A long time ago, STOVE founders Naython Williams and Thomas Haag took a guerilla art road trip. The goal: to do street art as they traveled, painting invented superheroes in the places they passed through. "And we couldn't think of anything," Haag says. "Everything is so overdone. It's hard to think of an original idea that still has meaning and holds interest."
In the end, they bestowed powers upon unlikely objects. Stove was the leader of a team including Paperclip and Pocket. Stove's power? "To sit there. No matter what. It just sits there and takes it."
On April, 20, 2007, Williams, Haag and Haag's brother Forrest opened a gallery in East Nob Hill that became a home for musicians, artists, actors and their audiences.
"We're not closing because we have to, necessarily," Haag says. "We're kind of closing because we want to." Black Market Goods, a roving art show in Albuquerque for the last three years, will take over the space. Word is the new occupants won't host music shows and will focus on establishing a solid gallery instead.
Haag sat on a couch in the middle of the venue's small stage and told the Alibi why STOVE will no longer be exercising patient permanence at 114 Morningside NE.
Why are you leaving the space?
We started this out as a gallery and an art cooperative. We took on some music venue stuff because of some places in town were closing. We weren't selling very much art, so we needed the money and we took on the music venue thing. We didn't want to do that.
You didn't want to host music shows?
No. Not so much. A little bit here and there. We were going to do specialty shows— things like cobra//group and Yoda's House. That's more our style. But we were booking everybody. We were booked five days out of the week. We just got kind of burnt out.
If there was a STOVE mission, what was it?
I think it was to try to take some of the pretension out of the art scene and bring it down to the people. It seemed like a definite proletariat venture. It wasn't something we were trying to make a bunch of money at or anything. We were trying to provide a space for art to get done and get shown—and then seen and hung out with.
So you wanted to open a space that was more comfortable than the formal gallery space.
Yes, something more accessible. We all were raised with street art and punk rock and that kind of thing. The gallery scene tends to be kind of out of reach for people that don't want to go cheese themselves up too much. If you're not into selling yourself, it's hard to get into a gallery scene unless you've got representation.
What do you think of the art scene in Albuquerque?
I think it's going places. I think it could turn into a bigger New Mexico scene if it wasn't so exclusively Santa Fe. There's a real rift there between the Santa Fe and the Albuquerque scenes. It doesn't seem like there needs to be if there's only 45 minutes separating us.
Looking back, what do you think STOVE was good at?
I think we were good at bringing people together. We had so many different scenes and genres here all the time. A lot of people just came to hang out, too—not only during shows. People who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to hang out together, did. And I think we got some good art up on the walls, too.
What do you think you could have done better?
Getting more people involved and then probably not going the venue route would have been better. With the economy the way it is, if you're going to be a community art scene, you really need to be nonprofit. That way you're not struggling to make rent all the time. If you're not worried about not making profit, you might as well be a nonprofit group because then you're getting sponsored and everything's tax-deductible.
Did you guys have any problems with the city? Zoning? Permits? Police?
Oh yeah. We had problems with all those, basically one time or another.
What else? Fire exits? Did you have trouble meeting fire code?
It's all that, for sure. We actually got lucky with the fire marshal stuff. It could have been a lot worse than it was. We had to fight to keep our mural wall outside going. The landlords wanted to shut that down several times, and we had to petition for that. It's not easy to be a non-moneymaking hangout for freaky types. It tends to draw the kind of attention that a lot of your city-planner type people frown on. They [freaky types] have hard times here in Albuquerque. Obviously, in the last couple years so many places have shut down.
Albuquerque must need spots like this. Otherwise they wouldn't keep popping up.
It's necessary. It's a little bit sad, but it's a sign of the times. When you're having economic hardships the first thing people stop doing is appreciating art. They're so worried about the survival aspect of things, the art and culture kind of thing tends to take a back seat—especially in places like America, where art and culture aren't really our strong suit to begin with.
Do you have advice for anyone trying to do something like STOVE?
Try it. Go for it. Whenever there's a group of artists—who are stereotypically the unpredictable personality types out there—you're not going to be able to predict the outcome. It just needs to be tried. Regardless of the harships and how hard it is and the unlikelihood of staying open, it needs to be done.