By Annie Zhang
I used to associate art galleries with silent rooms filled with pretentious, middle-aged classical music enthusiasts that possessed refined tastes in wine. I imagine that they’re also wearing formal attire and expertly commenting on a painter’s craftsmanship. So that’s exactly what I expected from Great Neck Plaza’s Spot Under Spot (SUS) Gallery before I stepped through its red rimmed doors to attend a gallery event named The Night Before.
Muffled music and muted murmurings guided me through a white room decorated with framed photographs, eventually leading me to a crowded crimson room in the back. The casual spectators were either mingling loudly or watching a young alternative rock singer play electric guitar.
No one was wearing fancy clothes. No one was drinking expensive wine. No one was really even talking about art. In fact, most gallery-goers wore ripped skinny jeans and oversized graphic tees. Many of the conversations I overheard revolved not around the earthy undertones of red wine or even the delicate brushstrokes of the paintings but rather around old friends catching up or new friends becoming acquainted. Most people lived in Great Neck or were returning to their hometown for Thanksgiving, creating an intimate, homecoming atmosphere. The small space immediately felt safe and inviting, encouraging people to socialize.
Although people of all ages attended this social event, its aura was surprisingly youthful and energetic. The musicians played original songs that echoed the soulful hip hop beats of Chance the Rapper and the defiant, provocative lyrics of Halsey. The photographs on the walls depicted contemporary urban cityscapes and exciting rooftop scenes. But most remarkably, the artworks on display were all created by new, relatively unknown artists.
Alex Ainatchi, one of the two gallery owners, explained that the SUS Gallery intentionally showcases creative, young, and inexperienced artists, most of whom are fresh out of art school. Opened to the public in the summer of 2014, the gallery motivates new artists to pursue their passions and work on projects that they are genuinely interested in rather than create art based on what is currently selling the best in the art market. Additionally, since many artists who lack business experience have a difficult time convincing viewers to buy their art or museums to exhibit their works, the gallery gives those artists an opportunity to display and sell their art without letting the hardships of entering the art world discourage them. Ainatchi said, “Most artists who are very young haven’t had much experience working in the art field, but this doesn’t reflect upon their talent. Their talent is just as amazing. So we just try to make things easier for them.”
In fact, the gallery has even featured South students in past exhibits. Both Junior Richard Lau’s and former student Anthony Sokolov’s cityscape photographs were displayed at The Night Before event. Photographs featuring city life and metropolitan landscapes have become a big part of the urban culture that is so popular among young people. The SUS gallery not only gave the students an opportunity to showcase their artistic talent but also allowed them to express their interests in urban and pop culture.
Most importantly, the gallery encourages young artists to transform their creative hobbies into a full-time career. Lau said, “I plan to go into photography or film, and I think it’s a really cool to be displaying my photos here. It’s given me a taste of what it’s like working in the art field.” The gallery is a small space for art but an enormous opportunity for artists.