Posted by Anne McCullough on December 23, 2016 | Comments Off on A Love Letter from Fort Gondo’s founder Galen Gandolfi
Dear friend, foe, any and all,
Our fifteen year experiment on Cherokee Street reaches its glorious end come January 7, 2017. My canoe beached at 3151 Cherokee Street in July 2001 via Chicago, Washington DC and Boston. The land of opportunity that ultimately realized fort gondo compound for the arts, Beverly, Typo Café, Art Parts and Radio Cherokee laid in various stages of ruin and imagination.
My buddy, brother and partner in crime Dave Early, along with then Bevin Fahey-Vornberg and Mike Schuh, set out to conquer two blocks of Cherokee Street with no budget and no plan. We needed neither, seemingly, as evidenced by the throngs that populated our exhibitions, events and related happenings. Both the media and law enforcement seemed equally interested. Police once chased me down an alley as I fled an art performance wrapped head-to-toe in tin foil.
By mid-decade, fort gondo was no longer merely a gallery space or a collection of buildings, but rather a movement. It coalesced in my tenure as president of the Benton Park Neighborhood Association and failed run for 20th Ward alderman, where I was labeled the mutually all-exclusive anarchist, communist, socialist and artist. It was purported that I ran on a platform of “pro-graffiti and pro- nudity.”
Through divine intervention, Jessica Baran parachuted down upon my entropic free-for-all, instilling a semblance of structure heretofore unknown. Jessica turned my “pro-debt incurring” operation into a formal non-profit organization, complete with by-laws, interns and embossed orange pencils. Penning national and regional grants, Jessica, along with assistant director Cole Lu, took fort g’s programming to new levels, both in the visual arts and in the realm of poetry. The esteemed fort gondo poetry series was a cultural by-product of a gifted curatorial team which included, along with Jessica, Jennifer Kronovet, Paul Legault and Ted Mathys.
Hundreds upon hundreds of artists have shown at fort g. Many more thousands of individuals have experienced everything from baptisms to strip shows within the walls of 3151 Cherokee Street. Fort Gondo was equal parts art gallery, animal shelter and half-way house; it was a forum for the emerging and non-emerging artist, activist and community resident.
The afterlife, however, manifests in Jessica and Ted’s new poetry series “100 Boots” at the Pulitzer in 2017 and Fort G’s furthering of G-CADD, the Granite City Art and Design District under the curatorial direction of Marianne Laury and landscape execution of Christopher Carl.
In closing, I want to thank the community, be they art, literary, musical or otherwise, that has so generously supported and sustained fort g over the last 15 years. Proof, indeed, that we are all in this together.
Thank you, Jessica. Thank you, Cole. Thank you, St. Louis.