“We want this to be a nice opening like you’d find in New York or up in Chicago,” enthuses local artist Andrew Woolbright, describing the debut exhibit this Friday (11.11.11) of The Pharmacy, a collective studio and gallery for Springfield artists. “Café Andiamo is going to cater the entire event, and there’s going to be wine. We definitely want it to be a dressier occasion.”
The Pharmacy itself is housed at 401 South Grand Avenue West, former home of King Harvest Food Co-Op and Watt Bros. Pharmacy, the latter providing inspiration for the name of both the space and the collective. Woolbright founded The Pharmacy this past summer, along with prominent local artist Phil Ackerman. “Phil was renting out the front space and I was renting out the back, and when I came back from my last semester [at Chicago’s School of the Art Institute], we just thought it would be a good idea to maybe invite some other artists in and it’s kind of taken off from there.”
This Friday’s opening will take place two blocks away from The Pharmacy proper, at 1022 S. Pasfield, a former auto repair garage. “Most of the best openings I went to [in larger cities] would pop up in someone’s apartment or in some warehouse and would be gone the next day,” Woolbright explains. “As soon as we got this location, all of us got excited. It’s kind of got that meat packing district, Chelsea feel, it’s really bare, with concrete floors, high ceilings.”
In contrast to other local art gatherings, such as Third Thursday, the material appearing in the Pharmacy show is juried, meaning that the group internally critiqued the work to decide what would appear. “The most I’ve ever learned in art has come from being critiqued and people being completely honest,” says Woolbright. “I’ve always thought of the critique being like the vaccination – you’re injecting yourself with the disease to protect yourself from the disease.”
While the work shown in this and future exhibitions will be juried and curated, membership in the collective is open to all, limited only by availability of space. Even so, The Pharmacy has already incurred its share of controversy in the local art scene. “It’s kind of unfortunate considering how small of a culture Springfield has, how many factions spring up within that,” Woolbright sighs. “There’s been a lot of hostility to this place – of course, there’s been a lot of love too. But some of the most innocuous things I could ever think of doing have been construed as, like, acts of war.”
Far from warlike, Woolbright and Ackerman are primarily motivated by a desire for connection with other artists. “I think the whole point of art is community,” says Woolbright. “I mean, personally, I hate painting alone and I hate working on art alone. The only reason Pollock and DeKooning initially did art was so they had something to talk about while they were getting wasted.”
Opening of The Pharmacy Group Show will be on Friday, Nov. 11, from 6-9 p.m. at 1022 S. Pasfield in Springfield. The Harvest String Quartet from Peoria will be performing.