A daytime visitor won’t see much more than a table and chairs at the gallery that sits on Maplewood Mall. And the art, of course. Since its opening in June 2012, Renny Molenaar and Rocio Cabello’s iMPeRFeCT Gallery has hosted over 150 artists, but without swift action, the doors may close next month.
Mission vs. money
Speaking with NewsWorks on Friday about their financial crisis, Molenaar emphasized the gallery’s “artist-driven” mission as well as its ambitious two-show-per-month schedule.
“We don’t mount shows with the prospect of sales. We mount with a passion that we believe in,” he said.
Molenaar added that the Greene Street space has become a hub for all kinds of community activities from book signings and poetry nights to dinners, concerts and charity drives. “If anybody’s interested in doing anything, just knock on the door,” he said.
The artist and curator admitted that as far as the gallery’s finances, there’s been a major disconnect between perception and reality. Rollicking shows and events, and a monthly pot luck dinner fundraiser, have led many fans to believe that everything is fine, while Molenaar and Cabello struggled to communicate a deepening need for funds.
While the mission to engage the community and mount a mix of local, national and international artists has succeeded, the duo is two months behind on the rent for their gallery space and is facing September with empty pockets.
“We pass the jar around at events. We’re very casual, we don’t let [anyone] hear that the wheels are squeaking…we need to work on that,” said Molenaar.
Beyond a crisis appeal to core financial supporters, iMPeRFeCT needs to immediately raise $3,000 to $5,000 to stay open for the next three months.
Sustaining the future
Having survived a similar crisis in June, the gallery owners are faced with finding more consistent sources of funding through grants.
And if 50 donors committed to giving $10 or $20 per month, Molenaar suggested, it would cover the space’s basic expenses through the year.
Molenaar said artwork sales have been stronger than expected but that iMPeRFeCT’s monthly “Last Supper” pot luck dinner fundraisers can raise as much $700 on a great night or as little as $120 on a slow one. When he and Cabello pass the jar at events, they can’t predict if they’ll make $40 or $200. It’s no way to stay afloat.
“There’s work that we have to do that we have not been able to do,” Molenaar said of applying for grants and soliciting regular donations.
Gallery, barbershop, embassy
Molenaar hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm for the value of the venture, however. “We are facilitators of space and motion,” he said. “And this is not only Germantown, but the Northwest…we are part of that vibrancy, that potential that exists here.”
In the “old-school, romantic sense,” Molenaar likened the gallery to a barbershop full of neighborhood diplomats. And in the “contemporary sense,” the art-filled storefront is a “bodega,” which, for the immigrant community, is an embassy, a translator and a social and professional compass, all in one.
“I was really afraid,” Molenaar admitted of launching the space. “I didn’t want to be a white gallery, I didn’t want to be a black gallery, I didn’t want to be a Latino gallery; I wanted to be a people gallery, and I think we’ve accomplished that.”
Those interested in donating can make a tax-deductible gift through iMPeRFeCT Gallery’s nonprofit fiscal sponsor, Germantown Life Enrichment Center (GLEC). Checks to GLEC, with an “iMPeRFeCT Gallery” notation, can be sent to 5601 Greene St. Online donations can be made by visiting iMPeRFeCT Gallery’s Paypal fundraising page.