She wanted to close the gap between “high end” art and the public. “It is all about artist support and the program is totally audience-driven,” Tricia shares. They sell art, but all profits go to the artists. Public Functionary wants to make contemporary art broadly available. Each and every presentation is extremely different, but the sweet spot is street art and graffiti. They started with local artists to garner community support, but they do try to expose Minnesota to outside artists. Some recent shows have been Dzine, Patrick Martinez, Jennifer Davis, and Sougwen Chung. When determining shows, the organization asks themselves, “What can we do for artists that they need right now in their careers?” For Dzine, it was going off his typical path and introducing him to the Midwest. For Jennifer Davis, it was her first large-scale paintings. And, for Eric Inkala, they provided a “homecoming” with way more affordable space than in New York. The space is constantly changing but the thread is the high quality of the presentation. The audience trusts Public Functionary. Tricia hopes to continue providing a diverse, welcoming space where artists, curators, and the public can come together to exchange perspectives.
1400 12th Avenue NE
Senior Curator of the Mistake Room
Kris Kuramitsu has been the Senior Curator at the Mistake Room since Cesar Garcia founded it in early 2014. She had been working as an independent contemporary art curator in Los Angeles and saw a need for a nonprofit space that provides a platform for international dialogue. The Mistake Room works closely with artists to produce experimental exhibitions that push artist and audience boundaries and ideas. They sell publications as well as offer an annual “multiples subscription” to patrons. All proceeds go back into programming. “TMR fills a gap in the Los Angeles art ecosystem,” states Kris. The space engages sister institutions and curatorial colleagues around the world at an important time in L.A.’s history. The thread amongst exhibitions is focusing on artists that wouldn’t otherwise be seen in Los Angeles. They are thinking about exhibits and programs that relate to each other and speak to contemporary life—they tell a story. Engagement with ideas is the overall mission. TMR is a place for the public to better understand art, artists, and ourselves. Currently, this amazing space attracts a wide international audience. However, being in a densely populated area just south of Downtown, TMR is focused on further developing educational programs that involve the local audience. It is a manifestation of a public platform and a space of mediation.
The Mistake Room
1811 East 20th Street