Show us your space: artist and gallerist Kilee Price
From light-filled private painting studios to collaborative offices with cityscape views, the varied workspaces of CCAD students and alumni represent the multitude of career paths an art and design school can help forge. In our Show Us Your Space series, we provide a peek into where our students and grads make the magic happen M–F (or, sometimes, 24/7). Here, we’re mixing the series up a bit with a feature on an unusual gallery space created by one of our alums.
SHAG (@s_h_a_g_space) is a small gallery with big goals and an unexpected backstory. Headquartered in a repurposed garage outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, SHAG, short for Stone House Art Gallery, started out as a garage on the Price family’s six-acre property dotted with livestock such as cows and chickens. Years later, and with no small amount of elbow grease courtesy of Kilee Price’s father, Tony Price, and other family members, the one-car garage made from quartz rocks was converted into a finished gallery space with LED lighting, windows, plenty of electrical outlets, and so much more.
Open by appointment since its opening in November 2020 with its inaugural group show Pen Pal, SHAG provides a space for emerging artists to showcase their work in a gallery setting and with more control over their presentation than they might experience in a more traditional setting. The space, says Price, SHAG’s founder and creative director, has become her main creative outlet and a place where artist community connections are created and where there is an ongoing dialogue about the state of contemporary art in relationship to global art concerns and DIY culture.
After graduating from CCAD, Price went on to earn her MFA in Print Media from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2018. She has taught courses at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; worked at the Mint Museum, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the Cranbrook Art Museum; and had her artwork published in New American Paintings. In addition, she is a 2019 resident alumni and current Collective Member at Goodyear Arts in Charlotte.
We recently spoke with her about how she has made a home for art in the place where she grew up.
Can you describe SHAG and where it's located?
SHAG is a freestanding single-car garage located in my parent’s backyard on the far west side of Charlotte, North Carolina. I would describe the area as somewhat low- to middle-class suburban. My parents bought the six-acre property in the mid-80s when the area was mostly country with some ranch style homes a few miles away. Since then, a lot of starter-home communities have popped up, in addition to the U.S. National Whitewater Center just two miles away, which is a huge tourist attraction for outdoor athleticism. Despite this, it’s a straight 15–20-minute drive from the heart of Uptown Charlotte. It’s an unassuming area, and that 15-minute drive takes you through most of Charlotte’s industrial sites—larger-than-life gas tanks for all of the region’s gas stations, lumber and steel yards—then, boom, you’re almost to Mount Holly, North Carolina and it’s this weird little slightly country suburb.
What was the structure like as a garage?
The space is a non-air conditioned single-car garage. The original property owner, who also built all of the stone structures on the lot, used it as his actual car garage. When my parents bought it, my dad used it as his mechanic shop to work on hobby cars and car parts. Back then it was essentially a very tightly packed tool shop and storage space with no real source of power and a lot of extension cords. My dad has worked on cars his whole life and has never thrown out a nut, bolt, or tool, so eventually my parents built a larger mechanic shop to house all of his projects. We decided to renovate the space in 2018 and I used it as my art studio until acquiring a studio at a collective space closer to home in early 2020. Since then, it has been SHAG.
What kind of work had to go into converting it into a gallery?
A LOT of work went into renovating the space. Despite my dad having his larger shop since 2010, he never completely cleared out the space until I moved back to Charlotte in 2018. My dad wanted to do everything on the renovation. He’s a project guy (probably where I get it from). He literally taught himself how to do electrical work and wired the entire space by himself. The vision I had for the space was very inspired by the sleek contemporary art galleries you see today: simple white walls with thin LED strip lighting. Dad took this and ran with it because when he does a project he wants it to be A+ and “as close to code as possible.” All of the walls are plywood-backed (which we installed as a fun family activity), and we had a local family friend install the drywall. There are also like 10 power outlets, which is totally overkill, but my dad cites that he never wanted me to have to use an extension cord. Oh and there’s compressed air in the attic that connects down to the space—a HUGE bonus when I was using the space as my studio. Also a huge bonus for when my dad eventually uses the space as his motorcycle shop, which he jokes about doing often.
What do you love about this space?
The space is visually stunning. It’s incredibly bright, and the streamlined LED strips light everything evenly. It’s a very photographable space, which I learned early on while using it as my studio. Literally, taking a photo in there is like shooting with an Instagram filter on. The space also has three small windows that provide some really lovely natural light. The size of the space is also perfect to highlight an individual's artwork—it’s just small enough so that several works can satisfy the spatial dimensions, and large enough to play with scale. The size and shape also provide versatility in that it’s very plain and can be completely transformed from one show to the next if desired. It has its quirks too, which I don’t love. The walls are slightly warped, there’s no air conditioning or heat, the room isn’t square, and the floors are rotting (which we can’t fix, sadly). But none of that is visible to the naked eye, which adds a little magic to the space.
