Frank May Interview
Frank May is the owner of M Galleries in Washington, NJ 07882. M Galleries is a contemporary art gallery that features monthly art exhibitions, art classes, and philosophical lectures. The main goal of M Galleries is to create a space where anyone can come in and engage with the visual arts in rural New Jersey.
TD: What made you decide to open a gallery in Warren County? Are you from here and did that play into your decision?
FM: First of all, thank you Tracy for having this interview with me. It is such a pleasure. For years I planned and fantasized about opening my own space. Before I opened M Galleries Washington, New Jersey was one of my homes. While I lived in New Brunswick, I would often meet up with my mother at the Washington Diner. My father lived here for most of my life. I feel deep a connection with the location.
TD: What is your background? Do you have an education in the field of art?
FM: I have a fine art degree from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. My concentration was in sculpture. The reason I chose sculpture was that the genre encompasses every type of art form. At its core, sculpture is manipulating material. My reasoning was that, regardless of the type of media you work in, it is all material of one form or another.
TD: How did that shape your ideas on curating?
FM: I wanted to have as many opportunities to explore media as I could. What my sculpture degree helped best with my curatorial work, is how to maximize and efficiently use space.
TD: Who has influenced you as a curator?
FM: My biggest influence as a curator would be artist Fred Wilson. His work is a terrific blurry line between curation and fine art. I wouldn’t claim my curation is fully “Wilsonian,” but he opened up the concept of running an art gallery, but being an artist first. Another influence would be philosopher Marshall McLuhan. His work has a lot to do with studying and questioning media itself. I feel that the best art galleries do just that.
TD: How do you choose the exhibiting artists? Do you have a theme in mind and look for that in an artist’s work or are you drawn to the work first and then build a show on that?
FM: There are a variety of ways I choose exhibiting artists. It started a group of artists that I have admired for years, and have expanded through those connections and exhibitions. I mostly look for a strong mind in an artist. I run a multimedia art gallery, so I am open to any and all types of exhibitions. A strong conceptual component of the work is paramount in my selection process.
TD: It’s a pretty rural area – do you think that makes it more difficult on the business side of things?
FM: It is very true that it is a nontraditional location for a contemporary art gallery. I feel that it is an opportunity and welcome challenge. I was inspired by the Ferus Gallery from the late 1950s and Early 1960s. They opened up under similar circumstances, and were the first to give a solo show to Andy Warhol. The situation allowed them to exhibit the most powerful work being done at the time.
TD: How are the shows generally received by the community?
FM: I continually get wonderful feedback from the town and neighboring communities. They appreciate the rare opportunity to experience an idea that usually only exists in New York City. One of the best parts of the job is the interaction with those that are unfamiliar with the language of a contemporary art gallery. I always want my exhibitions to be “high level,” but “down to earth.”
TD: Where are the exhibiting artists from? Local?
FM: For the almost three years we have been open, the focus has been on exhibiting and celebrating New Jersey artists. New Jersey has such a rich art tradition that isn’t that well known. We want to keep unpacking and sharing that. We are entertaining the idea of expanding as we are getting submissions from all over the country and even world.
TD: How do you think this gallery contributes to the art community in the area overall?
FM: M Galleries’ goal is to establish, support, and nurture a vibrant art community in Washington and New Jersey in general. We add an intellectual art rigor that we feel is missing from the community at large. Visual Art has a specific vocabulary, on which we want to provide instruction and guidance.
TD: What are some of the conversations going on among local artists that show at the gallery?
FM: Given the wide variety of media and concepts exhibited, name a subject, and it has likely been discussed. Examples are aesthetics, politics, science, family, technology, nature, philosophy, religion, the list goes on and on. It has been exciting to contribute and be a part of those conversations.
TD: Where do you see the state of the arts in Warren County going from here?
FM: Warren County and the arts currently have a strong connection. I have had the pleasure of being exposed to some deeply influential art minds from this area. This can only be a good sign for the future. There are many wonderful educational centers, independent art institutions, and opportunities for artists to develop and share with the community.
TD: Are there other events going on at the gallery besides exhibition openings?
FM: There are plenty of other art events I have weekly and monthly at M. I currently have a live model figure-drawing workshop, a ceramics workshop, an abstract painting workshop, and a poetry night. The newest addition will be theater performances beginning very soon. I want to keep expanding on these types of creative events.
For more information on these events you can follow us on our website www.mgalleries.org
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Thank you again for the opportunity to share a little slice of us with your community.