Putting the Art in Apartment

Vignettes is a series of small exhibitions that appear for one night only in the studio apartment of curator Sierra Stinson. Stinson talked to City Arts about why she dismantles her home twice a month to make way for art.

Since Vignettes started last December, we’ve done 14 exhibitions, one every two weeks. The exhibitions are lo-fi, impromptu and very intimate. I have the transformation process down to a T: The bed goes into the walk-in, which fits everything perfectly. The records go there, the chest goes there, the lamp goes there.

Vignettes causes people to be in close quarters with each other. It’s a good obstruction for artists to work within a small space, and because it’s a home, it’s like I’m hosting a party. But it’s still a gallery and there’s still art to look at and discuss. That’s what’s nice about it being so small: You can just reach your arm over and the artist is right there. They might be huddling in the kitchen, but that’s as far away as they can get.

The sense of urgency about a one-night exhibition is thrilling. It’s a lot of work but it’s a beautiful payoff. Everyone gets excited—sometimes people show up as early as 6 p.m., which is always when I’m eating dinner, and the crowd is steady to almost midnight. 

Finding spaces to curate shows is difficult because every gallery seems to book a year in advance. I curated at Joe Bar for a year and before that I did a couple of group shows, including one called Rattle My Cage at Vermillion. I feel the need to bring people together and start a discussion more strongly than the need to create for myself. I want to enable people to create. I had friends who I graduated with who had a lot of ideas but weren’t really making anything or didn’t have a studio space. So they weren’t painting. But as soon as I invited them in on a project, they would make it happen. 

There are pop-up spaces all over the nation and all over the world. There were plenty in the UK when I was studying at the Glasgow School of Art. I’m doing one inside a U-Haul in New York City. We’re going to exhibit fine art in it, and we’re giving out complimentary cakes.

Vignettes started off with a really simple idea and turned into something Seattle needs right now. One of the next steps will be to figure out how to export Seattle art and artists. It’s a little bubble here. It needs to burst. 

This month Sierra Stinson’s Vignettes will show artwork by Serrah Russell, Julia Salamonik and Frank Correa in Stinson’s studio at the El Capitan apartments on Capitol Hill.

Photography by Kyle Johnson