What kind of shows has it had?
So far SHAG has shown a diverse array of artwork in the space. Our first show was an open call group show, asking for postcard art from all over the country. We installed blue carpet and chair rail shelving and it was a really striking show. Since January, we have shown selected artists from a call for entry that we released in May last year. We committed to showing 12 shows in the space in 2021; a full calendar. So far we’ve shown large-scale drawings, fiber sculpture, a new media installation with funky rock sculptures, and a purely painting show with red velvet curtains. Next month we will be featuring installation-driven ceramic works.
Are there certain aspects that make shows here more challenging than in a traditional gallery space?
Definitely. There’s no running water in the building and very little storage. So when I paint the walls between shows I’m literally spraying my roller with a garden hose in the backyard. Another large and challenging aspect is that I’m the only one running the space. In a “traditional” gallery, roles are filled by multiple people. I work full-time at a non-art-related job, and balance my two days off each week with sending emails, curating, handling and installing art, repairing the gallery, running to Lowe’s for supplies, photographing the space, editing the photos, writing about the work, posting on social media, and reworking the website each month. It’s an intense labor of love that I don’t get paid for.
Had you run a gallery space or curated one before this?
I had never run my own space before but it was always a dream of mine. Now I’m kind of doing it??? I curated some shows in college and in grad school at Cranbrook Academy of Art, but never on a very public scale like this. I’ve had several solo shows and am very hands-on in the curating of my own work in various spaces, so I definitely translate this when curating other artist’s work.
Have you had guest curators, or do you curate all of the shows?
I am currently the only one who “curates” the shows at SHAG. I say that with quotes because, while I do have a significant hand in how shows are displayed, I do ask for input from the artists, and often many have a specific vision for their work in the space. I like to keep the artist included in the process because it is their work after all. However, every artist showing at SHAG this year was hand-selected by me through an open call process.
What shows are you planning for the future at SHAG?
The remainder of 2021 will feature artists selected from the call for entry posted last year. Ninety percent of those chosen are not local artists as well, which is a big focus of the space’s mission: to bring emerging contemporary art to Charlotte. I’m very into works that nudge at the borders of their disciplinary constraints. That said, a lot of the art is cross-disciplinary. For example, in June we’ll be showing a very installation-based exhibition with some elements of live plants, in July we’ll have a photo-based show that alters the lighting in the space, in August we’ll show some sculptural paintings, later in the year we’ll have a performance artist work in the space to do a time based installation. There are also two CCAD alums/Ohio natives showing later this year—Clair Morey (Fine Arts, 2014) will show recent paintings, and Brock Ailes (Photography, 2017) will show photo-based and sculptural works.
As for the slightly distant future in 2022—I’m still working those details out. There will be another call for entry, but I’m also trying to work in the potential for guest curators and collaborations with other artist-run spaces.
What do you use as a studio space?
I’m very fortunate to have a grant-funded studio space at Goodyear Arts at Camp Northend in Charlotte. It’s an amazing nonprofit organization that runs out of an old Rite-Aid warehouse in an area that is striving for creative renaissance. I’m a Goodyear Arts residency alum, and now collective member, which means I’m part of a group of amazing local artists that all share the idea of time, space, money, and community being vital to the creative process. We all help out around the space by taking care of it, assisting in fundraising, and volunteering for events. Unfortunately I don’t have a ton of time to devote to my studio, only a few hours each week. I’m currently working on several large scale paintings depicting unicorns and Furbies alongside some neon text with drop shadows.
Did you have to make special accommodations due to the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, can you describe?
Yes and no. Because the space is located on a private residence and parking is limited, I didn’t plan on having large openings with dozens of guests in attendance to begin with. To keep things small-scale and realistic, the space is viewable by appointment only. At first I think people were turned off by this, I think because the idea of reaching out to someone to make an appointment is a bit needy and out of the ordinary. I mean, I don’t like making appointments, I don’t even like making dinner reservations, so I get it. Lately though, attendance has been up more and people are more willing to take the 20-minute drive to hang out with me at my childhood home. If the weather’s nice I’ll offer guests a beer and we’ll sun ourselves in the grass. It almost feels like a gallery opening, but with four people at a time. We all wear masks and socially distance ourselves. Vaccine numbers are very up here in Charlotte though, and I think people are ready to go out more, so I’ve seen a trend in people wanting to come to SHAG more. Eventually I’d like to have a “real” opening, but I don’t know what that looks like or when it will take place.
Do you have any shows/activities/projects coming up?
Personally?? Haha, no, I’m seriously too busy running SHAG and working.
Are you a Columbus College of Art & Design alum making work in an eye-catching, unusual, or otherwise compelling space? We’d love to see it! Fill out the form here for an opportunity to be featured.
Photos provided by Kilee Price