The Austin Chronicle

How a Shed in North Campus Is Growing Austin’s DIY Art Scene

Scrappy art gallery shedshows brings people together to celebrate Austin’s overlooked talent

By Meher Qazilbash, May 17, 2024, Arts

Greg Valentine and Mai Snow, the co-founders of the DIY gallery space shedshows, waited for me outside while seated next to their shed. “This is our office,” they say – only half-joking.

The 8-by-17-foot shed that shedshows is run out of is part of the property where Snow lives. Snow serendipitously discovered the space – comprised of the shed itself and a small tiled patio in the back – while searching for their cat. Surrounded by a mini forest of bamboo trees, it’s authentically and endearingly grunge.

Valentine and Snow met in 2021 at the Contemporary Austin, where they both currently work as art handlers and installers. After their first day on the job, they went out for beers and Snow shared the idea they’d been sitting on for years. “I think gallery’s kind of a loaded word,” Snow explains. “But I always wanted a low-key space where I could show my work and my friends’ work.” Valentine immediately got on board, and just a few days later he pulled into Snow’s driveway with a truck full of plywood to build the walls. There was no question about opening the space in Austin; they’d fallen in love with the city and knew shedshows made sense here.

The operation is run with the help of Snow’s partner Katherine Vaughn and their poster design artist Lindsey Culpepper. “It’s difficult to keep up,” says Valentine. “We all work and this isn’t a job. We don’t make any money doing this. If anything, we’re just sinking money into it. But we like what we’re doing.” Aside from the closing and opening events for the shows, the gallery is otherwise open by appointment. But it’s during these special events that you really want to experience shedshows and witness the esoteric yet approachable art scene that Valentine and Snow have cultivated.

The duo is currently preparing for the opening of “A Tale of Two Hunts,” a show by artist Intel Lastierre. Running from May 18 to June 14, Lastierre’s debut solo exhibition will explore Ovid’s poem “Metamorphoses” using painting and sculpture, and draw connections to the colonization of the Philippines.

This abstract concept falls perfectly in line with shedshows’ usual avant-garde programming, which also lends itself well to Austin’s casual, friendly, and eccentric nature. Their approach is intentionally informal and oppositional to the typical closed-door attitude of the art world. Initially, the artists they picked for shows were friends of theirs, often other graduates from the UT MFA circuit. As they’ve significantly and unintentionally grown, they’ll now show any lesser-known artists whose work they admire.

And they do draw an impressive crowd. With no marketing team or effort, the hundreds of people who show up to exhibits have all found the gallery by word of mouth or Instagram. Both founders are extremely well-connected in the Austin art community, bringing in established creatives and gallerists as viewers.

“[shedshows] is about making do with what we have,” Valentine explains. “We don’t have a lot of resources and I wish we could pay artists. Occasionally people have sold things, but we’re not really driven by that. But on the other side, because we’re not a 'gallery gallery,’ I think it gives artists the opportunity to be a little more experimental and still have people come to respond to it.”

Despite the workload that unexpected popularity demands, Valentine and Snow have risen to the occasion, even planning for a potential shedshows 2.0 space. “There’s no end in sight, even though we know that it’ll come one day,” says Snow. “But it’s cool to think of shedshows as a forever thing.”

“A Tale of Two Hunts”

May 18-June 14, shedshows

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