Kat Parker and Katie Rashid, co-directors of duchess gallery, are not only best friends; they are also business partners. The mixture of the casual openness of friendship and the law-binding business contract is echoed in the way they run their gallery. At duchess, young emerging artists are given an opportunity to showcase their work in an appropriate manner, meaning clean white walls, good lighting, thoughtful presentation, and a chat with Parker or Rashid. This last bit is what makes duchess an unusually satisfying location for experiencing conceptually oriented art. At many art galleries, cold white walls and the cold shoulder are indications of accomplishment. However, “Part of being a good gallery owner,” says Parker, “is the ability to have a good conversation about the art.”
Parker came to Chicago from North Carolina for a degree in art education and Rashid came from Iowa, already holding degrees in French and art history. They met several years ago while working as co-directors at Rhona Hoffman gallery. Rashid still holds this position, and although Parker has moved on (she does marketing for the accounting firm Ernst & Young), Rhona Hoffman’s influence is apparent in duchess’ character, for to moonlight as an art dealer necessarily takes a good deal of ambition. Rashid devotes the front half of her apartment to the gallery and rotates exhibits regularly. Parker and Rashid consistently stress the importance of maintaining a professional environment with a confident demeanor for the artists that they show. It’s a handcrafted blend of entrepreneurship and passion for the arts.
Duchess’ programming includes a variety of visual and experiential art. They recently featured a sculpture by Mitzi Pederson that responded to the sunlight in the gallery. Before that, Huong Ngo created costumes and scenery for viewers to use and play with. The gallery has also hosted a curated program of films from Iceland. “There is just so much art in the world,” says Parker. She isn’t daunted by that, but excited. The duchess team seeks a symbiosis between artwork, viewer, and dealer. Not only do they help younger artists get a bit of spotlight, but also, says Parker, “Artists help us realize how exciting it is to show people art.” If this statement sounds like it’s overly idealistic, that’s because duchess’ motivations aren’t weighed down by gold.
Duchess is located at 1043 W. Grand Ave. 4th floor. Open Wednesdays 6-9pm or by appointment.
Published in Newcity (January 31, 2007)