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If you go
What: Wunderkammer Company’s One Year Anniversary
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Wunderkammer Company, 3402 Fairfield Ave.
Admission: $2 suggested donation; go to www.facebook.com/WunderkammerCompany for more information
Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
The Wunderkammer Company, founded by Dan Swartz in the former Casa D’Angelo on Fairfield Avenue, marks its first anniversary Saturday.

Gallery thrives in 1st year

Artist Julia Guerin’s “Stoppages” will be part of one of the four exhibits opening Saturday.
“Burst” by Erin Kaufman is part of the “Telephone” exhibit.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
“Portland” by Erin Kaufman is part of the “Telephone” exhibit.

The Wunderkammer Company has had a successful first year with more 14,000 people visiting the gallery. Not to mention it pulled in more than $40,000 for the local arts community.

Founder Dan Swartz says the young nonprofit contemporary art center has shown itself to be larger than its sum when it comes to the arts.

“I’m really proud and really happy of what we’ve been able to do,” Swartz says.

To celebrate Wunderkammer’s first anniversary, the gallery Saturday will feature four new exhibits, performances and an announcement of upcoming programming.

Swartz says that after the success of the gallery’s first year, it is important to continue offering interesting activities and art pieces to elude the “sophomore slump.”

“I definitely worry about it pretty much every moment. That’s why we change things so much from exhibitions to composition of the gallery,” he says.

“It keeps things fresh. I guess I’m not as worried about a sophomore slump as I am worried that as time goes by, people will get comfortable. That’s why we do the crazy things we do, you can never stop exploring the space.”

Swartz says the interest in Wunderkammer can be attributed to the gallery’s open-door attitude, which invites more eclectic exhibits than the traditional art gallery.

“I definitely think there’s an untapped community of people who are looking for alternative art forms or less conventional art forms,” he says. “We’ve tried to target those groups and work with specific artists.”

New exhibits will include a survey show and “Telephone,” in which painters create a piece interpreted by a poet that in turn will be translated again by another painter.

Two other exhibits will be “This Is an Instagram Show,” which explores photography by three artists through the world of shareable social media, and an invitational group show, “Ask Me If You Can Touch My Hair,” that will feature pieces showing how hair influences identity.

Julia Guerin, curator for “Telephone,” says the inspiration comes from parlor games where one phrase is passed along from one person to another to see whether the interpretation changes by the time the last person recites the phrase.

“You’ll be able to see where we started, and see how interpretation changes it (into) something different,” she says.

Guerin, who is an artist, says it’s been interesting to see how other poets and artists have been able to pull out details of her own artwork.

“It was really neat to see a couple things in their work that I didn’t see before in that way. Now there are multiple meanings,” she says. “It really brings a new life to this project.”

Swartz also says the exhibit highlights poets who don’t have an ample amount of open mic nights to perform their work.

“Poets don’t get much play locally. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to work with them. This will be a way to interact with the community,” Swartz says.

For this year, Swartz says he will continue to bring in more eclectic acts. He says the second Fringe Festival, a celebration of performing arts and artistic freedom, will take place in August.

Other goals include renovating the courtyard and transforming the exterior of the building with more murals.

With interior renovations complete, the gallery has also been able to add chairs, tables, a sound system and a printer, making the gallery more functional for its second year.

Swartz has set a new annual goal to bring in 24,000 visitors and more than $100,000 for local organizations.

He would also like to see Wunderkammer be able to raise more money for its operation costs.

“For what we have been able to do, we’re trying to figure how to raise money for our organization because that’s been harder than I thought,” he says, “I hope it will be a ‘if you build it, they will come’ scenario. We hope once we build an audience that will come naturally after that.”

For all the numbers Swartz has been measuring for the past year, he says he never accounted the public support. For him, the response to the gallery has been priceless.

“I just didn’t realize how many people would care for it,” he says. “Those are things you can’t plan on. It’s been so exciting to find people who care.”

kcarr@jg.net

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