Good Life

Kelsey Rieger helps prepare Art Alliance Gallery Downtown for company

Kelsey Rieger, the new manager of the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown, hopes that the gallery can serve as a spotlight for local artistsk. The gallery is scheduled to open at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7.
Kelsey Rieger, the new manager of the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown, hopes that the gallery can serve as a spotlight for local artistsk. The gallery is scheduled to open at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7.

We all know how stressful it can be to get the house ready for company.

Kelsey Rieger is the new manager of the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown, which is scheduled to open at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 — so just imagine how many couch cushions she has to turn over.

Rieger, who hails from the West Coast, hopes that the gallery can serve as a spotlight for local artists looking to show their work.

Below she talks more about the challenges of preparing for the opening and what visitors can expect from the gallery.

Q: Can you remember the first time that you were moved by a piece of art?

A: There’s an outdoor installation by James Turrell at the de Young in San Francisco. Like much of his work, it is a piece that is meant to trick the eye and distort our perception of space. But it’s also a contemplative space that utilizes these distortions and its connection to nature to create a subtle kind of psychological disconnect that urges you toward peacefulness. I think that my experience of this piece was the first time I was faced with art’s ability to literally change the way we perceive things, and to use the momentum of that change to create an experience.

Q: Can you remember the last time that you were moved by a piece of art?

A: My favorite quotation is one by Edgar Degas: “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” At my previous position as a museum educator, I frequently worked with a nonprofit arts studio that helped promote the creative practice of adult artists with developmental disabilities. I absolutely loved their studio and the work that was created there. There was a tangible quality of joy in the process of creation and representation that was inherent in the artists’ work. Being able to feel the joy and satisfaction of another person in a piece of art is an impressive thing, and I own several pieces of artwork from their studio because just looking at them makes me happy.

Q: What’s the last thing that you created from scratch?

A: I’m constantly piecing things together, crafting objects and exercising the more creative parts of my brain in both practical and superfluous ways. It’s pretty much impossible to be surrounded by the work of talented artists every day and not feel the urge to make things in your own right. I feel genuinely lucky to have that kind of motivation in my life — it’s one of the perks of the job.

Q: The gallery officially opens on Oct. 7 — what are you most excited for people to see?

A: There’s so much to be excited about. Overall, I’m thrilled at the opportunity to have a fresh location and set of circumstances in which to present our artists’ work in a new light. Additionally, the amount of people who have generously dedicated their time and talent to the creation of the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown is inspiring, and I can’t wait to share those efforts with the rest of the community.

Q: How big a role does the character of the space itself play in deciding where or how to arrange the art?

A: We have some really great windows in the gallery that bring in a lot of natural light and energy from outside. We’re also surrounded by new building developments in the downtown area and a tight community of creative organizations that are excited about our fledgling gallery. I think that all of these aspects help to emphasize the vitality of the space that I’d like to capitalize on and build off of. Because of this, our first group show will be a collection of vibrant abstract works across a spectrum of media that I think will really light the place up in an exciting way — so make sure you stop by to check it out.

Q: In your opinion, what does the presence of a museum or gallery add to the community?

A: Art institutions such as galleries and museums serve an incredibly important role in that they create a special space for critical contemplation and discussion. In these spaces we’re invited into the perspectives, motivations and lived experiences of other people. What better way to build and evolve your community than to share in conversation and understanding with your neighbors? Art brings us together, and museums and galleries are a vital part of that effort.

Q: Why is downtown State College the right place for a gallery like this? Does location have any effect on the feel or character of a gallery?

A: From a practical standpoint, galleries are the conduit between the artist and the collecting public. By hosting a gallery in downtown State College, the Art Alliance is creating an accessible location for our local artists and makers to share their work with the community. Additionally, we’re extremely lucky to host such a diverse community here in State College. By catering to people of all ages, backgrounds and experiences, the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown is bound to grow and develop in ways we can’t yet imagine.

Q: How would you like to see the Art Alliance Gallery continue to grow and evolve?

A: Contemporary art as a practice is so rich and diverse, the possibilities for the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown are endless. I hope that through the continued support of local artists and arts organizations in Centre County we will be able to contribute to building an even stronger cultural arts community in State College.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready