Published December 11th, 2023 by Russ White
Closing out the season with another Raging Art On, the Gamut torch is passing to new ownership in 2024 after nearly 12 years on the scene
Not every party has a magic show. Not every magic show ends in a wedding proposal. And very, very seldom does a party that has a magic show that ends in a wedding proposal also happen at a beloved community art gallery on the very night that the newly engaged director announces a change in ownership.
But this was not any old party at any old gallery — this was Gamut Gallery's 2023 Members Gala, a black-tie throw-down for all the people who've supported the gallery through their membership program. It's an artspace that prides itself on being open to all, started twelve years ago by ten friends from the electronic music scene who all pitched in a hundred bucks and buckets of sweat to build a community-focused creative habitat. Since opening up on Marquette Ave eleven years ago, they've hosted group shows, solo shows, design shows, burlesque shows, live music, collaborative art-making nights, artist talks, and of course Raging Art On, their annual holiday art & gift extravaganza (and the best recurring Christmas dick joke in the Twin Cities), which is on view now in the gallery and online.
Just one corner of this year's Raging Art On, the annual holiday show packed floor to ceiling with items you can grab right off the wall.
So it came as no small surprise to all the fancy folks in attendance at this year's Gala when gallery director Cass Garner took the mic and announced that she and co-owners Jade and James Patrick were handing over the reins. Taking over in 2024, she told the stunned crowd, would be a whole new Gamut team: Francesca Bernardi, Kasi Aten, and Brian Oreck, three faces that are not unfamiliar to the Gamut family. Kasi and Brian have been members for the past four years, and Francesca goes all the way back to some of the early Gamut party days. Still, inheriting a gallery that has featured over 1000 artists and has had nearly 500 members since they began the membership program in 2017 is no small undertaking, but from the cheers that rose up in the crowd that night, it sounds like Gamut's members and artists are ready to support them.
It's no secret that Gamut holds a special place in MPLSART's heart (this will be my tenth Raging Art On, among many other shows and collaborations over the years), so we wanted to check in with Cass and Francesca, who has been doing a flurry of studio visits to gear up for next year's exhibitions, to see what brought on the change and what to expect from Gamut down the road.
From left: Brian Oreck, Cass Garner, Kasi Aten, Francesca Bernardi, Jade Patrick, and James Patrick at the 2023 Members Gala. Photo by Caleb Timmerman.
Russ White: Cass, I wanted to start by asking how you define Gamut Gallery, what your mission was as director, and what role Gamut plays in the Twin Cities arts community.
Cass Garner: Gamut Gallery is a gallery for everyone! We believe that art fosters community, that art is for everyone, and that everyone should have access to becoming a collector. With that thought in mind, it has been my mission to showcase works in all price points, being an accessible gallery, showing affordable artwork with a welcoming attitude. Since day one, we have wanted anyone that comes through our doors to feel like they belong and that this space is theirs no matter their background in the arts.
I like to serve as a hub to educate those that want to learn more about our artists and to be a resource to assist artists in growing their practices. We have always wanted to stay focused on doing exhibits others are not doing; it has been our practice since we opened our doors to juxtapose our exhibits throughout the calendar to be opposite sides of the coin. This model has kept our community growing and has kept things interesting over the past 11 years. We are always striving to work with new artists, create concepts, and host fun-filled events.
RW: How did it come to pass, after eleven years with Gamut, that you would be handing the reins to Francesca, Kasi, and Brian?
CG: The whole experience was purely kismet. Behind the scenes, Jade, JP, and myself had been talking about the future of the gallery for a while. We had always said if we made it to year 5 it would be a success in our eyes. From there we shot for year 10, and success was hit yet again! As year 11 approached and it left us wanting more but also being human, the burnout had hit hard, especially for myself as I had been fulfilling many roles for many years at the gallery. This was no longer feeling sustainable.
Jade and Francesca had run into one another, and it naturally came up in conversation that Francesca was looking for more in their life, and with their love for art and the gallery naturally segued way into what it may look like if they were to take Gamut to level 3.0. I was brought into the conversation, and all the signs from the Universe and my intuition instantly led me to believe that they were the perfect person to pass the torch to. When I learned that Kasi and Brian were also coming on board, I thought to myself, this is the dream team I could have never hand-selected to continue the legacy that we had built. To have people from within the community come together to grow the gallery to new levels feels like another giant success!
RW: Francesca, during the announcement at the Member Gala, former director Jade Patrick asked for a show of hands of who all was there at the last big Gamut transition — the alleyway party bidding farewell to Gamut’s original space on Marquette Ave — and said that you yourself were there, too! How long have you been a part of Gamut’s community, and what does it mean to the three of you to now be taking the helm?
