The new Swine Gallery adds to the ever-growing Southside arts scene
Effective art spaces are versatile places that can encourage transformation—both physical and conceptual—and with a flick of a finger. Artist Matthew Dutton has turned a closed Southside wine shop into the new art gallery Swine by finger-painting an “S” in front of a decal that advertised “WINE.”
Swine resides inside the soon-to-be-open Cine-Rama art-house movie theater—the brainchild of Chattanooga Film Festival founder Chris Dortch—which is located in the building formerly occupied by The Grocery Bar (and Enzo’s Market before that) on East Main Street. Along with Dutton, artists Aaron Cowan and Adam Kirby are the three main forces behind Swine, acting as curators, preparators and other assorted roles that are necessary to run and promote a gallery.
“The transformative and immersive potential is what makes it so exciting to me,” said Cowan about the accommodating 34-by-34-foot space with a 23-foot ceiling. “Its functions are an amalgamation of an academic gallery, a contemporary project space and a small venue. Essentially, we have a small playground without the constraints and restrictions that are specific to other art spaces.
“I envision Swine acting as a project space, and that is intentionally open for interpretation,” Cowan added. “I’d like it to function as more than a gallery or a venue space; we’ve been given an incredible opportunity and want to share that opportunity with Chattanooga.
“We’ll host art shows, lectures, workshops, music concerts, performances, poetry readings, theater, pop-up shops, one-night events, visual art installations, experiments and everything in-between,” said Cowan.
Beyond being a flexible space, ultimately Swine aspires to help strengthen the local arts community and have a positive influence throughout the region.
“We will contribute to making Chattanooga an arts destination and cultural hub,” Cowan explains. “The idea is to provide a local platform for creatives, emerging and established artists and other cultural and creative misfits to make their ideas happen in the public sphere; broaden and diversify the arts scene; and through that, provide education and outreach from the arts to Chattanooga and the Southeast region.
“Former art spaces like Tanner Hill, Graffiti Gallery/North Shore Gallery and the Easy Lemon were great projects that have left a vacuum that has yet to be filled,” he noted. “We plan on fulfilling those needs and more.”
Cowan, a graduate of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, has worked as a preparator for UTC’s Cress Gallery of Art since 2011 under director Ruth Grover, and one of the founding members of the UTC Art Department’s Apothecary gallery.
With his own work in sculpture, video and performance, Cowan explores themes and motifs including “play and danger, maturity and senescence.”
Swine emerged as “a collaborative effort that came together through love and passion for the arts,” according to Cowan, who described his fellow artists Dutton and Kirby as “movers and shakers.”
Dutton exhibited at the Stephen Romano gallery in Brooklyn in March, presenting his fantastic, nightmarish mixed-media creations with bizarre half-human, half-creature faux taxidermy in a domestic setting, and locally, he has provided art production for Rock City as well as creating sculptural displays for the store Anthropologie.
Kirby works in both sculpture and 2D art and is an apprentice of local ceramic artist Shadow May; among his most prominent work are his “Fired Clay” pieces, which are created by shooting blocks of clay with guns.
The schedule for Swine is populating at a swift pace, beginning with a soft opening on May 14 happening in conjunction with Cine-Rama, with the music/performance/poetry project Quichenight featuring the words of Daniel Pujol; the grand opening is scheduled for the end of May, with a salon-style art show.
From June 19 to 21, Swine will present ArtMoves with artists in the reproductive justice movement, “to invite activists and artists into the space to discuss how making art can infuse with organizing,” according to Cowan.
On June 24, the Orlando indie-pop band Sales will perform at Swine with Chattanooga rock group Cautious Beverly, presented by Flashlight Shows’ sister company Light Light Productions, and on July 16, local artist Kevin Cooper will curate a group show spotlighting local work.
“I’ve been half-jokingly saying, ‘If you can’t find anywhere else in town to do your project, come to us and we’ll help you figure something out,’” said Cowan. “That’s not to say there is no standard of quality, but we are focused on being an approachable, inclusive outlet for the creatives in Chattanooga in addition to broadening and diversifying the acclimated climate of art here.”