Meridian Gallery Profile

On a clear, breezy evening on any given opening exhibition night, glowing lights emanate into the street from Meridian Gallery, revealing an exquisite exterior as well as an equally timeless and beautiful interior on the 500 block of Powell Street. The 100-year-old Victorian building certainly perseveres through the city’s constant evolution. Architect C.A. Meussdorffer designed the structure in 1911, and it remains the only single-family home left in such a bustling and highly trafficked area of San Francisco.

Even though the original design and construction was not of a gallery, the space is not too dissimilar to a home. Although, in a different context, Meridian is a home—to artists, educators, writers and young, budding art professionals, as a place to nurture existing skills and learn new ones. Based on the function and architecture, it’s probable that Meussdorffer didn’t intend for the space to become one of San Francisco’s beacons for art and cultural awareness. Yet the staff of Meridian Gallery makes it a home for the San Francisco arts community. The gallery is an exemplary reflection of the city’s diversity and rich, growing culture. As Imin Yeh, assistant director, states, “The space becomes this beautiful analogy for the architectural, political and critical history of San Francisco, and the home is a container for Meridian Center for the Arts’ numerous contributions and relationship to San Francisco’s Past and Future.” But the Financial District is not necessarily known for its alternative art spaces. With its beautiful hardwood floors and three levels of visual arts, Meridian remains one the most unique art spaces in the city. From its location to its architecture, it proves itself as a perfect place for cultivating ideas and serves as fertile ground for artists.

Meridian is widely known for helping break down racial and cultural barriers by showcasing artists with the same goal, in both their works and their art practices. From poetry readings to performing arts, many of the artists work with San Francisco youth to help bridge gaps and bring awareness through the arts. The Meridian Interns Program (MIP) assists high school students in learning more about the business of art, the community and art’s relationship to culture. Yeh reflects on the program’s objective: “It provides San Francisco low-income teens a safe space to work after school that combines real-world arts and administrative job skills with studio practice led by amazing teachers who are also working artists. Participating youths are often faced with complex challenges, including the need to provide financial support for their families. With MIP, they are not only getting the space to engage in artistic projects and job skills, but getting paid wages for their participation.” The program facilitates disciplined practice for students interested in pursuing a career in the arts as well as practical skills for those wanting to learn more about the administrative and curatorial side of running a gallery. MIP enables students to foster a sense of responsibility and to learn valuable business skills.

Although Meridian Gallery was established in the 1980s, the physical space seems to have been made especially for this gallery and community. In looking back, it’s also important to ponder the future, and between the wide array of diverse artists, scholars, curators, volunteers and students, Meridian will certainly see another 100 years in San Francisco.

Upcoming exhibitions include The Painted Word: Paintings, Drawings and Collages by Poets From the Beat Generation Era. To learn more about this exhibition, please visit meridiangallery.org.

On June 16, Zina Al-Shukri and Maja Ruznic will be on exhibition in To Draw, to Transpose.

Originally posted to Asterisk SF Magazine. Please view here.

When it comes to art, New York has been called a hub where intellectualism and creativity meet. Although it has a smaller population, the same sentiment can be said about San Francisco. As the city known for its diversity, its no surprise that one can find a multitude of extraordinary and unique artists creating art ranging from traditional to highly experimental and conceptual. These individuals need someone capable of navigating the art world as well as having the deft business acumen to run an art establishment. This person must also orchestrate opportunity while engaging the community. Catherine Clark fits this description perfectly. After her studies in English literature and Art History from the University of Pennsylvania, the San Francisco native found herself returning to the Bay Area. In retrospect, her decision was fortuitous for the San Francisco art community as it forged a place in the city’s art scene that has, arguably, made her one of the most prestigious galleries on the West Coast, if not nationally.

Originally called Morphos, the Catherine Clark gallery has become one of the most influential galleries showcasing both national and international artists. Her gallery began in Hayes Valley in the early 1990s, subsequently moving to 49 Geary in April 1995 and moving in 2007 to 150 Minna Street, her currect space. The 2,500 square feet ground floor space with two large galleries is a neighbor to the San Francisco Museum of Modern of Art (SFMOMA). The gallery  includes a dedicated media room that is uncommon to most gallery spaces in San Francisco. In recent years, she established a pop-up exhibition space in a residential apartment in New York’s Chelsea district on West 14th Street for her East Coast clientele. It has been said that Clark injected a bit of New York onto Minna Street. Yet, she wholly believes that San Francisco has a tremendous art community and notes regionalism exists in all places. In order to defy such insularity, exposure depends upon creating and building a community that can execute on a national and global scale.Alongside utilizing technology to gain a broader audience, local art fairs allow the community become much more involved. For this reason, San Francisco is rife with potential and ready to be seen as a place for cultural exchange. Clark asserts, “We have a lot of the ingredients already in place that make for a vibrant art scene…We could use more press for the art scene that reaches a national or international audience so that our assets are not just enjoyed and understood by the locals”. To further prove this point, Clark represents a myriad of individuals, many of them local, whose work she defines as content-driven, which certainly commands attention.

Clark strives to have her artists’ work and the content of these shows move past the opening night and outside of the space itself. Her hope is for the work to reach a wide range of patrons and art lovers. Exposure beyond a city’s limits is imperative to the success of any gallery. However, the foundation that nurtures and binds her gallery relies heavily on her intuition and a profound connection to her artists and their practices. Currently, she represents 25 artists. Although each has a unique story, the process of representing an artist entails her response to the work with an invested and serious commitment to their growth and development. In conjunction with the exhibitions, the new media program compliment the overall exhibitions. Large art institutions often notice the work Clark exhibits. “I have also been encouraged by how SFMOMA has taken more of an interest in artists working in this region. The recent Shadowshop project by Stephanie Syjuco is a great example of what I am speaking of relative to that museum”, Clark affirms. Some of the most notable artists in her program include Al Farrow, Travis Somerville, Sandow Birk, Stephanie Syjuco, Packard Jennings, Carlos and Jason Sanchez (Sanchez Brothers), Jonathan Solo amongst other talented artists.

Current and Upcoming Exhibitions

June 4 – July 16
Stephanie Syjuco
Media Room: Kate Gilmore

July 23 – August 27
Imagine Ireland (Irish artists and writers; in collaboration with Culture Ireland)

September 3 – October 29
Julie Heffernan
Media Room: Nick and Sheila Pye

November 5 – December 23
Ray Beldner
Media Room: Ed Osborn

Please click here to learn more about the Catherine Clark Gallery.

Published to Asterisk SF Magazine.