Francesca Bernardi: Yes, I was absolutely there! It was such an iconic night for Gamut. Setting off on a new adventure, not knowing exactly what was ahead, but confident in the leadership, the passion, and most importantly the vision. Much like the current period of transition, quite honestly. Having been a part of this incredible community for over a decade, you build trust and you share in their vision and you build friendships, like with Kasi Aten and Brian Oreck, you want to take that shared passion and run with it. That's exactly what we plan to do!
RW: What is your professional background, and what made you eager to dive into running a gallery?
FB: For as long as I can remember I have been immersed in the world of art. Attending gallery shows with my family, and patronizing museums around the world. I can still remember the excitement of my first time at a gallery, taking in the beauty, getting lost in the stories they told, the emotions they evoke. As a therapist, I find that art has helped me to better understand all types of emotion and forms of expression. The opportunity to bring this integral and veracious part of me to a forum such as Gamut? A dream come true.
RW: What do you have in mind so far for future shows and programming? Should we expect an entirely different Gamut Gallery when you reopen in 2024?
FB: What makes this such an incredible opportunity is the foundation that has been established. Growing to what it is today is a true testament to Cassie's passion and dedication to the gallery. It’s essential to me that we continue Gamut’s signature events like C4W (Call for Work) in the summer, of course our Members Gala that we just had in November which is always so much fun, and a personal favorite, Raging Art On for the holiday season!
We know these events mean a lot to us and to the Gamut community, and we are thrilled to be continuing them on! Additionally, I know that it is important to myself and my partners that we continue to focus on our rich Minneapolis culture, while creating space for that global perspective as well. We are currently putting together some fantastic shows for the upcoming spring season. You can look forward to some very exciting things coming to Gamut Gallery 2024.
Scenes from way back in 2014, hanging work by Rogue Citizen and hosting one of many Colab Art Nights in the original Gamut space on Marquette. Images courtesy of Gamut's Instagram.
RW: From the gallery’s membership program to the wide array of artists that have shown in the gallery over the years (myself included) to the gallery’s involvement in Elliot Park neighborhood events, a sense of community has always existed at the core of this space — one that often includes folks from a variety of different artistic circles. Cass, where do you think that comes from — the dance party culture Gamut grew out of, the particular group of folks that started the gallery, the artists themselves, or some combination thereof?
CG: Russ, I think it is all the above. We have been great at throwing parties as that is in our DNA — we often use the tagline “Come for the art, stay for the party.” This saying has set us apart from other gallery spaces as our community seems to practice this when they attend our events. When we host our openings, it is common for many members of the arts community to stay for the whole duration of our events, which I feel is unique to Gamut.
I also love to be involved in my community and plugged into my surroundings. I have worked with the Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc and currently hold the marketing chair for the East Town Business Partnership. Being connected to my community is intrinsic to who I am; I love fostering connections and building real relationships with others. When you are plugged into different outlets the ability to lift up others multiplies.
RW: I know you two will be working together over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition, and Cass, I’m sure you will remain a big part of the arts scene here. What do you have planned next, and what words of wisdom do you have about running a commercial gallery space in the Twin Cities?
CG: As for now I will be assisting with the back-end transitions to help the passing of the torch go as smoothly as possible. I want to see Gamut level up from where it is now, and the key to that success is assisting the new ownership team. I will also be a consultant for the new team as they move further into the year. I want them to succeed and the knowledge and experiences I have learned over the past 11 years is here to be shared with Francesa, Kasi, and Brian as they need it.
For those that know me, know that art is my life. Not as an artist per se, but as a stewardess of the arts to lift up others. I will keep installing off-site curations at all of the HAUS Salons to feed my soul and to keep my connection to artists within the Twin Cities.
As what is next for me, that is unknown. I am looking into the future with eyes wide open, imagining all the doors open to possibility. Hint, hint, I will be looking for my next chapter in life for those that may be reading this, so let’s connect!
RW: Raging Art On, Gamut’s annual holiday market exhibition, is now in full swing. Is there anything in this year’s inventory that shoppers and collectors should keep an eye out for?
FB: This year’s inventory is filled with colorful and delightful gifts for everyone on your list! Be sure to keep an eye out for the talented Duluth based glassblower Jake Speich’s mesmerizing glass pieces!
CG: This year’s RAO will not disappoint, I have brought on 19 new artists bringing new energy into the gallery. One of the new artists I think folx should have their eye on is Tiff Mueller; she creates textile paintings with yarn and paint that capture sunsets and sunrises in a beautiful, contemporary, and modern way. Tiff has a background as a graphic designer, and it shows within all of her creations.
If textile art is not your thing, we will have something for everyone. The gallery walls are filled from floor-to-ceiling showcasing original works of all price points and mediums, you can tick off everyone on your list in a single shopping trip at Gamut. Whether it’s pottery, fiber art, paintings, prints, apparel, jewelry, or home goods that catch your eye. ◼︎
Photos by Russ White unless otherwise noted.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
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