The UNDRground Contemporary Arts Gallery began with a dream of a 16 year old high school student, Marco Garcia. He understood that the duty of a fine artist is to use their personal perspective to show an understanding of our time and place. Marco had a vision, a very mature one. He was disappointed that Grand Island did not have an exhibition space to show emerging and innovative art. He wanted to create a space to show sophisticated works by young artists. His parents own and operate a large Mexican store in downtown Grand Island, the Azteca Market. He invited me to his parent’s business to show me the lower level. They were willing to provide the space to Marco. After seeing the "UNDRground" and listening to Marco, I became very excited. I now shared his vision and committed my energies and resources to making his vision become a reality. Being an art teacher, I saw this venture as a unique, educational experience that happens once in a lifetime.
So we came up with a plan. We established a mission for the gallery. “UNDRground Contemporary Arts will provide exhibition space to emerging and established artists. In turn, innovative and experimental visual art will be accessible to the community of Grand Island. Art students from Grand Island Senior High will be directly involved in every aspect of the operation of the gallery.”
We started fundraising and raised $8500. We received a grant from the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, received donations from teachers and the community, done fundraisers, and I gave a monetary prize from a teaching award to the endeavor. We have had a bumpy road making it become a reality, but two years later we began serious renovations to make the gallery a reality. Students painted the ceiling and walls. We did some drywall, framed in doors, installed flooring, gallery lighting, a chair lift, and signage. The gallery has its own street entrance on the main business district street with two large storefront windows on either side of the entrance door. We built two large display boxes for the windows. The gallery is an urban, contemporary gallery.
The operation of the gallery is done by Grand Island Senior High Students. They are working in seven different areas-
Curating committee- Receive proposals for the shows. Actively pursue artists that fit our mission statement. Decide on the gallery schedule (duration of each show is two months).
Marketing and mailings. Students develop and maintain a mailing list. They are in charge of social media to promote the space. They work with the Grand Island Visitors Bureau to promote the art shows. Responsibilities also include making the gallery’s brochure and the publicity cards sent out for each show. A budget has been made to balance the income with the expenses.
Show installation and gallery maintenance- Preparing the gallery space for each show- patching walls, painting pedestals, accommodating needs of exhibiting artists, etc. Learning how to correctly hang a show and how to light it. Taking down and packing art from the previous show.
Website- Create, maintain, and update a website and social media for the gallery.
Receptions- Planning and making arrangements for the food and drink. Serving, cleanup, and budget responsibilities.
First Friday Events- Work with other Railside businesses and the Chamber of Commerce to plan bi-monthly events. Partner with other downtown businesses to orchestrate the show receptions with other cultural venues and eating establishments for first Friday events.
Fundraising. Students will learn how to write grants and find other ways to produce revenue to cover operating costs.
This project is innovative. It contributes to the cultural scene of Grand Island while giving an opportunity to art students at Grand Island Senior High to work in an authentic career and college ready environment. Marco's dream is now a reality.
A big thank you to Maria and Juan Garcia of the Azteca Market. Without their help and support, the gallery would not exist.
Grand Island Senior High Visual Arts Instructor