"It's a new era for Redux," says Cara Leepson, who took over as Redux's executive director last month. Leepson follows interim director Beth Kerrigan, and former executive director Stacy Huggins Geist, who stepped down from the position last April.
We're sitting in the front of Redux's King Street space, a huge light-filled gallery sparsely adorned with the works of its current exhibiting artist, Carey Morton. The Clemson MFA student's stark sculptures loom large in the exhibition space, giving off a lot of energy for Redux's first exhibit of the new year.
Location Details Redux Contemporary Art Center
Leepson plans on keeping this energy going all year long — by implementing changes and nailing down new initiatives that work. "We're stepping away from open calls, allowing for more flexibility in our exhibition schedule," she says. In previous years Redux would do an open call for artists every year, pick artists from those who applied, and space out exhibits throughout the year. While the studio got to show a lot of great work that way, it didn't leave much room for squeezing in new, local, and interesting art that Leepson and fellow Redux members see around town.
In addition to a more flexible exhibition schedule, Leepson wants to make use of all the exhibit walls Redux has to offer. There's a middle hallway in between studios that in the past year has housed various works of art, including, currently, an extension of Morton's exhibit. Starting in February, though, Leepson wants to highlight the work of studio artists. "We're doing a pay it forward program," she says. "Artists curate each other's shows, people get to experiment with curatorial work and exhibition space."
Redux acquired its current location at 1056 King St. about a year and a half ago, and departed from its St. Philip Street spot in the spring of 2017. That move appears to have benefitted studio artists both by adding studio space so that more artists can rent spots, and by including additional ammenities, like a photo studio. The move also brought Redux to a new part of town, right across the street from the Dart Library, a happy coincidence that has led to a partnership and opportunities for area students.
"Being up here is really awesome," says Leepson. "During our auction last year we had this element of fundraising where people could contribute to an outreach program." But Leepson isn't unrealistic about Redux's effects on the community — she acknowledges that good art and good deeds can only come out of a well-funded organization.
"Redux has been struggling over the past five years financially," she says. "Something that's been missing over the years is individual support. We want to bring these people in and show them what we have, and hopefully it'll make them want to support what we're doing." Hear that Charleston art lovers? This goal of Leepson's goes hand in hand with another big initiative she has in mind — relationship-rebuilding. "I think over the years with our leadership transitions and our move some relationships we've had, bridges were burned, or they slipped away," says Leepson. "We want to get them back in here and get people engaged with what we're doing."
Leepson is confident when she talks, articulating each point, and getting notably more excited with the utterance of each new goal she has in mind. Leepson may be new to her position as Redux's executive director — she moved to town after Thanksgiving and started her job on Dec. 1 — but she's very familiar with Redux itself.
"I was in DC for seven years, but before I moved there I was living here," says Leepson. "I was here for a year and a half and interned at Redux. To be totally honest this job was what I wanted. I was always keeping my eye on Redux and everything evolved pretty organically." Leepson worked for a number of small nonprofit art spaces in DC, doing fundraising and development. "Everything is better here. The pressure is off," says Leepson, who laughs and adds, "But it's also on."
Leepson appears to work well under pressure, even the kind that she puts on herself. "I don't think I'm stretching myself too thin," she says, before launching into another Redux initiative. "I really want to engage the studio artists. So many people just work and leave. There's so much more that can be gained from everyone knowing each other," she says.
In addition to highlighting studio artists' work in an exhibition space, Leepson wants to offer Redux's artists more resources. "I'm doing a monthly newsletter where I send them calls for submission and grant opportunities," she says. Redux is also testing out a program of free, monthly seminars, open only to studio artists. The first will feature The Southern gallerist and owner Erin Nathanson answering any and all questions artists might have about, well, anything. "It's gonna be a pilot program, so we'll see what happens," says Leepson.
"My primary goal is to establish our identity," she says. "We're a new organization — we're still rooted in our mission — but we're in a new space and taking advantage of it."
Redux is open Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sat. 12-5 p.m. The current exhibit, Harbinger is on display until Feb. 10. Learn more at reduxstudios.org.