K Art Gallery is a new Native American-owned art gallery located in Buffalo, New York. Founded during the current pandemic, they are set to open at the end of 2020. The gallery founder Dave Kimelberg is a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Kimelberg has done work for the Native American community in a variety of spaces and now he turns to the art world!
Through the gallery, he hopes to bring greater awareness to Native American art, artwork, and culture and become an important avenue to spark conversation. K Art’s mission is to allow for discussions on Native American underrepresentation, marginalization, stereotypes, history, and contemporary culture. K Art will exhibit a variety of Native American artists.
Here, Picture This Post (PTP) talks to Dave Kimelberg (DK) about his hopes for K Art and the process of starting the gallery especially during a pandemic. We also get further insight about the inaugural exhibit from Art Director Brooke Leboeuf (BL).
(PTP) What motivated you to start K Art?
(DK) As a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, I’m interested in raising the profile of Native Nations, their communities, and their cultures. Native communities are greatly marginalized and overlooked, and I’m always looking for ways to highlight Indian Country, the richness of its culture and the challenges Native Nations face in the modern world. I’m also very interested in contemporary art. The contemporary art world and market overlook Native artists -- there is very little focus on these artists and few opportunities to purchase and collect their work. I started K Art to address that void.
What role do you hope K Art will have in increasing diversity in the art world?
(DK) Contemporary Native art has largely been relegated to museums and is hard to find in commercial galleries. It’s most often on the periphery. As a result, those voices are not heard in the general art market, an important part of society. By creating a space to feature Native contemporary artists and their voices, we hope to serve as a catalyst in amplifying the narratives of Native artists, their stories, and their communities. Through a commercial gallery, people can learn more about the artwork and the underlying communities, which can start a dialogue about Native people and their cultures. It will also bring visibility to a group of people that society rarely thinks about from a contemporary perspective. People don’t realize there are 573 federal recognized Native Nations in the U.S., each with its own culture and story. Our aim is to bring visibility to this richness in diversity not only with respect to Native Nations but among the many different Native Nations that currently exist.
We are seeking Native artists from across Indian Country. Since there is great diversity among the Native Nations, our goal is to show work representing a multitude of different Native Nations from all areas of Indian Country.
How do you hope K Art will engage with the community and enable important discussions about Native American under-representation?
(DK) When people think of Native art, they often think of traditional Native art, like traditional beadwork and basket making. Our hope is to show that Native art also includes amazing contemporary work, which often represents current issues and challenges facing Native people and communities. By showing this contemporary work and including important narratives, the hope is that it will create new dialogues about Native people, current challenges, and provoke discussion about their marginalization and underrepresentation. Native people are often viewed through a historical lens; by featuring contemporary Native artists, we hope to bring the discussion about Native people and communities to the present.
Backtracking, please tell Picture This Post readers about your personal and professional background?
(DK) My mother is from the Seneca Nation and was a founding teacher in its Head Start program in the 1970s. My great uncle was President of the Seneca Nation in the 1960s. I’ve had a strong connection with the Seneca Nation since I was young and have been actively involved in it for the past ten years. So, I know the challenges that Native Nations face (which are many) and have long been an advocate for advancing Native policies and rights. I’m also a corporate attorney and entrepreneur and have worked in those worlds for over two decades. These two seemingly opposite tracks allow me to leverage mainstream knowledge and networks for the benefit of Native-related projects and opportunities. I’m also a collector of contemporary art and am very interested in raising the profile of Native contemporary artists in the general art world. So, I thought a new commercial gallery with that focus could help accomplish that. It’s truly a labor of love and passion.
Could you walk us through the process for the first exhibit?
(BL) It’s been about five months or so. The development of this first show has really been driven by a search for artists. We began by contacting contemporary artists in our region, such as Jay Carrier and Peter Jemison, to see who was working right in our own backyard. From there we branched out through exhaustive internet searches looking all over the country for what and who museums and contemporary art galleries were showing. We wanted to see who was out there. Who is making art and familiarize ourselves with the terrain? We also looked in-depth at certain major art hubs like NYC and LA to see if commercial galleries where showing Native artists, and if so who. We also combed through current and past exhibitions from museums that have a history or mission for showing work like the NMAI, Eiteljorg Museum, and Heard Museum. We also relied on the artists themselves. As we began doing Zoom studio visits they would recommend other artists, so we were able to build this network and connect with artists farther afield.
These connections are amazing, and we look forward to growing them.
The inaugural exhibit will showcase the work by ten artists. These artists were chosen for the wide variety of perspectives they bring and issues they are confronting, as well as a diversity of media that each artist utilizes to convey these ideas and perspectives. When choosing artists, we also wanted to make sure that different nations, from varying geographies all over the U.S. and Canada, were represented. While ten artists only scratched the surface, I believe our selection helps to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Native voices making contemporary art today. Lastly, we looked at artists in relation to one another and how they might complement or highlight each other’s work and even show differing views on similar subjects that could stimulate a dialogue.
What are your future plans for K Art- especially after the pandemic?
(DK) We plan to increase the number and diversity of Native artists we show and have quarterly exhibitions. We also plan to establish a robust online presence to showcase Native contemporary art and allow collectors world-wide to access the work. We also intend to have exhibitions that juxtapose Native and non-Native contemporary artists to further allow discussions about how Native contemporary art exists and is viewed in the contemporary art world.
COVID delayed the construction of our gallery space, so in that sense, it’s had a direct impact. But we’re back on track with a scheduled opening date at the end of this year. COVID will present challenges in terms of exhibitions, but it’s hard to predict. We’ll continue to deal with the challenges and make adjustments as needed.
Editor’s Note: K Art’s inaugural gallery will open Friday December 4th. They will have both an in person and an online gallery available for viewing.
To learn more, visit the K Art website
K Art Gallery is located at 808 Main Street Buffalo, New York 14202
Pictures courtesy of K Art Gallery.