A New KINK on Waterloo

KINK Contemporary Gallery co-owners (left to right) McKenzie Beynon and Anna Young. Photo by Jeani Brechbill Photography

Momentum in the art scene or in a neighborhood is at best something that can’t be measured. The laws of physics do not apply. Still there is something to it, something precious and easily lost, but also something to build upon.  KINK Contemporary co-owners Anna Young and McKenzie Beynon build on their gallery’s momentum in two ways this summer with the commitment to move from their home of three years in the northeast corner of 78th Street Studios to a white-walled storefront in the Gold Building, on Waterloo Road in Collinwood–the space formerly occupied by Photocentric gallery.  The building’s owner Michael McBride confirms that the lease is signed. They move in July.

The first direction of their momentum is that KINK builds on their own history, moving to a building where they will be the most visible and accessible tenant. Moving from the home of Third Fridays to the home of Walk All Over Waterloo, they’ll continue to be part of a monthly, destination art walk. And they bring a track record of more than 15 intriguing exhibitions, especially by emerging artists.

The gallery first attracted CAN’s attention in 2019, just a few months after opening with sculptor Michael Marras’s Drum Heller collection, a show of 3D works in metal informed by fantasy narratives. KINK followed up immediately with Lauren Pearce’s show of nude self portraiture, Self.  Shortly thereafter, one of Pearce’s paintings—the same one that had been on the cover of CAN Journal—was subsequently purchased by Alicia Keys and appeared in a feature about the singer’s art-filled California home, in Architectural Digest.  KINK has continued to present exhibits that have been diverse in medium and every other way.

The second force of momentum in this move is in the building itself. The Gold Building was recently rescued from the brink of demolition, and had that happened, it would have left a gaping hole on Waterloo Road. Photocentric was the anchor tenant in its revitalization, opening its doors late in 2019 with a show called Hopeful. That was just before the pandemic: a difficult time for any business, let alone an art gallery. If its presence boosted the neighborhood, its absence—had it continued this summer—would have done the opposite. But in building the space out for Photocentric, Michael Loderstedt renovated it with high gallery standards in the walls and lighting, and put it on the map as a venue. The arrival of KINK with just a month’s hiatus keeps the momentum going.

On occasion of their move, KINK co-owners McKenzie Beynon and Anna Young answered CAN’s questions by email.

CAN: How would you describe the vision of KINK?

KINK: KINK Contemporary is an experimental exhibition space founded in 2019 to connect artists with unique voices and techniques to people of all ages and backgrounds. We are an exhibition space culminated by artists FOR artists aiming to change the idea of what a professional art gallery can be. We work hard to promote creative passion, working closely with each of them and listening to the needs and suggestions of our community. Our mission is to promote both established and emerging contemporary artists through solo and group exhibitions and online, emphasizing and elevating underrepresented artists.

CAN: When did you open at 78th Street Studios? How many shows have you presented there?

We opened our inaugural exhibition, Subception, on March 9th, 2019. The exhibition featured Cranbrook Academy of Art alumni in a photography exhibition that coincided with the Society of Photographic Education conference in Cleveland, Ohio. The artists included were co-founder Anna Young along with artists Sarah Blanchette, Jarvi Kononen, Colton Clifford, Clare Gatto, and Megan Kelley.

To date, we have put on 18 exhibitions in total.

CAN: Please introduce the people involved. What were they doing before KINK?

KINK: Anna is a fine art photographer and arts advocate living in Cuyahoga Falls. She received her BFA from the University of Akron and an MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2018. Anna is currently working in the medium of sculpture, specifically mold making, casting in both silicone and resin, and is always eager to learn new processes and to create art in different mediums.

McKenzie is an arts advocate and administrator with 8+ years of experience in art handling, currently residing in Lakewood. She holds her BFA in photography from the University of Akron and is currently pursuing her MA in arts administration with plans to graduate in the summer of 2023. She has installed exhibitions at various institutions, museums, and art fairs.

