This month we turn our attention to Studio IX's Manager & Curator, Greg Antrim Kelly. We were curious to know a bit more about what makes our 'front' man tick. Member, Joa Garcia sat down with Greg to ask him a few questions collected from our members.
Studio IX: Why did you choose Charlottesville, and why do you continue to stay in Charlottesville? What's the main draw for you?
Greg Antrim Kelly: I think in a way, Charlottesville chose me. I actually moved here somewhat on a whim. I came through on a cross-country road trip. A friend had a room for rent. It was cheap. I moved in, set up a studio, got a job at the Mudhouse and 20 years later I'm still here. I think the reason I'm still here is of course that it's a beautiful place, but it's really more about the people and the community. It's a wonderful city.
Studio IX: What inspires you on a daily basis?
Greg: People. I guess to be more specific - their stories, their lives & who they are fascinates me. But what equally fascinates me is what separates people, what keeps them at a distance from one another and from themselves. And so the thing I'm most inspired by is seeing where the connections lie.
Studio IX: Tell me a little about your art career, and how you combine the different kinds of work that you do? And what exactly is involved in your artwork?
Greg: I was trained as a visual artist. My degree was in ceramics and art history. But I also spent many years mentoring and teaching, working with youth, working in galleries and museums. When I graduated I pretty quickly steered away from a traditional path - that of getting a gallery, going to New York, becoming a successful artist. My focus wasn't so much about making work as much as making those connections, serving a greater purpose, giving back. So a lot of what excites me and drives me as an artist is largely driven by what goes on outside of the studio. The curatorial side of it. The more public, community driven, social justice aspects - which I'm able to do, in part, here at Studio IX. Supporting the work of other artists and organizations - getting to know them, to better understand their efforts and their process is a big part of what feeds me. The arts, in a way, are just the language that I speak, that I'm most fluent in. It's the tool that I can use most effectively to find those connections.
Studio IX: Looking back on your years to date, is there anything that you'd like a do-over on?
Greg: I wish I'd played organized sports.
Studio IX: What did you want to be when you grew up, and how does that compare to what you're doing now?
Greg: I don't think I ever really questioned it because I was always doing it. Being an artist is just the thing that I did, and I had unwavering support from my family and those around me. So the bigger question for me has always been less about what I do outwardly and more about what's going on inwardly. My ambitions, I think, are far more spiritually based than they are financially or career driven.
Studio IX: Why do you think that is?
Greg: It probably goes back to that basic ingredient for me. Connection. My desire to enlarge the playing field, to have a richer sense of 'home', to have others feel that as well. The spirit is the most fertile ground for it. Whatever's going on outwardly is just sort of an extension of what's going on inside. So it made sense to put my attention there.
Studio IX: That makes sense. What's your secret super power?
Greg: My secret super power. Well, I don't know that I have a name for it, but I think I'm pretty good at what I guess I would call, 'breaking a horse'. Softening the walls of those who are guarded, angry, who most consider to be assholes. In a strange way, I kind of admire them.
Studio IX: That's a really good trait to have.
Greg: Yeah. When it works. (laughter)
Studio IX: What do you do in your down time?
Greg: Watch documentaries, get outdoors, drink coffee, talk to people, strike up conversations.
Studio IX: What is the meaning of life?
Greg: Good coffee? (laughter) - but seriously, to love one another and to appreciate and respect what's here. That's all.
Studio IX: What's your favorite part of working at IX, and what's one thing that you would shed?
Greg: My favorite part would have to be the people - which is why I love the job. I get to interface with all of you each day. And also working with James and his vision for Studio IX and Vault Virginia. It's very much in line with the work I'd been doing before landing here, and the work that I continue to do outside of Studio IX. So that's exciting to me. As for what I would shed - hmmm. Well, as much I love making coffee, I'm looking forward to being relieved of those duties. We're all excited to have Milli Roasters and Sicily Rose (Italian coffee shop & cannoli bar) setting up shop here this fall.
Studio IX: What's your favorite band?
Studio IX: What kind of music is that?
Greg: I guess you'd call it alt country rock? but they kind of take from everything.
