Dayton Q&A

 Dayton Q&A

Eight questions with Artist/Educator Colleen Kelsey.

Eric Spangler

Colleen Kelsey, an artist and adjunct professor at Wright State University and the University of Dayton, owns Kelsey Projects gallery, which plans pop-up art events and curates art project exhibitions. Kelsey recently conducted a pop-up art project at Front Street Warehouse, an industrial warehouse studio.

Can you explain what a pop-up event is?

A pop-up event is a short-term art installation in a unique space. It’s a way to put art out there in spaces that allows the general public to be engaged with the work in a way where they normally wouldn’t if it’s in an art gallery or museum. 

How did you get involved in pop-ups?

I saw this group called Gallery Project. They’re a cooperative, nonprofit, artist-run organization and they do pop-ups nationally in different cities. I thought about contacting them to come to Dayton and I thought, “I have all this background in working in commercial fine art galleries in Chicago, so why don’t I just do it myself?” 

How do you get space for the pop-up events? Go to the owner of a building and say, “Can I put an art show in here for a week or two?”

Exactly. I do that. Artists have been doing this forever. They activate space for their work because it’s really difficult to get the work out of the studio. And part of making work is having that conversation with an audience. 

How do you choose artists for the pop-up events?

It’s work I respond to. As an artist and an art professor, I’m always looking. I’ve taught at all the local universities, met all the artists who do work here and I’ve participated in art shows here. So I’ve met a lot of artists. When I knew I was going to do this I already had a list in my head. 

You teach art at Wright State and Dayton. What’s the most important lesson you want your students to learn about art?

To be a maker one has to embrace the problems. And in the process of making that’s where it gets the most interesting. To be engaged at a level of your work where the technique and the form and the idea come together in a way where they are able to be vulnerable through the process of making.

What do you like to do to relax?

I’m 39 years old and my body finally is like, “I have to run.” So going for a run for me is relaxing. Or hanging out with my family.

How would your kids describe you?

Oh, I think my kids would describe me as funny and as loving. I hear them saying funny mommy a lot.

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

I think making a difference matters to me. Like, whatever I want to do in my life I want to make a difference. Help other people, whether it’s showing their artwork or working towards a better world for my children by donating my time or my services. I think that’s when I feel like I’ve had a good day.