I write this post in response to the Frank Juarez Gallery being nominated as a finalist in the Best of Milwaukee 2018. We are honored to be amongst the finalists RedLine Milwaukee, Var Gallery, and Tory Folliard Gallery for Best of Milwaukee 2018.
I often get asked how I got into the gallery business and what keeps me motivated.
I remember having a talk with a good friend of mine, Stephanie, in March of 2006 about the galleries in Racine and Kenosha. She asked me if I ever considered owning my own gallery. I have to admit, the idea would be neat, but I had no experience in that type of field nor even know where to start.
About a couple months later, I came across an opportunity where someone was looking for gallery partners to open a contemporary art gallery in the Third Ward in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brooks was looking for 3-4 partners. We met in late May of 2006 at an exhibition that I was in and asked him if he was able to get the partners he was looking for. He said no. I was still interested in the idea of being part a gallery considering what this could mean for the both of us. I had my first gallery experience as a co-owner of the Barrow & Juarez Contemporary Art Gallery.
So, at that moment, I decided to take a chance and open this gallery with him. The journey was difficult considering that we were slated to open during Milwaukee’s Gallery Night & Day in late July of 2016. I was committed to this gallery for 2-years. At the end of the 2-years, I was ready to move on since my goal was to gain some experience curating exhibitions, developing my arts management skills, designing marketing collateral, and learning how to brand and promote the gallery. My time at the gallery ended about 6-months short of the 2-years due to a change in gallery direction.
At this time in my life, I was teaching full-time, creating a lot of paintings, and started to understand how a gallery can have an impact on a community or art scene. After leaving the gallery, I felt a void in my life. Those 18-months of gallery experience left an impression on me. I was still hungry to learn more. What I enjoyed about this gallery was the idea of building a gallery from the ground up, to have organized the best arts programs possible, and to create an identity for the gallery. From 2007 to about 2010, I applied what I have learned to other art-related projects like creating the Sheboygan Visual Artists in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
In 2011, I opened my own gallery called EFFJAY PROJEKTS (now the Frank Juarez Gallery) in Sheboygan. I noticed that most of the art created in this city leaned towards traditional works. I do have an appreciation for all types of works, but I knew that this new gallery had to focus and exhibit the works of artists working in non-traditional and experimental approaches. Taking what I learned from my gallery days in Milwaukee, I applied it to my Sheboygan gallery. The gallery ran from February 2011 to December 2015. During those years, I organized over 60+ exhibitions focused on Wisconsin artists and started a regional exhibition called Indiana Green. I felt that I was making a mark and difference in the Sheboygan [art] community.
At the end of 2015, I decided not to renew my lease and felt it was time to get back to the studio to make art. That idea of making art slowly faded as my mind wandered to reflect on the gallery and soon realized how much I missed working with artists on a different level. I looked at the data that I collected from 2011 to 2015 and noticed that about half of my audience were from Milwaukee. It was then that I decided to reopen the Frank Juarez Gallery in Milwaukee in 2017.
My takeaways from working in a gallery setting over the past 12 years are that you and your voice matter (as an artist, gallery, artist-run space, patron, art enthusiast, etc), success is defined by the impact you have on your community and in the lives of others, taking risks contributes to personal and professional growth, strategic planning does pave a path for sustainability and success, quality over quantity any day, and staying true as to why you opened the gallery in the first place.
Besides running a gallery, we oversee several projects, artist grants, and a private art collection.
In 2015, the gallery co-created a private collection called the Randall Frank Contemporary Art Collection in Virginia, which acquires art from Midwest and East Coast artists, provides financial support to artists via its grant program for travel expenses, residency fees, and professional development, and shows its support for community art projects via sponsorship. One of the projects that it sponsored was the Black Cat Alley Mural Project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
These days, we average about 8 exhibitions per year with one offsite exhibition, Indiana Green, that travels throughout Wisconsin annually. In 2017, we created an artist in residency program in which we turned our gallery into an artist’s studio for the span of an exhibition timeframe.
Some of the projects that we oversee are the FRANK & CO WI art e-newsletter, Artdose Art Guide, and the FRANK & CO mini artist grant program. We also provide sessions on professional development for artists: the business of art workshops.
Today, the Frank Juarez Gallery continues to be committed to supporting and promoting Wisconsin artists. We aim to create an accessible, educational, and engaging exhibition space for our artists, audience, and community.
As for what motivates me, I would say not knowing what’s next. Art has been an integral part of my life, it defines who I am and what it represents. Success is not a destination, but a journey. Championing the visual arts in Wisconsin is what I truly believe in.
We cannot thank you enough for supporting us in 2018. We have an amazing line up for 2019, which we will be sharing later this month.
Please vote for the Frank Juarez Gallery as the art gallery (non-museum) for Best of Milwaukee 2018.
Thank you for your support & vote.
- Frank Juarez