Arts & Culture

Pleiades Gallery to become a non-profit

Durham artist Darius Quarles, one of the members of Pleiades Gallery on East Chapel Hill Street, with a display of some of his acrylics on canvas Friday, June 13, 2014. The gallery is becoming a non-profit.
Durham artist Darius Quarles, one of the members of Pleiades Gallery on East Chapel Hill Street, with a display of some of his acrylics on canvas Friday, June 13, 2014. The gallery is becoming a non-profit. News & Observer file photo

Citing a desire to build relationships with the community and sustain the organization financially, artists at Pleiades Gallery have decided to become a non-profit organization July 1, the gallery has announced.

“When we evaluated our connection with the community and the work that we’re currently doing, in some ways we function as a non-profit already,” said sculptor Renee Leverty, who cofounded the gallery in 2013 with artist Kim Wheaton. “We have so many community outreach programs already,” she said. Leverty cited Pleiades’ annual “Truth to Power” exhibits that address social issues, and the recent exhibit “Water Is ...” that coincided with the city’s Creek Week observance.

“This is a deliberate decision,” Leverty said. “Every year we have to assess our sustainability. We recognize that for the long-term interest of Pleiades it needs to be a non-profit.” Non-profit status will allow Pleiades to write grants and accept donations, she said.

Leverty and Wheaton have been working with a Duke law student to write the bylaws for the non-profit organization. Initially, the board will have five members. After the initial board approves the bylaws, the board will be expanded to between seven and 11 members. In addition to people with strengths in grant writing, fundraising and other skills, “We’re looking for people who believe in the ability of art to create dialogue and bring people together,” Leverty said.

The Carrack Modern Art, a non-profit gallery, moved out of its space on Parrish Street last year, in part because of an expectation that their rent would increase. Pleiades faces the same pressures, but the building landlord “has worked remarkably well with us,” Leverty said. “They’ve been good partners. They appreciate what we’re doing for Durham and the arts community.”

Pleiades is owned by member artists, who exhibit and sell their work in the gallery. It will continue offering the work of member artists for sale, but also plans to concentrate on “community engagement,” education and social justice, according to an email Leverty sent about the change to non-profit status.

As part of civic engagement, Pleiades will “also showcase the artwork of individuals from populations in Durham that are often underrepresented in community art spaces,” the email states. At least 50 percent of shows in the main gallery will involve displays from such guest artists, the email stated. The gallery will work with civic organizations to identify these artists and “curate exhibit themes that reflect the broader community.” To provide more accessibility to visual art, Pleiades will present exhibits “in community spaces where art may not be normally prevalent.”

The gallery will reach out to elementary school students, Durham Arts Council classes and other community organizations, and encourage innovation in art through new technologies.

In its non-profit status, Pleiades will “coordinate with other local civic organizations to host specific events that address cultural and social issues such as immigration, the environment, addiction, gentrification, and racism.” The gallery also plans to hold community discussions with these exhibits.

Pleiades Gallery, located on East Chapel Hill Street, has been operating since 2013 as a for-profit business. In addition to Leverty and Wheaton, other artists who are current members are Mark Abercrombie, Jenny Blazing, Teddy Devereux, Tom Dunne, Darius Quarles, Nate Sheaffer, and Yuko Nogami Taylor.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

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