Craig O'Neil: Founder of Soon To Be Opened National Institute of Urban Art
With such a lovely introduction by curator and author Lori Zimmer, I am excited to learn more about the museum you have founded in Gainesville, Florida.
Craig, what was the impetus to open the National Institute of Urban Art?
Setting up an institution to exhibit work grew out of wanting to share our collection with the general public; not wanting to see the work kept in the basement of an institution and only brought out once in a while. The only way to ensure we could share the work we love with people was to consider our own institution. However, NIUA is much more than exhibit space, and the motivation to create a place for academic study and a foundation to support artist in the urban art movement came from conversations we had with Logan Hicks about the challenges artists face in their careers, and Gregg Sheinbaum about what an art movement needs in order to survive over the decades and centuries. As we got to know artists like Logan better, we could see the similar challenges, accounting, legal, career development. Gregg expressed to us how an art movement needs academic study and institutional support to take shape over time. So we wanted to do whatever we could to support the artists and the artistc movement we believe so strongly in.
What is your mission statement for the museum and when do the doors officially open? Advocate, Educate, Support, and Exhibit Urban Contemporary Art. We are working towards a March 2018 opening for the full scale space. It will be 5000 square feet including exhibition space, and admin offices.
Besides showcasing exhibitions, what other opportunities will the museum be offering to artists?
NIUA will provide artists accounting support, to help them structure themselves properly, and prepare for career growth. We will also provide legal services, to help artists deal with copyright issues, contract reviews, and other legal matters that are unique to their profession. Lastly, we will provide career development servicesthat help artists deal with the steps they need to take and paths they may wish to follow to build a lasting career in the arts.
How many shows are lined up for this year and how did you choose the artists in the exhibitions?
Our plans are to program 2 - 4 exhibitions a year. We will have a staff curator and a curatorial board that will make decisions on choosing artists to exhibit. What is next for you and how will you spread the word about the museum? We have a middle stage we are working towards. A goal to be there by the end of 2017.Moving from our start up offices at Star Garage into a 1000 square foot space that will act as a preview to the final space we move into. It will house our offices and our shop, with information on the coming exhibition space.Our strategy to get the word out depends greatly on earned media. We are trying to work our mission passionately and with intense focus. We've found that quality and honesty attract advocates and that this energy is not only powerful but infectious. My personal background is in online media, and in data driven models, so its fair to bet that this will permeate our efforts to some regard. It's critical for us however to build direct relationships with the core community and to stay focused on being self sustainable. We are considering taking space at an art fair during this years Miami Art Week (commonly known as Art Basel Miami) though the discussion is preliminary.
Where can our readers learn more about both you and the museum? The website is sparse (to put it mildly) but it's niuart.org and it will be updated as we move forward. We also have a Facebook page facebook.com/NIUART.ORG/