Walking up postapocalyptic Lead Avenue to the Talking Fountain, I wondered for a split second if it was worth it. My shoes filled with gravel as I MacGyvered my way between a huge bulldozer and a man-made crater. The landscape was bleak. Like many business along the Lead and Coal corridor, the gallery has seen a decline in visitors, as it’s buried somewhere behind the pile of street-construction rubble.
But it was Sunday Yum Day, and I'll brave any terrain for the promise of good food, art and company all in the same place. Yum Day boasts a different theme every week—this time it was “sauce.” The potluck is put together by the gallery, and guests of the free shindig are invited to prepare a dish that creatively reflects the theme. Owner/curator/artist Katie Calico chatted with me as she whipped up a curried chicken and vegetable dish. Stimulating conversations flowed between neighbors and artists, around bites of baked pears, and prosciutto pigs in puff pastry blankets.
The gallery, boutique and “artistic epicenter”—as Calico calls it—has been an asset to the art scene since it opened in the spring of 2009. Yum Day is one of several ongoing events hosted at the space. On Wednesdays there is a weekly drawing session called The Figural Fountain. At five bucks, it’s cheaper than most drop-in art sessions. All the proceeds go to the model, and the evening provides the opportunity to grow socially as well as artistically.
The Talking Fountain, which has consistently shown new work monthly for the last two years, has felt the economic impact of the road upheaval. Calico says she has had a significant decrease in art shows and sales due to poor gallery attendance. The construction has lasted longer than expected and has made the main entrance difficult—though not impossible—to access. (There’s also a back entrance through a secret sculpture garden.) Yet Calico and her sparse but loyal staff are trying to use the roadblock outside to their advantage.
Stimulating conversations flowed between neighbors and artists, around bites of baked pears, and prosciutto pigs in puff pastry blankets.
There is no fee to hang work in the gallery, and the artists’ percentage is higher than average, making it affordable to exhibit. Acting on her vision of a symbiotic relationship, Calico has used the decreased traffic to use the space as a multimedia artistic venue, providing resources for local film, poetry, music and comedy projects. She encourages artists who are looking for a venue to come by and see if it’s a good fit.
For instance, the gallery will host an intimate comedy event called Laughing Fountain on Saturday, Sept. 17. Comedian Kevin Kennedy will present his Anarkomedy variety show, which blends burlesque, music and stand-up performances. The show will also feature Sarah Kennedy and Matt Peterson.
Despite the renovation inconveniences, the gallery and its supporters are determined to put a positive spin on it. “We're handling the construction with humor,” says Calico between dicing chicken and welcoming guests. She's referring to several construction-themed characters created in community craft gatherings, including a series of orange cone personalities, such as Conedeliza Rice, Gary Coneman, Conestitine and, my personal favorite, Cone-an O'Brien.
The gallery's mascot, Manet Fountain, sports a hard hat these days and can be found gazing blankly at the demolition debris, patiently waiting for it to turn back into a street. (She has her own Facebook page if you want to check her out.) Friend The Talking Fountain on Facebook for regular updates on gallery happenings. For Calico, undeterred, the cup is half full. “We're not going anywhere, damn it!”