Before adjectives started rolling, my immediate thought upon walking into Post Pilgrim Art Gallery was, sweeeeeet. The gallery space has an edgy, clean, raw, industrial, underground feel. A caliber all its own, with prime Native art, and a badass logo to boot. (Gah, I love that logo.)
After introducing myself, and complementing Jennifer White [Post Pilgrim’s curator and owner] on the space, she was quick to show me what she had been up to already that morning. She laid 4 paintings out on the floor next to her easel. It wasn’t quite 10 o’clock. The only thing I had managed to complete by that point in the morning were a few strokes of eyeliner. One thing was immediately clear, this chick had hustle. Not only that, she had a passion that sparked a fire in her belly, and ignited her entire being. I knew I was going to love doing this interview.
Located in the lower level of Last Stop CD Shop on East 10th Street, Post Pilgrim Art Gallery’s mission is to celebrate Native heritage with the work of established and emerging Native artists. It’s filling a void Sioux Falls desperately needs filled, and with its grand opening just this past April, it has a bright future ahead. I’m excited to see where White takes it.
What inspired you to start the gallery?
Really, to be quite honest, after Prairie Star closed (that’s who was representing me), there were a few galleries in town that were good, but I just wanted to do something different, and a little more hip. I did it because I wanted American Indian art represented the way it should be – professional…and not represented by a pawn shop. We are pro, you know, and we are few and far between that really, actually do it. I needed to facilitate that, not just for myself, but for my art family, too. We are so close. We are family, because we understand the trials and tribulations of being a pro artist. It was just really important to represent them the way that they should be.
Tell me a bit about your gallery as a business, and what sets it apart from other galleries.
I think the space speaks for itself. It’s totally hip. The fascinating part about Post Pilgrim is, when you walk in here, you’re taken away from South Dakota. It looks like an upscale gallery. It’s very industrial. It kind of takes you out of where you are. The artwork on the walls is not your typical rural South Dakota bullshit, you know.
It’s real art. I think that is what matters. Everybody in here is a nationally award-winning artist. What other gallery can say that? Really. I wanted to go to the nines, man, in my style. Everybody has their own style, but this is my style, this is my baby. I think that it’s different because it is all Native art, but at the same time we are all very accredited artists. That is something to say. That is something to be heard. You know, what other gallery in town can say that? In real life I took a long time to figure out how to do this, and how to do it right by all of us, as people and artists.
How long have you been working on putting this together? Has it been a few years?
Nope. No, man. I had four months to prepare for this.
Well, holy shit. Well done. Very well done.
Everybody that came into my life at the time…I mean, it was just so right. Everything went smooth. Construction went great. It was just the right time. Two weeks before grand opening I did have this real moment of sheer panic where I did not want to do it. I was like, nope, I’m not good enough to do this. I’m just going to call them and tell them it’s off. Then I really sat back, and I thought if I don’t do this now, when will I ever have the opportunity to do this again? So, I did it. Everything was already in motion. Everything was already there. The wave had started.
All of this comes with time, all of this comes with sacrifice and patience. What keeps me humble, what keeps my humiliation level right where it needs to be, is I have six kids. You know, right when you think, I’m so cool, your baby pukes all over your couch. Then it’s like, no…I’m not cool.
[The Gallery] is like a baby. When it starts walking, it’s going to be great. Right now, I’m just learning how to promote, and how to embrace being a gallery owner. It’s all very new. I’m trying very hard to learn as fast as I can.
I think it’s always going to be a learning experience, which is good.
Keeps you on your toes.
Yes, it does.
What is the goal of your gallery as a space and organization?
I think that as time goes on, I want to change the way people view Native art. I want to change the way other Native people view their art; learn how to speak again with our own voices, not fold to the assimilation process of who we are as Native people, and what is expected out of our artwork. I’m so tired of people telling me that I’m not Native enough. I’m so tired of people coming in here saying, “You think this is Native art?” Fuck you, man. Yes, I do. Who says that this isn’t? Where is that guy? I want to meet that guy. Who are you to tell me what Native art is?
That is what I want to do. That is my purpose and goal. When young Indian kids walk in here, and they look around and go, “Wow, this is so cool.” Yes, it is, and you can do this.
People are trying to revive the languages, and revive the hard-core traditional Native American culture. I’m going in the complete opposite direction. I want our children to look ahead. Our culture is in our heart, in our genetic makeup. I dig it, bro. But let’s move. Let’s progress into something more. Let’s make our own path now. We can do this. We can re-create who we are, and the expectations of not just other people, but of ourselves. That’s what I want Post Pilgrim to do. It is our future that matters now. It is our voices, now, that need to be heard in regard to contemporary culture. Non-Native and Native alike. Let’s live now. Let’s be now.
I just think it’s so important that we focus on elements that we can control. Looking back, hindsight is 20/20, but you have no control over what has happened. But you do have full control over what happens in the future. Not full control, but you know what I mean.
What are some of the events you host?
We do Final Fridays here at Post Pilgrim, instead of First Fridays. I dig First Fridays, but I think [in Sioux Falls] specifically it’s geared towards families and all that, which is cool. But I kind of want to separate from the pack, in a way. I want that new buyer, that new collector to kind of step out of what they know as normal, and come into a place where, not only is it a different time [of the month]…I just want everybody’s perspective to be completely uninfluenced.
You know what I mean? Everybody’s going to have a glass of wine. Everybody’s going to look around and shuffle. Moms are going to say, “look at that isn’t that cool?” I’m not making fun by any means. I’m [just] not here to do that. I will have occasions where I do that specifically for children, geared toward children. I just want to see a different expectation of art in South Dakota, specifically Sioux Falls.
It’s going to be a rough sell. It’s going to be a hard market to break, because that First Friday is so cool, but, you know, go big or go home, just like anything else. You’ve got to try it. Then you got to fail. Then you got to learn. Then you got to try it again, and hopefully it works.
I think it’s smart. There’s always so much going on that night, anyway.
Absolutely. But here you can stop, you can pay attention, you can take it all in.
How can artists or designers reach out to exhibit at or become involved with your gallery?
Don’t. Right now I’ve got a bazillion art friends that all want to. Telling people “no” is hard, because you know what they’re going through. You know how much they need this, and it’s like, I can’t, man. If I like you, or if I’m into you, I’ll find you. I’ll get ya.
It’s your baby. You want to choose what’s in it. I get that.
Well, and that’s the other part of it. Discretion is not heavily practiced here, because I think the Midwest is so polite. We are very polite, which is awesome. At the same time, I want to practice the art of discretion in the way that people will know that there’s nothing but the best at Post Pilgrim. There’s something to be coveted in that, which brings out the best in people, because if it’s all open and all is fair, how do you get ahead of the pack? It’s just like music, or anything else, it’s competitive. What makes you better is competition. There needs to be that discretion there in order for people to be like, “What the fuck, I’m not good enough? I’ll show you.”
How many artists are you currently working with?
And you said a couple are not Native?
Mr. Krupka is not Native. And then Angela Meyer and Sophie Dudley are not Native. But then I have got a Vietnamese dude and his daughter for September. I’m reaching out to the Ethiopian community right now. It’s a club, man. Trying to get them to talk to you is hard. Trying to reach out to these separate, but same communities in Sioux Falls – it’s quite difficult. I don’t think that there is enough synergy between the Vietnamese community and the Ethiopian community. I’m just trying to get them to be a part of something different. It’s not just for my sake, it’s for the city of Sioux Falls. People deserve to see how rich our culture really is here. I think other children need to see the diversity that is in the city. I mean, not that Terry Redlin isn’t the shit, but there are different artists out there.
What advice do you have for artists who are trying to get representation at any gallery?
Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Every time somebody says no, remember that, learn from it. Don’t get mad. Don’t get angry. Don’t blame other people. Because as an artist, it begins and ends with you whether you’re going to make it or not. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. You are truly, honestly your worst critic, but you can also be your champion. Rely on other people, and listen to what other people have to tell you about your work. Don’t be scared of a critique. Don’t get sad when somebody tells you how they really feel about your art. The real art is in the process of making a piece. The real art is in saying something, and you are saying something as an artist. Remember, that is the art. What people say, that is just a thought in time. Don’t be frustrated.
Paint over your painting! Who gives a shit? Nothing is sacred! Hello! That really bums me out when somebody comes in, and they’ve got this pretty good piece, and it’s like, “Eh, yeah.” And they turn into a puddle. Nothing is sacred, and don’t be scared to paint over anything. Until it is sold and out of your hands, it is worth nothing to anybody else. I think a lot of young artists get discouraged when they have a beautiful piece, and it just doesn’t get the recognition that they think it deserves. Don’t let your passion drown out by other people’s opinion. Just keep doing what you do.
What do you look for, then, as something you would have in your gallery?
The artists themselves, they need to be family first. That’s by far the most important thing. Everybody I represent is family first. That’s a huge part of our culture as Native people. They have to be, not only good, but good to their family.
They have to know the importance of reaching out and teaching. Sharing their knowledge, opposed to keeping it to themselves. Everybody in here has mentored me in some way, shape or form in my life. Knowing that they would do that when I was nobody, it means a lot. That’s just their character. That’s who they are. I learned a lot from them because of that. I’ve learned how to do that myself. It’s good. They are all of great character. Their art is on the same plane as their personality, and who they are as people. That’s important to me.
“Artists Against Hunger” event info:
Three days of art, food, music, drinks, in a family friendly atmosphere.
Friday 29th – Prom at Post Pilgrim 7pm-9pm
Gaudy Prom 2016! Wear your worst and best, punks!!! Come enjoy art music and wine in the gallery for the opening night.
Saturday 30th – 10am – 8pm. Live Art, Food trucks, music, drinks, all while supporting the city of Sioux Falls. All “Artists Against Hunger” artists will be present for you to meet, and geek out about art with!!!
Sunday 31st – 12 – 4 pm
Raffle prizes drawn at 3 pm.
Post Pilgrim Hat
Post Pilgrim T-Shirt/tank top
$15 Last Stop CD Shop gift certificate
4 tickets to White Wall Sessions show
$10 gift certificate to JL Beers
$10 gift certificate to Lucky’s