I'm sitting in the gallery with Chris Barber, my new roommate. He's launching his used bookshop here at TLGUTS this Saturday, September 25th, at noon. I can't speak highly enough about him. He's brought a jolt of energy into the space and brought me back to my original vision of the gallery not just being a space where people come to show, see, and buy art work, but a place where people come to recharge, get inspired, and act.

I thought I would introduce you all to Chris and his vision.

Hey Chris, I'm going to interview you for this blog post, ok?

Me: What made you come up with the idea of opening a book store?

Chris: I just couldn't believe there wasn't a bookstore in a city of 90 thousand people. That's astonishing. It's just weird. I don't know what to think about that. And then I had all of these books to get rid of, and didn't feel like spending half of my life listing them online. But it's not like I just woke up and decided to start a business without any money. It was still just a ridiculous little idea that was going to fizzle out with all of the others until TLGUTS gave it a home.

So where did the name Subterranean come from?

Chris: TLGUTS is technically subterranean, right? Then I like the idea of it being underground in another sense, or at least acknowledging the potential for that, despite everything. There should be a thriving young DIY cultural scene here that grew out of nothing but raw spaces and dirt-cheap rent. But instead we got developers trying to skip a few steps in the gentrification of downtown. With high rents, a retail space was out of the question even though there are so many sitting vacant. So I'm taking a stab at going underground.

Me: Yeah, its subterranean. I embrace the he thought of thinking of that concept on a whole new level.
I agree with you about the development skipping steps. I wish that when the powers that be try to plan things for buildling the arts community here, that they would actually include the artists in their conversations. On the other hand, we are moving along nicely despite it all, so why worry.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. To hell with it, we can just do what we think is missing. An arts community isn't something that can be built from City Hall, or at the whim of a developer. If it's all top-down and backwards here,  I'd rather just try something else under the radar. That's what I like about your gallery. You're putting the art first. It would be great to expand on this into a collaboration to make something new. It doesn't need to be categorized.

Me: Here, here. I am really digging the collaborative part of working with you. There's strength in numbers. Even though there's just three of us down here (including Michiko), it now feels more like the organic creative community idea I had for TLGUTS.  I like the idea of getting people to come and take risks... I also love that we are open mostly at night. It really does feel cave like down here at night; it creates a good vibe for being inventive and feels separate from the outside world in a way that makes it easy to explore and push some boundaries.

Chris: Yeah, I'm having a lot of fun already, bouncing ideas back and forth about specific things we could do. Maybe some of them won't work, but that's how it goes when you're experimenting. The productive energy around you and this space is incredible. I moved here in the middle of working on a book, and had no plans to go back to art, but there I was making art again a week after getting here. Opening a used bookstore was nowhere near my list of things to do, ever, but now it seems like it just sort of happened. I'm starting to feel like I don't know what the hell is going to happen tomorrow, and I feel alive. That's the kind of experience that I'd like to collaborate with you on channeling into this space, and to do it totally recklessly.

Me: I'm glad you don't feel dead. That would be really, really bad. I don't think it's a coincidence either that I am finally making space and time for my own work since you've been here. There's only so much I can say that wouldn't sound like I'm gushing, but it is a pretty incredible feeling to work with someone who can walk as fast as I do, and someone who has the same feeling of needing to feel alive and take immediate action.

There's something to be said about the progress made via creative collaborations throughout art history. I love what Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein are doing. There's a certain protectiveness I feel about this whole venture and also a feeling of excitement about bringing in the new audiences, and through the energy we're building, more like minded people, or people who just want to be along for the ride and enjoy and challenge themselves.

Any final thoughts?

Chris: Just that I'm looking forward to opening Subterranean this Saturday, but if I don't wear out my welcome here first, that is definitely only the beginning.


  1. I should qualify that remark about top-down organizing. There is actually a lot that City Hall can do, and seems interested in doing. I just hope that they come to you for consultation on strategy, because having talked to you about it I know that you could make transformation happen from that direction too.

  2. I know what you meant though... for the convergence of creative people to become a community, it has to be done by the people themselves. You can't just herd people together and shoot at their feet and yell, "dance"...


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