By Saira Ansari, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Usina Gallery is a vibrant young space that was established in Laranjeiras in 2010 by a group of artists as diverse as they are motivated. The story of its creation provides a glimpse into the contemporary art scene and gallery structure in Rio, as explained through the experiences of artist Julie Brazil and her six colleagues.
Although the gallery is only one-year old, the ball was set rolling when the space was acquired by gallery owner Julie Brazil as a personal studio about four years ago.
Having spent twenty-one years working in high profile jobs at multinationals, she dropped her corporate life and enrolled into the art program at UFRJ. It was here that she met other like-minded artists and colleagues whom she started her new life with.
Julie Brazil found the studio space for herself at the Vila do Largo, but soon discovered the politics and hardships of surviving in the art world. She and her new friends found nobody was willing to show the work of new and non-established artists, and so decided to create their own gallery space.
The personal studio was taken over and renamed Usina, meaning factory in Portuguese. The group pitched in money and had the space cleaned up, painted white and had professional gallery lights installed.
In 2010, twenty-one artists put up their first group show at their very own gallery. They reached out to everyone, inviting people from their school, professional galleries as well as newspapers and journals and the result was incredible.
Around three to four hundred people showed up on the opening night, usually an amount that large commercial galleries can only boast of. Since then they have had other exhibits at the venue or participated in other group shows such as the famous Zona Oculta.
From then on, seven people have been involved in the running of the gallery. William Anselmo works with sculptural forms; Alexandre Martins works in silver and previously had a flourishing career at H.Stern; Claudio Tobinaga paints and works from memory; Elisa Miterhof works with mixed media and was a practicing medical doctor before she took up arts at the UFRJ; and Julie Brazil, Júlia Fu and Ru-1 also work with paint and multiple media.
The group has acquired three additional rooms and use these as their studios. The working space is now equipped to carry out their diverse trades in art, including a silversmith’s workshop, and has been named Usina-2.
The gallery is still young and struggling, as they have no sponsors and despite critical appraisal have not been able to break into the market and sell their works. Some have even turned to the Ipanema Hippie Fair to make a living.
Even as Julie Brazil is packing to head to Germany, where her video has been selected at an international showing, she talks with tears rolling down her cheeks: “We have worked very hard. Most of us have made big choices in life, leaving our careers to do what we love passionately. But with little or no support it gets extremely tough at times.”
However, bright and energetic as she is, she immediately straightens her back and states clearly that she does not regret her choice. The next show opens in January 2012.
Usina-1 is located at Rua Gago Coutinho 6, Casa 17, apt. 101, Largo do Machado -Laranjeiras, Rio de Janeiro. Tel: +55-21-9664-6020