#75: Valerie Santerli
After dynamic gallerist Robin Rule passed away late last year, longtime assistant Valerie Santerli picked up the pieces to carry on Rule Gallery's business, handle artworks from the estate and continue providing representation for a hand-picked and loyal stable of high-profile artists. And although that's what absorbs most of Santerli's energies right now, she's still a many-colored bird, inspired by the collaborative DIY spirit of Burning Man culture and an accomplished photographer in her own right. As she works to rebuild Rule in a new space in a studio within Hinterland Art Space, we asked her to share her struggles, dreams and passions by answering the 100CC questionnaire.
Valerie Santerli at a reception for artist Clark Richert at Rule Gallery's former location on Walnut Street.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Valerie Santerli: The answer to this changes on a daily basis for me. Today, I would pick FriendsWithYou because I could personally use some joyous free time with art, and if it involves brightly rainbow-colored animation and inflatable sculpture full of good-natured sounds, so be it. Running a gallery can be long and exhaustive, and being around something for the pure exaltation of it would be welcome -- anything that gets me out of my own head for a bit. While we're at it, let's add a collaboration with Swoon, too. I love her quote "Through action, you can move the perception." I share a lot of the same sentiments she does about art accessibility, self-reliance and reuse/repurposing of materials. Doing anything with her would be rewarding and enlightening, and I admire those who are willing to take risks for what they believe in.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I would love to sit in a room and have a discussion with Edna St. Vincent Millay, Gertrude Stein, Claire Elise Boucher (from Grimes), Donald Judd, Buckminster Fuller and Hunter S. Thompson. What's more stimulating than a room full of brilliant revolutionaries?
Ambrotype wetplate portrait of Santerli, by Jeff Graves.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Animosity. This goes beyond the arts, and might not even be considered a trend, but it's definitely something I want to see go away. We as artists, institutions and gallerists should be working together to create a stronger community that wholly supports culture by supporting each other. It's something I believe in deeply. I have had many conversations with others about this sense of competition in the Denver art scene specifically. We should be engaging each other, not competing.
What's your day job?
I guess that depends on which day it is. If you know me at all, you know I have several things going on at once. The majority of my time and love is devoted to directing Rule Gallery. I love all the artists and my staff there, and am excited to be opening our new permanent gallery space in RiNo as I type. I also work for an artist named Evan Anderman, assisting him with his exhibition planning and research projects. His work inspires me. Lastly, I work with a wonderful group of imaginative artisans who own a shop called ArtSmyths on South Broadway. They create hand-designed and lovingly painted leather masks, headdresses, clothes and more, which are sold all over the world. I am proud to be involved with them. I was also doing freelance photography, but that's currently too much to add into my mix. The only commercial photo work I do now is for Tedx Milehigh.
Santerli viewing ice sculpture is at the Dikeou Pop-up on Colfax.
Photo by Mark Sink.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would purchase several parcels of land and make each one available for unique projects that address current social issues. One would be dedicated to Clark Richert's concept for A.R.E.A -- a sustainable, artist-driven community. Another would be similar to PLAND (Practice Liberating Art Through Necessary Dislocation), which was founded in 2009 by one of our artists, Nina Elder. Another might be like A-Z West, by Andrea Zittel. Each space would be available for multidisciplinary creative endeavors at no charge to those participating and would be open for visitors to share the experience and engage in discussion. The goal would be to educate through creation and action and encourage non-traditional solutions to ongoing problems.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Denver is doing a fantastic job for the arts. For years I have been involved with a nonprofit called the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (formally Working with Artists), and the grant support we have received from SCFD has really allowed us to do projects we wouldn't have otherwise been able to fund independently. Without SCFD, Colorado's cultural opportunities would be greatly limited and organizations would be struggling to pay bills instead of using that energy to create dynamic public experiences. I am also excited to watch Denver's Imagine 2020 unfold. There is so much going on in Denver that is so great! One thing that would be helpful would be to develop a space-finder tool so creatives could be matched with available venues and space for their projects. I know it is under consideration because I attended the presentation at the McNichols Building from Fractured Atlas, an organization that does just that. So now all we have to do is make it happen.
Santerli with Rupert Jenkins of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Well, you know, I would have to say my mentor and dear friend, Robin Rule. She did so much for the Denver art scene by allowing it to be pure. I admire her vision and all that she gave. She helped so many artists -- not just with their careers, but with their personal voice. And it didn't stop with art. She had ideas and advice on every facet of life, from fashion to food. Even though she is gone, I still talk to her every day. Her wisdom and willingness to take risks informs many of my daily decisions.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I am continuing to develop Rule's exhibition plan in our gallery space as well as collaborate with other creatives to transform some of the unused spaces throughout the metro area into experimental, temporary exhibitions.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?
I am really excited about our debut show at Rule this week by Nathan Abels. He is so wildly talented, and his work puts you right into an atmosphere. For me, his paintings are something to get lost in. Also, Joey Coniff, who will be our summer exhibition. I love how Joey's work makes you question what's around you through visual metaphor. Other artists that I enjoy keeping an eye on are Evan Anderman and the new aerial photographic work on the eastern plains; Evan Mann's videos, installations and drawings are wonderful; and I am really interested in Veronica Rivard who leads a group called WelDid. She and her team hail from the vibrant Colorado Burning Man scene and have been creating large metal interactive sculptures that also involve fire.
West with the Nightfeaturing new works by Nathan Abels, opens Friday, June 13, at Hinterland, along with the new Rule Gallery space within Hinterland, which will have works by Rule artists as well as pieces from the Rule estate. For the latest from Rule Gallery visit the website. Learn more about Valerie Santerli online and on Facebook.
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