For artist Clayton Calvert, the Hamptons art scene needed a dose of humble pie, and what better way to serve it than by taking over a once-forgotten basement space and converting it into an art gallery? Here, we sit down with Calvert to get the 411 on his new concept, East End Culture Club.
How did the idea for East End Culture Club come to you? Did you feel like there was a lack of culture in the area?
I’ve always wanted to have an artist-run space where I could share work done by the creatives I’ve met over the years. I wouldn’t say there’s a lack of culture on the East End though. I actually believe there’s a surplus. However, I do think there’s a real lack of opportunities for artists to find accessible exhibition venues. So, I hope to give artists a chance to connect with both the East End community and with each other.
Before creating your club, where did you go to find great art?
I’m a voracious art lover. I frequent museums, galleries, pop-ups, and artist studios, and I’ve always been captivated by art, so I can honestly say I find something new every day. Instagram is actually a great platform to find new art. It enables an international art community that would otherwise be difficult to create and maintain.
The space is a bit hidden. How did you find it?
I actually used to work in the space when it was Mark Humphrey Gallery. I spent six summers there before moving on, and I look back so fondly on that time. When Mark moved around the corner, and Tenet took over the space, Jesse Warren, the owner and founder of Tenet (and Southampton’s new mayor), asked me if I wanted to create a cultural project there and of course I said, “Yes.” The intimacy of the room downstairs offers a totally immersive art experience, which I love.
You’re an artist yourself. How did you feel about ditching a traditional gallery format?
I love the idea of bucking the trend of a traditional gallery. My hope is that the project gives each artist new viewers and opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Some of the artists have gallery representation already and others don’t, but they’re all extremely innovative, talented, and dedicated artists. I want them to connect through these exhibitions, and to encourage the exchange of ideas.
If you look at any art history, it’s full of groups of artists who showed together and created communities around the work, so each show features artists from the East End and New York City area, as well as the international art scene. At the moment, we have works from Japan, Italy, the U.K., Colombia, and Puerto Rico, among other places.
Who are some of the talents you’ve been able to highlight?
Our inaugural exhibition, “Materials and Geometries,” which ran from May 20 to June 24, included works by LeRone Wilson, Darlene Charneco, Mark Humphrey, Chellis Baird, Maureen Hoon, Ricardo Arango, Seren Morey, Lionel Cruet, and Matt Moser-Clark.
We also hosted a reading for poet Lucas Hunt, who lived out here for 14 years and just published his book of poetry titled “Hamptons.” Lucas is an old friend, and coincidentally, he worked at the Mark Humphrey Gallery before I did.
How do you go about scouting your pieces for the space?
Since the space is one room and the shows are large, I really have to be discerning in making selections for the exhibits. I generally select medium or small sized works, but there is room for a couple of large pieces in each show. That size restriction helps me home in on the common connections between the artists’ works. I have to go through a lot of pieces to make the selections, and because of that, I get to know the artists even better.
Tell us about some of the upcoming events happening at EECC.
Our next show is “Figurative Approaches,” running through July 29. It features Carlo Maria Mariani, Anna Weyant, Patrick Bayly, Enrico Isamu Ōyama, Prinston Nnanna, Hannah Marie Finkbohner, Guy Merin, Noel de Lesseps, Trina Michne, Sabrina Wirth, William Irish, and my brother Parker Calvert.
East End Culture Club is located below Tenet Shop at 91 Main Street in Southampton. For more information on upcoming events, visit www.eastendcultureclub.com.