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Boston Common: Drive-By Projects’ Beth Kantrowitz and Kathleen O’Hara

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As part of our continued effort to foster strong communities, we're rolling out a new interview series, called "Boston Common." In it we will highlight the people and organizations that shape Boston and New England's cultural sector by going straight to the source to find out who they are, what they are doing, and how and why they do it. We hope that the series will champion some of the exemplary work being done, shed light on neglected issues facing our arts scene and community, build connections among individuals and organizations, and expand the networks on which we’ve come to rely.
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Tell us about Drive-By Projects. What is its mission and focus, how does it differ from other organizations of its kind, and how does it operate?

Drive-By Projects is located in a small, storefront space in a residential neighborhood close to Watertown Square. The mission of the gallery is to exhibit small, focused exhibitions of work by emerging and mid-career artists. Our low overhead and raw space give us the freedom to explore a range of curatorial ideas from the academic to the hair-brained. We also try to maintain a relationship with different art schools in Boston and Providence to foster the work of student artists.
Drive-By Projects operates on the principle that you can drive by and view our shows from the street or the sidewalk. We are open one afternoon a week and by appointment. The space is on a small side-street with parking out front so it’s accessible to visitors and passersby. Other stores on the street include a vintage beauty salon and a magic shop. Drive-By’s location and business model make it unique among galleries in Boston.

How did you come to co-direct the space, what did you do prior to running Drive-By, and how did that equip you for this current role?

We have both been curators and gallery directors for several years. Kathleen is also an artist. After closing our respective galleries on Thayer Street in the South End [Beth Kantrowitz ran Allston Skirt Gallery, and Kathleen O’Hara OHT Gallery] we began curating pop-up shows in a variety of non-gallery venues around Boston (lobbies, stores, artists studios, night clubs etc.) Our operating motto was "good art looks good anywhere." After two thefts…ugh... we began searching for a small space and approached a colleague who had hosted one of our pop-ups. He said yes, and Drive-By was born.

Wendy Edwards, Splotch, 2012
Oil, acrylic, oil cloth on canvas
60 x 48"

What are you working on currently? What are your plans for Drive-By in the coming year?

We just de-installed Domestic Abstraction: Paintings by Wendy Edwards and Michelle Grabner and are setting up our annual holiday extravaganza sale.
We are also working on our 2014 schedule. Upcoming shows include Bridge (inkjet prints by Lisa Young, photographs by Kevin Thrasher, and intaglio/screenprints by Allison Bianco), an exhibition curated by Ben Sloat, and a collaboration with One Mile Gallery in Kingston, New York.

What are some challenges you face, and how are you working to address them? What's your biggest need right now?

We looked at each other when asked this question and agreed that all is well at Drive-By and we wouldn’t change a thing.
We would like a larger audience for our shows. We think that though small, they are among the best in Boston.

What advice do you have for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? What do you wish you knew when you first started out?

Our advice is "keep it simple." After a combined 25+ years of curating, and directing gallery spaces, there weren’t many surprises.

Name one challenge that the Boston cultural sector faces, and how you’d suggest fixing it.

There is always room for more young, experimental gallery spaces and more critical writing… Yay Big Red & Shiny!

Tell us about one cultural event/exhibition or organization/individual (other than your own) that has exceeded your expectations recently. What work are they doing, and why is it important?

Andrea Sherrill Evans, Kirk Amaral Snow, and their new blog, Temporary Land Bridge. We have shown Andrea’s work and admire her as an artist, teacher, and writer. She has added another voice to the critical writing community in Boston.

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