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Boston Common: Proof’s Kara Braciale

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.

Tell us about Proof. What's its mission and focus, how does it differ from other organizations of its kind, and how does it operate?

Proof is a not-for-profit exhibition space located in the Distillery building in South Boston. The Proof space is very generously donated for our use by The Distillery and entirely volunteer run. Audrina Warren, the Assistant Director, has been committing her time to Proof for over five years, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with really amazing interns and volunteers over the years mostly from local schools (including MassArt, Brandeis, Northeastern, SMFA and Montserrat). This is our seventh (!) year of shows and we are very proud to be providing exhibition opportunities for artists from Boston and elsewhere. I feel strongly that small project spaces like Proof are really important to the development of an artist’s practice. Producing a show in a space of this size is a great opportunity to realize a project that’s corollary to a main body of work or to experiment with a new medium. Over the years I have started leaning towards presenting projects by women, not exclusively, but with a definite emphasis.

How did you come to direct Proof, what did you do prior to running it, and how did that equip you for this current role?

Julia Hechtman (an artist and Northeastern professor) and I started Proof together in 2007. We inherited the space from Second Gallery (which was run by REH Gordon who has since founded the Center for Experimental Lectures in NYC). Julia got too busy to be involved in Proof full-time but remains on the board (and is actually curating this year’s Boston Does Boston show). Before Proof I worked in a few different galleries in Chicago, so I had experience in the commercial and not-for-profit gallery worlds. I’m also a practicing artist so I have that perspective when it comes to operating the space.

What are you working on currently? What are your plans for Proof in the coming year?

The next show is the seventh Boston Does Boston show. It’s our annual show where a group of local artists are selected to then select another artist to exhibit with them. It’s really fun to do a group show and see the connections that emerge when there are many fingers in the pot!

Opening of Sharon Harper's One Month Weather Permitting

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

I believe that the quality of people who have worked with Proof has been so high precisely because this is such a labor of love, so our interns and volunteers have really taken that to heart. However, I would LOVE to offer paid positions to interns. I think it can be such great experience to work at a space like this where you can work so closely with the artists and learn the mechanics of running a space. But experience doesn’t buy your ramen (or quinoa), so I am working on grants for funding this sort of job creation.

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

My only advice is try and keep the overhead as low as possible so you can sustain your space.

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

I’m not the very best person to speak to this but I can suggest a lady who has her finger on the pulse of this: Kathy Bitetti. She knows everyone, was just appointed to appointed to the Walsh Transition Team for Arts and Culture, and has been working tirelessly for years on policy changes to benefit cultural producers in Massachusetts.

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?

I have a few: I loved the last show Domestic Abstractions at Drive By Gallery—it was really lovely, pointed and smart. I still reflect regularly on a lecture given by Trevor Paglen at MIT (a couple of years ago, so not that recent) that was simply one of the best artist talks that I’ve seen. There is another gallery in the Distillery building called the Distillery Gallery and they got a small facelift recently which really transformed the space and the recent programming has been great!

Icon image: Wendy Mason, Bronzed from the exhibition Let Go.


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