Arts : Goodbye silo, hello so flo

Artist Justin Parr is on the move and taking Flight

Justin Parr, artist, photographer, and director of Flight Gallery, is a firecracker of youthful exuberance. Still in his mid-twenties, he is like a shot in the arm to the art scene with his omnipresence, citywide sticker campaigns (like “Keep San Antonio Lame”), and love of happenings. After running his independent art space out of one of Blue Star’s silos for over three years, he is living up to his gallery’s name and taking flight to the up-and-coming So Flo district, where art spaces continue to crop up on South Flores at Lone Star Street. I sat down with the artist for some Sunday morning tête-a-tête at Liberty Bar to find out what’s in store for Flight Gallery. It will reopen during Contemporary Art Month in the building network that houses Andy Benavides’ frame shop and One9Zero6 gallery, as well as Alberto Mijangos’ gallery and art classes.

Justin Parr will never see you at First Friday again.

So how could you leave the Silos?

The Silos are miserable. It was very much like a giant high school cafeteria. I don’t mind if the younger crowd is there to look at the art and appreciate it, but if they’re only there to drink, fight, and hang out in the parking lot, then it’s not going to work. Once, I actually had to barricade myself in the gallery and listen to a kid get a bottle broken over his head.

Not that it was all bad. There were nights when I felt like I had really done something. People would buy art who had never bought it before, and they would say, “Wow, what you’re doing here is great.” But it got to the point where the serious buyers just didn’t want to walk through the parking lot.

How did you find the new place?

I set a date for myself to leave and gave myself two months. I didn’t say anything about it to anyone for the first month, and when I started asking around, not everyone took me seriously. They thought I wouldn’t leave because I had been there for so long.

Andy took you seriously.

I had been doing work for Andy and we had become friends. There was a room in his place that he used as a private gallery for his own work and he offered it to me, along with the office next door, to use as a work space. I said, ‘Hey, what if we take this space and raise the ceiling, sheetrock, and turn it into a gallery space?’ He liked the idea. I went in the next morning and there was seriously no roof in that room. Andy’s guys had already torn out the ceiling and were building the frame in two feet higher. The space is a much better environment than the silo. And one of the offices is going to be a little store, so you walk up to the window in the hallway and it will say “Flight Dry Goods.”

The Road to Nowhere is Infinite
FL!GHT Gallery
Justin Parr
Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-5 p.m.,
Sat 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
July 8-Aug. 5
1906 South Flores (at Lone Star Street)
[email protected]

So what is it going to be like with you being so close to One9Zero6 Gallery, Salon Mijangos, Gallista Gallery, and Triangle Project Space?

JP: Also `Director of Blue Star Art Space` Bill Fitzgibbon’s new building behind us, which is going to have a bunch of studios. It’s going to be great. We’re all going to do Second Saturday. (Takes a sip of his Bloody Mary.) I’m never going to do another First Friday.

So how is Flight Gallery going to be different? Because word on the street says Justin Parr is growing up and moving away from the street-level art world.

I think in a lot of ways I’ve grown up in the last year, and Flight for the last two years has been developing into something more mature. I don’t ever want to leave that level of fun, or chance, or being open to strange things that happen out there. We are going to have nine shows a year, including at least one big sponsored show, and I want to focus more on installations.

Our first show is “the Road to Nowhere is infinite,” and a lady from the River Foundation came up to me and said, “Justin, I really love the title of the show because it means nothing.” And I was like, ‘Wow, you got it.’ It can mean a lot of different things, positive and negative, and so I gave that to the artists and said, “This is all you have to go on.”

So, with a grand opening group show coming up, and a successful bid for his own commando-style artist project in New York, Justin can sip his morning Bloody Marys with ease. “It’s not spicy enough,” he says. Then adds mockingly, “Life is hard.”

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