A Conversation with Ground Floor Gallery
By Joanna Tallantire
Just after their one year Anniversary and also to celebrate the Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID’s Office sharing the Gallery’s space. I met with Krista Saunders and Jill Benson. We had an inspiring conversation covering small businesses, keeping local, sourcing artists and building a network in a close knit community.
I have met Krista and Jill a few times. They came to the fantastic Taste of Fifth, I went to their One Year Anniversary Party, then Krista attended the MS 51 Photo Show, to view the students’ work. You can already see the type of business they are building; one that forges partnerships and networks to ensure their long term success and others as well.
I kicked off by asking how they decided on which artists to choose for their installations; as they tend to show multiple artists at one time. “Every neighbourhood has open studios at the weekends, so we get to see lots of local artists in one go”, Krista told me. They both attend these shows, like the those in Sunset Park and Industry City Open Studios, and come back with a list of art they like, then compare their lists. “We then go with our gut”, Jill explained. “Our overall choice is based on instinct of what will work in our gallery and what the local community will like”. They both agreed that in the past year they have learnt a lot about what works in their gallery.
Artists also pop in to introduce themselves and of course word of mouth and recommendations from locals or artists that have shown at the Gallery, are welcome.
So why did they choose Park Slope? Jill explained that she met Krista working at the New Museum and they started a project called the G Train Salon. A roaming show with no permanent home. They showed at the Old Stone House and in the current space when it was formerly called the Urban Alchemist. When the opportunity arose to take over the Gallery they jumped at it. “ It was time to commit to a permanent space and a small business venture, in a friendly, supportive atmosphere in an artistic community” Krista explained.
In our conversation I learnt that they are connecting with other galleries and organisations like Arts Gowanus and MS51 photography program. They want to do more of this and open up the space to become a focal center of art for our community.
The Gallery does not just display paintings, at present they have plant installations and sculptures. Performance art is also a feature. Eliza Stamp, as part of her Oracle Project, was fortune telling through cards at the Anniversary Party. There are also beautiful cards and pop art colouring books for sale if you’re budget is small. “ We have something for everyone’s budget” is very much Krista and Jill’s motto.
When asked about favorite places to visit on 5th Avenue, Jill and Krista both said enthusiastically, Brooklyn Central has the most delicious pizza, Backyard for a drink in a cosy atmosphere, Cafe Martin for a morning coffee, Rachel’s Taqueria for lunch and Du Jour Bakery; they sometimes go more than once a day for pastries and coffee. All these places are on their doorstep and they couldn’t be happier.
I think one thing that strikes me in the Gallery, is that it’s a place I’m not afraid to pop into and just look. There’s no pressure to sell you something. A place to browse and see what wealth of creativity we have on our doorstep.
Now there are two reasons to visit. Mark Caserta, the Director of the Park Slope 5th Avenue BID, has set up his office in the Gallery and welcomes visitors to view the art whilst he is in the space.
You can go see Ground Floor Gallery at the 5th Avenue Fair on Sunday 18th May where there will be small items for sale at the booth or pop into the Gallery to see their latest show.
343 5th St (around the corner from 5th Ave between 5th and 6th Aves).
Open most days from 12pm.