LIFESTYLE - INTERVIEW
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Ksenia Grishkova is in the middle and her past and present Director's Assistants.
LIFESTYLE - INTERVIEW
by Beren Dere
Touchstone Gallery is an art gallery that brings together local artists and international talents with art lovers through its 3 exhibitions in a month. Touchstone Gallery has doubled its exhibition capacity after moving to its new modern street-level space in 2010 to create more opportunity for local talents. In 2012, they founded the non-profit organization Touchstone Foundation for the Arts, in order to raise awareness of art and supporting the local artists. I had the opportunity to talk with Ksenia Grishkova who has been managing all these processes since 2007.
Ksenia Grishkova, Director of Touchstone Gallery
Ksenia, I would like to learn more about you, when did you first become interested in art? What inspired you?
I’ve been surrounded by art my whole life, starting from when I was a child. Both of my parents were conservators and worked for major art museums -- they also did a lot of private work at home. Our home looked like a combination of an art studio, laboratory, and workshop with various tools all over as opposed to a regular apartment. What inspired me? All I saw around me was art and history of art being preserved. I knew one way or another art is always going to be part of my life.
Could you tell us about your arts management experience and your career as the Director of Touchstone Gallery in Washington D.C.?
Originally I studied studio art and fashion design, but then by accident while being on vacation in Prague, I met Alla Bulyanskaya, the owner of Alla Bulyanskaya Gallery and she offered me a job at her gallery in Moscow. She needed someone who spoke English to work on organizing her gallery’s participation in international art fairs and later establishing third gallery’s location in London, UK. (the first gallery was in Ufa, Russia, second in Moscow) I worked in the hospitality industry at the time, but was curious about the art world. Even after working with Alla I would now and then shift away from art gallery jobs, but then they would always pull me back. I loved working with Lumiere Brothers Photo Gallery team in Moscow establishing their first photo-gallery in Moscow and then I joined Touchstone Gallery in 2007 in Washington, DC when I found myself living in the US. My job description from 2007 is a fraction of what I do now. The gallery and I have grown together. We moved to a brand new, modern street-level space in 2010 and we’ve doubled number of member artists we represent. Touchstone has also partnered with numerous embassies, local and national non-profits, and international artists -- and presented to our audience numerous critically acclaimed projects and multi-artist national juried shows since.
Could you tell us about the Touchstone Gallery? What type of artworks can we see in the Touchstone Gallery throughout the year? Could you tell us about your overall concept?
Touchstone Gallery was established in 1976 by a group of artists. Since day one I have felt that I have a piece of Washington, DC art history in my hands and it is my job to preserve, protect and to help it prosper. The gallery has a cooperative, artist-owned structure. I am the director of the gallery, which is overseen by a president of the board and its directors, who decide how the gallery should be run. We see our gallery as a small business operation. We try to educate the public about art, but we do sell art as well. Originally the gallery was established to represent local artists only, and a majority of our artists are still based in the region. However, we have grown and now we have artists who live abroad and across the US. What I think distinguishes us from other galleries in the area is not only the diversity of styles of the art and artists we show, but also the frequency by which we exhibit fresh artworks - we rotate shows on a monthly basis. Everybody who is working at the gallery I think really enjoys being part of the team, we try to do our best and enjoy it at the same time as well.
How do you decide to host a new exhibition or give a place to a new artwork in Touchstone Gallery? What are you paying attention to the most while deciding to the next one?
We give priority in our exhibition schedule to our member artists. Every month we usually have 3 exhibitions: one is a group show of all 50 member artists and the others are two solo member shows. At times, when we have an opening in our schedule, we do something unusual. For example, in August 2018 we held an exhibition by Yuki Hiyama, a Japanese artist from Hiroshima. Yuki can’t communicate at all due to an injury she suffered at birth, but early on she discovered paint and brushes and has been pushing the boundaries of what it means to be expressive. She creates stunning action painting, that we had the pleasure to have on display for the entire month of August. A year ago in August 2017 we organized and hosted a national juried show “Art of Engagement,” for which we received 750 entries nationwide.
During the month of November 2017 we provided space for "The One House Project" created by Art Watch DC collective with the exhibition support provided by Touchstone Foundation for the Arts. 220 artists, who were part of this house installation, each created an art panel about their ancestry and where they come from. They participated to be part of the message of tolerance, inclusion and unity. Before that in 2016 with a national juried show "Art As Politics" we were one of the first ones in recent years to bring politically themed art from large number of national artists to its capital.
We receive hundreds of exhibition proposals, and at times something makes you stop and read it again and again and that’s when you know it would grab an audience the same way it grabbed you. Then it is a matter of making sure all the bricks fall in place to make it happen.
You are supporting young and emerging artists. Please tell us about Touchstone Foundation for the Arts.
Touchstone Foundation for the Arts, (TFA) a 501c3 non-profit organization, was established in 2012 by gallery artists. It provides us an opportunity to give back to our community, help other non-profit organizations to exhibit and raise awareness about their art programs. It also gives emerging artists in the DC area an opportunity to develop not only their artistic skills, but also their business abilities, by receiving a TFA Emerging Artist Fellowship and joining the gallery as one of its members. TFA fellows receive a free two-year membership with the gallery, mentoring from the gallery’s artists, ability to exhibit in group shows and to have their own solo show at the end of their fellowship.
What do you think about working with local artists? What is their importance for the Touchstone Gallery?
Local artists make up a large portion of any art community. Naturally, supporting local artists leads to a more vibrant local art scene. And we like to champion and encourage our artists to exhibit and learn more about what it is like to run an art gallery business by being part of our gallery.
What are the advantages of being in Washington D.C.?
We have a large international community and audience due to being in the nation’s capital. Our location is downtown and just a few blocks from The White House and U.S. Congress. Our proximity to large federal museums contrasts nicely with our contemporary style of art.
What do you think about the future of the art market in this digital era?
There is no escape from the digital world along with its pluses and minuses. We are very active on the social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram and at times we even sell art there or in our online store on our website. However, we advocate for original art - one of a kind. All art we exhibit and sell is original, or limited edition.
What type of services do you offer for local and international buyers? Do you have white glove delivery and international shipping options?
We offer a good selection of art in our online store. We also offer local delivery services and shipping nationwide and around the globe, as well, per request.
How can our readers follow the upcoming exhibitions and events?
On our website at www.touchstonegallery.com, and our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages at @touchstonewdc
What is next for Touchstone Gallery?
In a near future is an art fair - SuperfineDC! It was created by James Miille and Alex Mitow in 2015 as a response to what they perceived as a major deterioration of the inclusivity of the art market. We are participating in the fair’s first D.C. event, from October 30 - November 4. Come by to see us there or at our downtown location at 901 New York Ave NW Washington DC 20001 if you find yourself in the area.
Thank you Ksenia for this enjoyable interview.