This week the We Hartford Project is highlighting a hidden gem that represents the arts in Hartford. Learn more about Eric Benkiki and his small works EBK Gallery.
Hartford Girl: Why did you start EBK Gallery
I've been producing exhibits for some time now as EBK Gallery. In March of 2014, I was able to rent a perfect little space in downtown Hartford on Pearl Street to set up as a small gallery. I call it EBK Gallery [small works]. I've had this particular idea for a while and was incredibly fortunate to find a space that matched what I think is a unique model. There is this traditional model of gallery shows that I think hasn't adapted to today's times.
What if you can bring the pace of how long gallery shows last closer to the pace of how we get most of our visual information i.e. websites, email, social networks, streaming platforms and such. The "pop up" concept of doing things (which I have done many) are to me art events. But galleries, exhibits, museums, and all of that, are arts infrastructure. It’s infrastructure that has difficulty accommodating the volume of incredible art being produced.
What’s new and different is the exhibit rotation is on a weekly and bi-weekly schedule. Since last March I have done 35 small, solo-artist exhibitions. This new gallery space is perfectly suited for presenting contemporary artwork in a really approachable way. The available work shown is also an introduction to each artist’s ongoing body of work. When each show is installed, the web page for that particular exhibit goes live and stays live indefinitely. What this does is make the "bricks and mortar space" and the "digital web space" integrated and dependent upon each other, having substance, content, and accessibility. So this link, [small works] gallery
is a page of links to each exhibit one can view in full.
Right now, I have shows on a two-week rotation (they were weekly for a bit) with the art receptions occurring in the middle of the show on Saturday evening. So every other Saturday, I host an old school art reception and try to sell some art. Every show I choose, I can't wait to set up because the work these artists produce is just amazing.
Hartford Girl: What is your biggest challenge with running EBK Gallery?
Eric: Biggest challenge?...Showing and selling Art in this region outside of the traditional venues such as museums, university galleries and other non-profit orgs. There hasn't been a downtown commerce based, independent art gallery showing contemporary art for a long time. Because of that it will take some time to become more visible to people who have a passion to buy art and also collect it. Hmm...another biggest challenge is doing this with a staff of one/me. A challenge I really really enjoy by the way.
Hartford Girl: Why did you choose Hartford as your home for EBK Gallery?
: About a year and a half ago I moved my Picture Framing and Art Services biz (ebkframing.com
)from West Hartford to Park St in Hartford. The art dealing is a separate beast altogether and a logical place for me to think about where a gallery should be is in an urban downtown setting. Cities have galleries. They're supposed to have galleries. Right?