Scene spirit: Kelly's quest to unite the arts

Just imagine the sorts of articles you might find in local publications if writers and photographers were to collaborate on the same subject.

Greg Kelly would probably be really into them.

The 31-year-old self-described "artist's advocate" may work as a teacher, but he moonlights as a visionary. During the summer of 2004, he started a modest art gallery with like-minded co-conspirator Zack Worrell, who, as he puts it, "has a long and varied history of supporting artists." They gave it the exceedingly utilitarian name "New Art Across the Bridge." But now, after five months and about as many events, the duo has decided to call it quits.

Sort of. "Because we never had to announce it as open, we never have to announce it as closed," says Kelly. "If we want to have a show there in two weeks, we can do it, so long as we can promote it. We just wanted to do so much more."

The "more" he speaks of involves using New Art as a launching pad for a much bigger artistic center.

"What I ultimately envision is that we have a home base, which is an office, and then outside of that we have a building, a multitasking space," he continues. "Once an individual has a mature idea of what they want to do, they come to us with a proposal. We don't just hand out the money– you can do that with grants."

This all springs from personal experience. Kelly studied ceramics for 10 years before moving on to painting and finally to multimedia. "I've been surprised by the number of people I know who have similar interests in art," he says. "It's all just two or three degrees of separation."

Kelly wants to narrow the gaps among filmmakers, photographers, dancers, musicians, and just about anyone else with a creative bent. "The outcome of it," he says, "is a stronger network to support creative and collaborative efforts in the artistic community."

The next show at New Art– and perhaps the next major step towards the mass synesthesia Kelly wants to induce– will be a fundraiser for UVA art student Colin Whitlow, a fifth-year with a fellowship whose rather ambitious photography project is in need of some help.

"Doing this project independently and as a poor student, I've been trying to find out all sorts of ways to fund my project and get some publicity," says Whitlow. "We eventually figured out that the three of us had a love for music, and so we started playing together."

In the meantime, Kelly's working on projects like the recent screening of the hip-hop film Freestyle in conjunction with Lighthouse Microcinema, and bringing Native American activists Ward Churchill and John Trudell to town.

"Things could get done so much easier if we just worked together," he says wistfully. "We're just forging a stronger artistic community."

Greg Kelly