Pierpont Avenue used to be the heart of Salt Lake Gallery Stroll; the majority of businesses along the street between 300 and 400 West offered a treasure trove of monthly artistic exploration and wine drinking. But as people moved out for a bevy of reasons, the street quickly turned into photography studios, artisan shops and other come-and-go businesses, along with some residential. When new ownership took over the property in 2015 and essentially forced out many tenants with high rents and ridiculous lease agreements, many were skeptical as to what would become of the business side of the street. One of the latest arrivals is Fringe Gallery, the first new art space to open up on Pierpont since 2009, featuring a selection of local and national artists who will rotate through the gallery periodically. Today, we chat with one of the co-founders, Eric Waddington, about the space and what they intend to do there.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up outside of Seattle, Wa. I moved to Utah in 2005, after a brief stint in upstate New York and a two-year mission in the Dominican Republic, and met my wife here a few years later. I graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's Degree in International Studies/International Business, and managed an internet marketing company for several years before venturing out on my own to represent artists full-time.
What first got you interested in art as you were growing up? What artists caught your eye?
Growing up in Seattle during the grunge movement created a great environment for creativity. I was more involved with music myself—concert band, jazz band and, of course, my own high school and college rock bands—but the visual arts scene was everywhere in Washington, with public art at just about every corner. Not to mention world-renowned exhibits like the Dale Chihuly blown-glass gallery, which really struck a chord with me. So it is virtually impossible to live there without getting exposure to some incredible artistic talent!
What had you been doing career-wise prior to the gallery?
I have been representing Nicholas Yust and a few other artists online, at art shows and in a few galleries across the country for about 10 years now. So before the gallery, most of my work was done either online or on the road!
How did you and each of your partners eventually meet and become friends?
Nicholas Yust and I met when I first began working for an internet marketing company and, for training, was tasked with building my own small business and website. I wanted to sell art online, so I began searching for an artist who had some sort of unique, defining element. I came across Nicholas selling his abstract metal art on eBay, and was blown away by it. Fortunately for me, he didn't have a web presence outside of eBay, so I approached him about building a website for him and representing him online. In just a few short years, we had grown the business enough that he was able to quit his job as a metallurgical engineer with GE, and I was able to quit my job as the web marketing director. I was introduced to our third partner, Adam Schwoeppe, right around that time. He is an incredibly talented contemporary woodworker (furniture and art) who was a friend of Nicholas out in Cincinnati.
How did the idea come about to start a new art gallery in SLC?
Nicholas launched the Yust Gallery in Cincinnati about a year and a half ago. I have been lightly involved with that, but am not an official owner. It has been a great success out there, so we decided to branch out to Utah and try to replicate the success.
When did you come across the space on Pierpont Avenue, and what made you decide to set up here?
The Pierpont space was love at first sight! I was fortunate enough to be shown it by Chris Metos from Internet Properties before it was even on the market. He was showing me some other spaces which were just ho-hum, so he did some digging and a contact of his (JR Howa) mentioned these Pierpont spaces that would soon be going up. We got an early walk-thru the week before they went on the market, and absolutely loved everything about it. The size is perfect, the building has so much character and great floor-to-ceiling retail windows, the location is great, the neighbors are amazing and artistic. We just couldn't be happier.
Pierpont has been going through many changes the past couple years. What was it like when you arrived, and how was the experience of turning the place into what you needed?
Just in the few months since signing our lease, we got our space opened and have seen several other units get complete makeovers. Great things are happening here!
How did you go about finding the kind of artists you wanted on display?
I basically took a two-pronged approach. The styles that Nicholas, Adam and I have always loved are contemporary, urban, abstract, expressionism, etc. So we wanted to emphasize those genres with our space. However, I also spoke with several galleries, interior designers and artists in Salt Lake City before venturing out on this and asked them about the art scene here. I learned that the contemporary market is growing, but generally speaking, the people here find it hard to invest in purely abstract works. So I tried to pursue artists with some recognizable subjects but with a defining "fringe" element to their work. Like a unique medium, less-common techniques, interesting subjects, unexpected flairs, etc. I wanted about half of our artists to be local and [the other] half to be national or international, to make sure we had the right balance of mediums and genres.
This will be your first gallery opening. Tell us about the show and who you have on display?
I am very excited for the grand opening event. In addition to the amazing art, sculptures and furniture on display, the party will be catered with hors d'oeuvres and Italian sodas, we will have music playing and artists and owners on hand to mingle, we've got interior designers coming throughout the evening to meet us and chat about the artwork, etc. Here are the artists currently exhibiting with us
What's it been like to work with Gallery Stroll and get the word out about your opening?
Kristina Robb with the Gallery Stroll organization has been wonderful. She got us set up online quickly and helped distribute some of our fliers with the Grand Opening announcement. I did a ton
of legwork myself to spread the word with fliers, emails, phone calls, online ad campaigns and more. So hopefully, it results in a big turnout for us!
For those looking to be exhibited, what do they need to do?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
with several examples of their work, a link to view more of their work online and a description of what makes them unique. I know it is a bit of a catch-22, but we also like to see some history of success (through other galleries, art fairs/expos, awards, etc.) to prove that the artist has worked hard at self-promotion and has at least begun to build a following for their work.
What can we expect from you and Fringe Gallery over the rest of 2017?
A lot of great art, sculptures and furniture with that emphasis on unique elements and the "wow" factor. Participation in every Gallery Stroll, perhaps some additional open house events similar to our Grand Opening. Involvement with the community: we have plans to work with local colleges and universities on scholarships, internships, student exhibits, etc. And always an open door and friendly smile if you want to come just to chill and enjoy the ambiance