Culture Shock: New Gallery On The Block

Vitrine Brings New Conceptual Works To Downtown

Maggie Grimason
5 min read
inside Vitrine
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“As an artist, you should look after your own practice,” Anna Reser said as we sat at a makeshift table tucked into a single room storefront with windows looking west to Sixth Street. “But you should try to make space for other people if you can.” Scott Williams and Jaime Tillotson were in agreement. The three interdisciplinary artists have made creating these opportunities their business by turning this tiny commercial space into Vitrine (214 Sixth Street SW), one of the city’s newest galleries.

They were all introduced to one another through the UNM art department and continued to connect artistically in the years following graduation. “We had been talking ambiguously about a space,” Tillotson said and then, “we just jumped.” They started looking for a spot in January, signed a lease in February and hosted their first opening in March. The rapid-fire pace of establishing Vitrine has made defining their mission a process of discovery, though what all clearly enunciate is a desire to make the space widely available (for workshops, meet-ups, etc. “If you want to play D&D in here, send us an email,” Reser laughed) and to emphasize displaying work by artists often under represented locally and in the broader landscape.

By definition, a vitrine is a glass display case. The size of the gallery—a single room whose most expansive wall is about 13 feet—and its large picture window providing an eye to Downtown foot traffic make the name quite fitting. The three curators were in the process of taking down the previous month’s show in anticipation of May’s, so a fading five or six-foot wall sketch of Don Schrader that Tillotson painted watched over us as aspirations and plans were unpacked.

“There’s a real lack of accessible space in this city to do art and create projects,” Reser said. “It’s hard to be improvisational without a place—a room with walls and a roof and electricity. A place to be and do things and have ideas.” The smallness of the space, and its location just off of Central made it apparent that this particular room was the one for them. “Nobody is being displaced by us being here; we’re not going to make the rent go up at the space next door,” Williams said, going on to note the recent proliferation of interesting things popping up in the vicinity that geographically make it easy to participate in goings-ons. Further, to be surrounded by “small businesses owned by people we know, to be around it and be part of it,” Reser offered. All of these factors make the physical space ideal.

The less tangible spirit of the place is quickly materializing, too. “I know it’s not going to be a commercial gallery,” Williams said. “I know we’re not interested in making a profit or being a business venture. … It’s important to me to have a space where it’s not about money; it’s not about selling art. It’s about work; it’s about good art, and not just what we think is good art, but what other curators and other people do.”

That noncommercial aim is something uniquely possibly here, more so than many other cities across the country. It’s not just “materially possible,” Reser pointed out—given the relatively low-cost of renting space—but “people here are into this kind of thing. It’s a very DIY kind of spirit, anyway that you can get work up and get people to see it.” There’s a galvanizing effect to having space—which can be the necessary spark to actually make work, to organize a workshop, to host a D&D bout. “I think in America in particular spaces like this are homogenizing in a way that is making spaces like this more and more difficult,” Williams said. Thankfully Albuquerque hasn’t quite caught up. “It’s an awesome place to be if you’re weird,” Williams continued. “Nobody cares. You can be cool or not. I think that eliminates elitism in a lot of ways. You can just show up, everybody can.”

Just showing up buoys spaces like this, allowing for conversations that spill out of the tiny gallery and into the wider city. “For me one of the biggest gains that I get from this,” Tillotson said, “is just having conversations that are wildly different than the ones that I have in my own head … to hear reactions and experiences. My nine to five desk job doesn’t allow much time for art. … I forgot how good it feels—conversation, moving dialogue around.” Reser and Williams echoed this sentiment and said that facilitation is a gratifying part of their personal art practices, making Vitrine all the more valuable.

Williams—who helped to get the original incarnation of Small Engine Gallery up and running—said that back then, they used to joke that running a space like that was, “the job you pay to go to.” Tillotson tacked on to the end of that thought, “I would’ve spent this money on beer, it’s fine.” There was a pause and a laugh before Williams said, “well, it’s worth way more than fucking cable television.” There’s an unequivocal truth.

May’s exhibition at Vitrine is titled
Whereabouts, which features creative explorations of geographies by artists Emma Difani, Alessandra Bettolo and Carson Elliott. In June, the gallery will host work by Allyson Packer. Vitrine is currently open by appointment, but check in with them on social media (Twitter and Instagram, @vitrineabq) and their website,, to stay attuned to openings and special events.
Vitrine exterior

Vitrine, a new gallery on Sixth Street, is a small spot with big ideas


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