If you’re trying to break into a scene as well established as Santa Fe’s art world, sometimes it helps to take a few friends along—or a few strangers.
"The way the art scene works really fosters mid-career, late-career artists," says Jordan Eddy, one of the founders of Strangers Collective. "You have to band together in order to rise together."
Strangers Collective works to do just that by assembling group exhibits of new works from emerging artists. A year and a half past their opening show in a friend's empty living room, the group has decidedly moved into established gallery spaces; the latest exhibit, Narrows, will be shown at the Community Gallery at the Santa Fe Convention Center.
"It really kind of felt like and feels like this movement of like-minded people, and I think we were surprised that it grew so organically, at least so far: It's just kind of been word of mouth, person to person, stranger to stranger," Eddy says.
The latent goal that their shows vault up-and-coming artists out of obscurity and into a realm where they can consider making their artwork a profession has also begun to bear fruit.
Eddy and Kyle Farrell started the collective as a way of showcasing the work of young artists they knew who were making work, but not showing it, and they first hosted it in fellow artist Erikka James' house off Canyon Road. It quickly outgrew the salon-style approach and has since moved into the public sphere, with a show at Art.i.fact, as the last exhibition at Wheelhouse Art in the Railyard before it closed late last year, and a pop-up weeklong show at the new location for Caldera on Water Street. That last show, in particular, felt like a breakthrough, Eddy says.
"People seemed to be taking notice of what was going on, and that really was the original goal, to provide a springboard for artists to a bunch of other opportunities, so that was particularly exciting," he says.
"There's just been such a shift with each show—the work gets stronger, and we started with really great work," Farrell says. "It really does keep getting better."
Membership in Strangers Collective has grown steadily from the 17 initial members to double that number of artists and writers, the latter of whom produce zines. Initially, those zines were given away or traded. Now, they're for sale, as are other pieces.
"When we actually started selling artwork, that felt like a big step forward, that people were open to this, that people were open to an unknown and going by what it should be, which is the art itself, and not who made it, like, 'What is this going to be worth and how can I flip it?'" Farrell says.
"I think that it has shifted for people, to where a lot of artists have realized it is possible—that we can carve out this space and really get people to take notice," Eddy adds. "At least for me, it's been really encouraging to think about, 'OK, I can be a professional creative.'"
That's a revolutionary notion for a collective fully loaded with artists who hold down separate full-time jobs, and that includes Eddy and Farrell.
This latest show tangles with the other end of the young artist's dilemma: where to make art, now that the end of college has also ended studio access. The 35 artists involved have engaged with Narrows, in terms of the tight domestic spaces in which many of them make their work, and the perilous journey those pieces make as they traverse out into the world. It'll be their biggest show to date, both in terms of artists involved and the space they'll be utilizing.
"We're really thinking about how odd it is, that we're often producing works in these tiny spaces—on bedroom floors, and then showing them in a big white box," Eddy says. "You don't really know if it's going to hold that wall until you put it up. But over and over again, we've been able to take that leap, and it works. It resonates."
Narrows: Strangers Collective Spring Exhibition
Santa Fe Community Gallery,
201 W Marcy St.,
Opening reception at 5 pm,
Friday, May 20 Through June 20