Studio IX: Have you gone to any cool concerts lately?
Greg: I just saw an amazing concert at The Garage on Friday night.
Studio IX: What's The Garage?
Greg: It's a venue here in town that's literally a garage, adjacent to the park that has many names, that has the Lee statue in it.
Studio IX: Okay, yeah.
Greg: Yeah, good friends. One opened, the other one headlined, and then another one jumped in with the one who headlined and played a few songs.
Studio IX: Nice.
Studio IX: What kind of music was that?
Greg: That was more singer/songwriter - guitar, keyboards, cello kinda stuff. Wes plays cello and sings, Diane plays guitar and keys and sings, Guion plays guitar and sings.
Studio IX: Wow. I love music, but I'm not musically inclined. I have a keyboard and a guitar, but I can't move my fingers like that.
Greg: It's hard.
Studio IX: Doesn't work for me.
Greg: Yeah, it's very hard.
Studio IX: That's why there's no way I could ever be an artist because I can't think like that.
Greg: We'll work on it. (laughter)
Studio IX: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Greg: That's a tough one because I live so much in the moment, but I would say that if the last ten years are any baromoter of what's to come, I would probably still be committed to the work that I am now and hopefully in this community. Much of that has to do with our young people, race relations & social justice - and there's plenty of that to do.
Studio IX: Yeah.
Greg: As long as I don't get priced out or relocated due to other circumstances, I'll probably still be here doing exactly what I'm doing now..
Studio IX: Yeah, it seems like you're really happy with what you're doing now.
Greg: It feels that way.
Studio IX: What's the best thing you read this summer?
Greg: What's stayed with me the most are the late sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A collection called 'Strength to Love'. I've also been carrying around a steady stream of Irish writers/poets. Moya Cannon, Michael Longley, an off-beat short story writer named Kevin Barry.
Studio IX: What animal would you like to come back as and why?
Greg: I don't know if I would come back as this, but this image has always stayed with me. When I was eight years old, I went to the aquarium in Chicago, and I was staring at a seal who was laying at the bottom of the aquarium. Just laying against the wall like this (mimics a drunk man leaning against a wall) - holding their breath, I guess, just chilling out. I thought, "It would be cool to be a seal."
Studio IX: Where is your family from? Where were you born? Where's your hometown?
Greg: My dad's side is Irish, surprise surprise. Mom's side is French-mutt. I was born and raised in Illinois. Grew up in Champaign-Urbana. We moved to St. Louis when I was eleven.
Studio IX: Nice. I love Champaign actually.
Greg: Oh, yeah? I think that's another reason I love Charlottesville is that it reminds me a lot of Champaign.
Studio IX: What's a risk that you've taken?
Greg: Probably following this crazy notion that simpler and slower is a better way to live. Trusting my intuition around it. I don't consider it as much 'a risk now, but I think in the past, I questioned it a lot. Investing in something that wasn't necessarily a step-by-step kind of thing, but was guided more by curiosity and inspiration, a passion for things. - trusting that it would evolve. That felt risky at the outset.
Studio IX: If you could be in the Olympics, what sport would you pick and why?
Studio IX: Oh, why?
Greg: I just love it - though I've never done it.
Studio IX: It's so difficult.
Greg: Yeah, I sit on a machine at the gym all day, but I haven't been in a scull or an 8. I just think it's beautiful. And I think it would be an amazing feeling - being in something that is totally silent and feeling that much power when you put your oar in and there's eight of you pulling.
Studio IX: If you were in a roller derby or a bowling league, what would you call yourself?
Greg: Oh my gosh, what would I call myself? What would you call me?
Studio IX: I don't know. I was trying to think of what I would call myself, and I don't even know.
Greg: Yeah. I mean Spaz would be good because people consider me to be so mellow.
Studio IX: Yeah, that's true. (laughter)
Studio IX: Is there anything else that you'd like to say?
Greg: Closing thoughts?
Studio IX: Yeah, that we haven't gone over.
Greg: I don't think so. Just happy to be here.
Studio IX: We're happy to have you.
Greg: Thank you.