Jackie Hoysted and Countdown Artspace

Artist Mei Mei Chang in her installation at Countdown Artspace, Destruction of Fantasy. Photo by John Wang.

Jackie Hoysted and Countdown Artspace
by Liz Georges

Of the myriad decisions that a property owner must make when tearing down an old house to build a new one, deciding which artists to show in your pop up home-turned-temporary-gallery-space project doesn’t typically make the list. Unless, of course, you’re WPA artist member Jackie Hoysted, creator of Countdown Temporary Artspace, a project that for the past six months has resided in her soon-to-be destroyed home in Bethesda, Maryland.

“When we originally bought the house,” explains Hoysted,  “I had this vision of doing the art walk on First Friday and going to Fraser Gallery and all those great galleries. And we lost those galleries. So we had the building there, idle while we were waiting to build the new house, and we thought let’s make good use of it and turn it into a temporary art space.”

Indeed, the creation of Countdown seems born of a confluence of inspirations and serendipity. “I was inspired by other pop up galleries. You had Morton Fine Art, which I think was the first pop up in the area,” Hoysted explains. “Then Mariah Johnson had started Porch Projects.” With working examples of both temporary art spaces and the capacity to turn a domestic space into a gallery space, Hoysted decided to mount a series of shows in the vacant house.

Hoysted then turned to the task of curating, dividing the remaining time prior to demolition into four distinct shows.  Hoysted admittedly chose an unusual route for artist selection.  “Some were my friends and their work I was already familiar with,” she explains. “All of the artists were people whose work I had seen, but some of them had work that I’d seen on Facebook and admired.  I reached out to them via Facebook and asked them what they’d be willing to contribute.”

The shows Hoysted mounted have each thematically covered an aspect of the journey Hoysted experienced in deciding to tear down and reconstruct her house. “Our first show was called Presence. We bought the house about a year ago, but we got caught up in the economy and couldn’t move forward and so Presence was indicative of finally moving forward and doing something with the house,” Hoysted explains. Presence featured WPA members Jack McTiernan and Lisa Rosenstein.

“The next one was [dis]Figure and the context for that was we were trying to be green-conscious, and we had a hard time deciding to knock the house down as opposed to building an extension. We finally decided to we were actually going to demolish the house, but it was a hard decision,” says Hoysted.  [dis]Figure featured artist Jessika Denee Tarr and WPA member artist Yar Korporulin.

“The third one, we called it Exquisite: It’s the Nature of Things. We had decided to build a modern house. Most of the houses in the area are arts and crafts and pseudo arts and crafts architecture, but we decided we wanted something more contemporary,” Hoysted explains. WPA members Rebecca Clark and Pam Rogers, along with Megan Peritore, were featured in this show.

The final show, Construct::Destruct, opened March 9, 2012 and features WPA member artists Thomas Drymon, Jessica van Brakle, and Mei Mei Chang, along with Scottie Fleming, all of whom created site-specific installations for the show that are going to be demolished with the building when it is finally torn down.

Just as Hoysted has used Countdown’s shows as a means of establishing an artistic dialogue around the tearing down and rebuilding of her home, the shows themselves have influenced how she sees her soon to be demolished home. “I think about the artwork a lot. We had such a hard time deciding to demolish the house. And now we have this artwork there and it’s wonderful and it doesn’t seem right that we should demolish the artwork with the house, but that was the rule so we’re going to stick with it,” she says. “It was amazing how each month the whole house would be totally transformed with the artwork and I want to post some pictures of what the house looked like before and what it looked like with the artwork because it was amazing transformation — a great selling point for what art can do for a space.”

Countdown Temporary Artspace’s demolition date has not been set, but Hoysted doesn’t expect it will be much more than a month or so.  Hoysted has not ruled out the possibility of finding another space to continue the project, as a sort of “ephemeral space.” That said, there are for certain a number of things Hoysted will take with her even as this current incarnation of Countdown implodes.

“Probably one of the most rewarding experiences for me was working with the other artists. It has broadened my circle of friends in the art community.  But I wouldn’t want four shows like that back to back again. It was a lot of work, “ she says.

“I have a new respect for gallery owners,” Hoysted continues. “I wasn’t even running a full blown gallery where you’re really promoting the artists. I’m sure I didn’t send out half the press releases that a gallery would have, so I have a new level of respect for the work that goes into that.  It’s great fun though.”

“I think the biggest takeaway was that you can create your own opportunities, Hoysted says towards the end of the conversation. “It was terribly lucky we had an empty house. But as artists we are often looking for opportunities as opposed to creating opportunities. This experience made me look at things differently. You don’t always have to look for the next Call for Entry. Maybe you can think outside the box and do something different, try something new.   Obviously [Countdown] could have been a big flop, but lucky for me it worked out very well, I think.  It was a win-win situation for everyone.”

“Construct::Destruct” may still be seen on an appointment only basis until demolition. Individuals wishing to see the show should email Jackie Hoysted at jackiehoysted@aol.com.  Jackie’s own work may be see on ArtFile Online.