potential life studios

by Kaci Smith

photo by Kaci Smith
photo by Kaci Smith

You will not find generic landscape paintings at Potential Life Studios.  This avant-garde arts space is Rochester, New York’s answer to its lack of places to exhibit and view experimental art and music.  When Jeremy Dziedic and Colleen Guthrie returned to Rochester in July 2007, they brought with them Potential Life Studios, a solution to what they saw as an absence in the Rochester arts scene.

While other galleries in Rochester tend to cater to hobbyists or non-local artists, Potential Life Studio’s mission is to showcase local alternative and experimental artists.  Rochester, like many medium-sized cities in the United States, is not lacking in creative people, but instead is lacking galleries that highlight off-beat and non-traditional art.  The name of the gallery was adopted from the moniker Jeremy’s father used while screen printing band shirts in the 1980s.  For those looking for something that runs against the grain, something that is less cookie-cutter and more raw, Potential Life Studios is the place to go.

Potential Life Studios is tucked away at 34 Elton Street.  Unlike most galleries in the area, Potential Life Studios caters to the extraordinary artist. This studio is at the cutting-edge of the art scene and brings out some of the best of what the area has to offer.  Most of the shows revolve around a particular theme, whether it be a sequential arts comic book show or photographs that incorporate origami elephants.  Currently, the showing of “reMIXED Media” features the work of Chicken Bone, Kurt Ketchum, R. Scott Oliver, and Jeremy Dziedic. Many of the pieces are hung in antique frames, giving the gallery a more nostalgic feel.  The gallery itself has a very DIY pathos and ethic. Each piece on display maintains a high level of quality and craftsmanship.  The studio’s layout encourages people to interact and experience the artwork in a communal setting with many comfortable chairs and has music playing at all times. Such a design encourages the viewers to stay for a while and chat, rather than just look and leave.  There is also an abundance of merchandise for sale, including t-shirts and smaller prints from local artists.

Potential Life Studios operates for the love of art, not for the paycheck.  Other galleries in the area tend to capitalize on artists who are eager to display their artwork.  Many galleries, regardless of location, will charge artists a hanging fee to use their space and are often not very selective in the quality of work that is exhibited.  A typical trend in the art scene celebrates names rather than talent. This tends to lead to mediocre, run-of-the-mill scene galleries.  This is the antithesis of Potential Life Studios.  Funding for the gallery comes from donation, as well as the pockets of Jeremy and Colleen. An attitude found in some medium to smaller sized cities is that their city is devoid of a notable art scene. This apathy needs to stop and people need to start attending events.  Art enthusiasts need support their community with attendance and patronage to keep places like Potential Life Studios alive and multiplying.

The experimental noise and music scene is fairly large in Rochester, but one wouldn’t know it if they opened any of the weekly events papers.  Potential Life Studios not only provides a venue for local alternative and experimental artist but also encourages musicians to collaborate in their weekly event Output: Noise.  Every Sunday, musicians can come into the gallery and collaborate and experiment with music in a different way than just in their normal practice.  This collaboration is then recorded and released monthly on a compilation.  Listeners can subscribe to the compilation at $50 for six months.  Every cent of sale goes towards keeping the studio open and bringing in new music.  This multi-faceted venue is not unlike spaces you would find in major cities around the world.  The collaborative and innovative music coming out of Potential Life Studios is similar to artist collective, The Kitchen, that was founded in the 70s. the Kitchen helped launch the careers of John Cage and Philip Glass.  This is the only place in town where you can hear classically a trained saxophonist freestyle over the sounds of a sampler that someone drilled into a suitcase.  This is the audiophile’s dream for listening to live music. The acoustics in the building create a resonance that adds to the experience.  Along with local musicians, Potential Life Studios has also featured national acts such as Sunburned Hand of the Man, CJ Boyd, and Tom Carter from Charalambides.

Flying below the radar, for now, Potential Life Studios is Rochester’s best kept secret.  As a Rochester native, I have always been saddened when innovative and exciting places have closed down (Analog Shock, A/V Space, and The Night Gallery), so it was inspiring to meet Jeremy and Colleen.  Since graduating from art school in 2006, I had been trying to find a place that could fill the niche I was craving.  Potential Life Studios is that place.  If you’re in the area, I encourage you to check out one of their upcoming events and see for yourself.  www.potentiallifestudios.com

from the February Issue of Auxiliary Magazine

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