Jennifer Kaye makes the scene
Mary Lee Pappas
*Pictured: “I am one of the few galleries where you can walk in and show me your stuff.” —Jennifer Kaye
Oct. 18 marked the one-year anniversary of the Chatham Center, a former nursing home at 901 N. East St., that is home to Jennifer Kaye’s gallery, LAMP. This unwaveringly optimistic and determined artist has successfully followed her heart with fine art. “I found that I really, really loved curating and showcasing local artists’ work,” Kaye says, so she set forth to represent local film, sculpture, 2D and installation art. “All media is important. Your soul needs an outlet.”
Kaye’s efforts are of direct benefit to local artists whose careers need a jump start and/or who might not otherwise get an opportunity to show their work in a professional venue.
“I am one of the few galleries where you can walk in and show me your stuff to be immediately considered for a show,” Kaye says. Though LAMP is booked about a year out, she would “probably give you a slot somewhere.” She honestly evaluates artists’ work and does turn work down, though not without some kind of encouragement or advice.
“The talent here locally is strong,” Kaye asserts — a position she has backed up by showcasing over 150 artists, a large percentage of whom had never shown before. This has given her a great sense of accomplishment.
“There is huge need for what I am doing. Artists come to me and say that I am the only one that’s here for them, that I’m giving them a chance and will make sure their work looks good when it’s hung,” she explains. “Some artists get snubbed at other galleries, which I think is ridiculous because people always ask me, ‘Where did you find this artist?’”
Presentation of artwork is one of Kaye’s strengths. “I’m going overboard on presentation because I want to command that kind of respect for the work.” She explains that LAMP is an alternative venue to the party scene Allotropy or Oranje art shows. “When you put art in a flea market setting, you wonder how they can ask $2,000 for something. If you hang it properly and put the right light on it, well $2,000 isn’t that bad, honey, let’s buy this! There is the trained art buyer that knows what he wants when he sees it and it doesn’t matter what environment that art is in. Then there is that great big group of people who are overwhelmed. They don’t know what they like, they don’t know what they are looking for.” That’s the crowd she wants.
LAMP is an acronym for Local Artists Making Progress. “I wanted the name of the gallery to encompass why I was doing this, so I started writing down all of these words. I wasn’t trying to make an acronym.” Kaye says LAMP, which serves as her mission statement as well, lent itself to the idea of enlightenment. Consequently, exhibition names have followed this light theme. “I thought it was appropriate to be shedding light on the local art community. I had a BANG moment.”
Kaye recently left her predictable and steady job as a loan officer to dedicate all of her time to LAMP. “I had been at a crossroads. I feel like with LAMP I am giving back to my community.” She now employs a staff of two, which include jeweler Wendy Mathiesen, administrator, and Linda Trout, gallery sales.
Despite success in her first year in business, Kaye says The Indianapolis Star told her they wouldn’t cover her gallery because they didn’t suspect it would be around very long. “They wouldn’t take me seriously. I don’t understand that.
“Instead of having the support of the Indiana Arts Commission and Arts Council, I had the Indiana Department of Transportation on my side,” Kaye muses, laughing about last summer’s Hyperfix, which rerouted downtown traffic past LAMP. “I don’t know if Hyperfix helped sales or not, but I am getting traffic on Thursdays and Fridays. I worked really hard on the signage …”
IDADA, the Indianapolis Down-town Association of Art Dealers and Artists, has definitely benefited LAMP. “IDADA is made up of a great group of people — gallery owners! The Arts Council of Indianapolis — they have been really going at it that they need to make a scene and I think IDADA’s point of view is that we already have a scene.” Kaye continues, “I think it will do good things for the galleries of Indianapolis. I think we’re going to get more publicity on our own.”
IDADA, with funding from the Mayor’s Cultural Tourism Initiative, is paying for 10 issues of the Midwest Gallery Guide, which will be in hotels around the Midwest, including Chicago. Visit www.idada.info to learn more about IDADA and link to local galleries.
“You can spend $50 on a steak dinner and you got nothing to take home,” Kaye says. “You buy a piece of art and more than likely one of your grandkids is going to grab that when you’re gone. It’s going to get passed on. People don’t throw away art unless it’s awful. Art should be valuable enough to you that when you look at it, it always brings you pleasure or always makes you think, or whatever you need to push your buttons.”
Kaye hopes to push buttons in as many homes, offices and businesses in Indianapolis as possible. “I would like to fill every office in Indianapolis with original art from LAMP. I hope the art would rub off on employees, that they would see local art on their walls and be intrigued enough to go to some of the art openings.”
Artists get hit up a lot to donate their work to auctions and charities. This is a pet peeve of Kaye’s. “We get asked to put our work up at some fund-raiser as a background for a party. I’m tired of artists being considered the court jesters. We have something to offer: our creativity. I don’t really feel that people think that creativity is something worth paying for and yet I also hear so many people say, ‘I wish I had creativity, I’m so untalented.’ If you’re not talented, then why aren’t you willing to pay for someone else’s talent?”
LAMP’s current exhibits are Sharps and Flats, featuring work by Kaye and David Engelking; “The Way We Saw the World” by Quincy Owens; and “Kingdom Come” by Zan Aufderheide. Hours are Thursdays, 12-6 p.m., Fridays, 12-8 p.m. and Saturdays, 12-6 p.m.