Most people want to keep their personal space and their workspace separate. But for Heather Rae Hatton, the two are one and the same. Her newly-opened East Williamsburg gallery and coworking space Club 157 just happens to also be her loft apartment—talk about a short commute. The fresh-faced gallery has had one show already, and tonight is the opening reception for its first themed group show, “Dreamcatching.”
Hatton has lived in her current space for ten years now, though using it for events is new for her. When she moved in, the space was called the House of 157 Pleasures and was used for band practices, shows, and parties. Since then, it’s been quiet, but that’s all about to change. In addition to monthly art shows, Hatton also opens up her space for free communal coworking during business hours, offering a refreshing alternative to coffee shops. The space is being used to its fullest potential: the hallway stores archives, the basement is a lounge.
However, curatorial ventures are new for Hatton. Her background is predominantly in commercial real estate, which she has practiced for close to ten years. “I’ve been a patron forever, and a closet artist myself,” she tells me. “In living my ideal life, that means being surrounded by creative and passionate people at all times. So, I’m making it happen.”
A recent graduate of Baruch College’s business school and a frequent entrepreneur, she is approaching it all from the perspective of a businesswoman who wants to facilitate the sale of art. She’s aware of her status as a beginner in the art world, and has reached out to several gallerists, curators, and art folk to get the inside scoop. In doing so, she tells me she’s been occasionally dissatisfied by the tendency to focus on art as a product to be acquired rather than focusing on the artist who created it.
“When I started to understand there’s more money in the secondary market than in the direct-to-artist market, it disgusted me,” she tells me. “[And] when I’m talking to the gallerists and cool art people I know, buyers aren’t even on their radar. It’s just collectors. They don’t care about someone who might potentially be a buyer. It creates a barrier of entry for someone who might be interested in art. There’s a lot of elitism and exclusivity around it, and a necessary knowledge base. That’s a barrier to entry for someone who just might want to support the art, which I think there should be ease of access to doing, and that common people who can [buy], should. But there’s all these barriers and secrecy and mystery around it. So my angle is to find transparency.”
Hatton tells me she tried to curate predominantly local artists, drawing largely from the Bushwick Open Studios online database and Facebook groups she belongs to. Half the show consists of artists she personally reached out to or who are friends of hers, and the other half came from an open submission call she conducted, totaling a whopping 40 artists. “I’m all about the community and being hyperlocal, and I was surprised at how few of these artists are showing work and getting opportunities to show,” she says. “I’m really excited to be working with my neighbors.”
Naturally, drawing from such a wide pool of artists resulted in a satisfying range of artworks. The work on display, centering around dreams and dreamcatchers traditional and imagined, is a diverse mix of all mediums: sculpture, street art, painting, drawing, installation, and more. Artists on display include some who own or curate other local galleries, artist Omer Gal (a friend of mine who was a highlight of alt-Armory show New York Shitty), and a street artist who has never shown in a gallery before and refuses to have his real name published.
Tonight, in addition to the large array of visual art, there will also be live music by frequent subway station performers Pinc Louds and folk-rock artist Emily Einhorn. Aromatherapist Asc Helvetius will be there with handcrafted scents. And, oh, we haven’t forgotten about drinks: there’ll be spirits by Brooklyn-based Standard Spirit Distillery, ginger beer, and some good ol’ coconut water. Essentially, expect all five senses to be engaged.
But the opening reception isn’t the only special event Dreamcatching will have. Hatton also tells me she’s planned two workshops, a dinner and an “exorcism workshop.” Hey, you never know when that’ll come in handy. She is also taking steps to make Club 157 a certified nonprofit, and has plans to create programming for local youths and seniors.
Clearly, there’s a lot going on here. When you are someone with your hands in as many ventures as Hatton is, organization is key. She eagerly shows me an excerpt of her meticulous spreadsheet collection: databases of artists, news outlets, and a staggering to-do list—I’m practically lost in the nest of grids. Not only does she have big plans for Club 157’s future, she also still works as an independent real estate broker, offers speciality printing services, makes art of her own. She’s also preparing to launch an app that aims to connect tourists to NYC residents: a sort of IRL travel guide.
As my interview with Hatton wrapped up, Beca Acosta, the artist who had been working diligently alongside us the entire time, completed repairing her large piece. It’s a jagged metal sculpture resembling a grotesque face, and it’s fascinating. Heavy as it was, it was lifted triumphantly onto the wall.
With that, one more piece of Club 157’s dreamland fell into place.
Dreamcatching: A Group Show opens tonight at Club 157, 157 Manhattan Avenue, East Williamsburg. 6-9pm. More info here.