*As long as 1419 has existed[i], it’s been several things simultaneously. 1419 was (and is) a flexible collective of artists; it was an organization that facilitated work and the exhibition of that work by emerging artists in the Twin Cities; it was a long-term experiment in how to be an artist; it was an attempt to get over having gone to school for art; it was an examination of institution.
The small group of people who lead 1419 since May 2010[ii] had a range of opinions about which of these identities took precedence at what time, and how best to make decisions to serve these identities.
Around December 2010, the five artists who made up the board of 1419 (Broc Blegen, Nicholas Marcouiller, Billy Mullaney, Brent Grihalva, and Ben Gansky [who all love each other, really]) had reached a point where their differences in opinion combined with a desire to focus on their own work made it seem silly to keep operating as a unit. Brent, Billy, and Nick stepped down from the board, and Ben and Broc felt both optimistic and confused about how to carry on without them. We [Ben and Broc] wondered if indeed we should.
In the past few weeks, we have realized that while we resolutely believe in the mission of creating opportunities and facilitating the work of emerging artists, we no longer feel that we can be the ones to be responsible for the organization that does this, right now. We would dearly love to see another organization arise to do so, but our individual focuses have to be on our own work right now.
The part of 1419 that always felt like it had the most integrity was the dialogue created and furthered by the core group of artists, and with Nic’s departure for Elsewhere Collaborative in North Carolina, a majority of us graduating from school and pursuing independent ventures, and the compromises necessitated in attempting to retain control of our building, we feel that our strongest move is to end it.
So 1419 is canceled.
However, as mentioned above, 1419 was always much more than a facilitating/hosting organization. While that may have been the most visible part of 1419, 1419 was also a name for a group of artists, many of whom exhibited, performed, and/or developed work at 1419 continuously over the last 18 months. This core group influenced each others’ work and will (we hope) continue to do so. In this aspect, 1419 lives.
1419 provided a small group of people with the opportunity to experiment with a project the size and shape of a small independent arts institution. As a group of people with a shared mistrust of institutions/art-corporations, we concentrated on remaining continually self-reflexive and responsive to our own and others’ criticism. We asked ourselves, ‘who are we to decide what art gets to happen?’ and so we did our best to accept every proposal at 1419, even and especially the proposals for art we knew we wouldn’t like. We asked ourselves ‘who are we to make decisions that affect this whole group of people?’ so we experimented with ways to make ourselves more transparent, to open up the decision-making process, and to share responsibilities. Most of these experiments failed.
But we did lots of experiments. It’s probably fair to construe everything that 1419 did in the last year and a half as an experiment. Or rather, that 1419 was a lab in which we conducted experiments, while also experimenting with the way the lab was run.[iii]
These experiments were awesome! The people involved learned a ton! We all had different opinions about what to do and what had happened, and we argued and drank beer and smoked weed and stayed up late creating diagrams on whiteboards[iv]. The experience was deeply influential for each person involved at that level.
These past 18 months doing this thing we’ve called 1419 have been amazing. We’ve had the opportunity to produce the work of more than 150 emerging artists over 60+ events. We’ve hosted workshops, lectures, discussions, potlucks, performances, concerts, exhibitions, soccer tournaments, readings, installations, and rehearsals, with a focus on interdisciplinary, experimental, collaboratively-developed and interactive work.
We also want to make it known that 1419’s end has been in the works for a while. Since roughly January we’ve known that we wanted to end 1419. Since then, we’ve done our best to do right by the artists whose work was slotted for presentation/development in the space. Over the last few months, the artists of 1419 have lost more and more control of the use of the building as our landlord asserted himself by renting the building out for parties and events. Just so everyone is clear, 1419 is not responsible for these events. We will no longer be producing work in the storefront space on Washington Ave.
We want to thank the original group of students who began 1419. We want to thank the hundreds of artists who have shown and/or created work in our space and the thousands of people who came to events. We want to thank our gracious mentors for getting it. We want to thank Surinder Singh, our landlord, for trusting a group of 20 year old students to make their dreams a reality in his building. He is probably the only landlord in the city that would have allowed us to do what we did. This building will forever be in our hearts. And we want to thank each other, for not waiting for permission.
Play! Learn! Explore!
[This message was written by Ben. Broc helped. We each have very different perspectives on what 1419 was and might continue to be. In no way does the above purport to be authoritative or all-inclusive, though I have tried to be pretty fair-and-balanced.]
Broc and Ben
[i] Since September 2009
[ii] Sometime in the spring of 2010, the executive board was founded and composed of Nicholas Marcouiller, Broc Blegen, Brent Grihalva, and Billy Mullaney. Ben Gansky joined the board in July 2010. Later on, Eddie Burns joined as an ever-tolerant business advisor (Alex Heide too), and Jeff Shockley joined for a hot second. Prior to an official executive board 1419 was brought into existence and managed by a collective of wonderful people including those listed above and also Kalen Keir, Arij Mikati, Ben Yela, Ryan Murphy, Evy Muench, Adam Loomis, Nicola Carpenter, Ross Orenstein, David Steinman, and others.
[iii] Ben argues for this metaphor, but it’s up for debate (like all of this).
[iv] The whiteboards were actually mostly Billy and sometimes Ben.