Anna and McKenzie met in 2011 while studying photography at the University of Akron. In 2014 in their last year of undergrad, they were required to have a senior exhibition off-campus to graduate. Finding a suitable space was challenging as, at the time, few galleries were accepting student work to be displayed. Because of this, it became a scramble to book an exhibition, and some students ended up paying hefty price tags to rent small and not ideal spaces to exhibit. While they eventually found spaces to have their shows, this lack of a platform for emerging young artists was frustrating, and they saw a clear need within the community. In addition, there were so many talented art students enrolled or graduating from Akron, Kent, and Cleveland who lacked opportunities to show their work simply based on lack of experience. So, upon graduation, they started brainstorming about one day creating a space specifically with emerging artists in mind.

Fast forward to 2018, Anna had moved back to Akron from Detroit after spending two years completing her MFA. After a few years working at the Akron Art Museum as an installer and as a gallery director at a couple of local spaces, McKenzie had moved to Cleveland, pursuing a full-time career in art handling.

CAN: How did KINK get started?

KINK: That winter, they came back to their original idea and soon learned of a vacancy in the 78th Street Studio building that sounded perfect to launch an ideal space.

In February 2019, they opened their doors, and KINK Contemporary was born. Over the last three and a half years, they have provided a platform for thirty-five artists to show their artwork professionally, grow their following, and express their artistic voices without censorship. Over 85% of these artists are women, POC, and/or identify within the LGBTQ+ community.

Additionally, annually KINK reserves space in its calendar for both BFA and MFA exhibitions to give an opportunity to artists and curators early in their careers. By fostering an inclusive environment where they aim to build sincere and authentic relationships with artists and patrons, they aim to amplify artistic voices within our community.

CAN: Do you represent artists in an ongoing way?

KINK: Part of the mission of KINK is to provide ongoing support for artists that show within our space even after the exhibition comes down. We intentionally represent and elevate all artists, by providing them with a platform. KINK also works with artists from an administrative standpoint by promoting the sale of their work on consignment through consulting and via our website. One crucial aspect of what we do is not holding artists back from future opportunities. For us, this means ongoing friendships, mentorships, and authentic relationships with our artists without a non-compete.

CAN: How do you plan/choose shows?

While we are always on the lookout for inventive, daring, and unique artists to show within our space, our lineup is currently mostly booked until the end of 2023. Half of the time, we reach out to artists directly who we think are an excellent fit for KINK and we feel drawn to their creative voice or mission. We also curate exhibitions around multiple artists whose work complements each other well or has a specific conversation. The other half of the time, we show artists based on their direct applications to the gallery. We ask that artists wishing to submit a portfolio or exhibition proposal email us directly and include a PDF file with images and a short description of their artist and/or exhibition statement. We also keep specific months open for student exhibitions. Recently we have started providing a platform for emerging curators to use our gallery. In the spring of 2022, we hosted our first guest curator, and this fall and next summer, we will host two additional guest curators at KINK.

CAN: What do you have coming up? What will be your first show in the new space?

KINK: We have a full roster of exhibitions for the remainder of 2022 and 2023. Our first exhibition in the space will feature Cranbrook Academy of Art alumni, University of Akron educator, and Front Triennial artist Seuil Chung. The ceramics solo exhibition Mouse Hunt will be on view from August 5th through September 8th, 2022. After Seuil’s exhibition, we will host a group printmaking exhibition to coincide with the Mid America Print Council Conference, Power of Print. The exhibition titled Sculptural Imprints is curated by artist Patricia Brett and will feature artists who specifically explore the surfaces on which they print.

We are also hosts of the Cleveland sector of Dance Dance Party Party (DDPP) every second Friday of the month. This dance event provides a safe space for women and gender non-conforming folks to feel free to goof around, shake their bodies without objectification, and feel good about who they are. We will host the first DDPP in our new space on August 12th.

A recent photo of the renovated Gold Building, with Photocentric sign

In addition to answering our questions, Beynon and Young added, “We are so excited to join the Waterloo community. While in some ways the move is bittersweet, we know this is an incredible opportunity for KINK to grow and collaborate in an amazing neighborhood!”

Kink Contemporary’s new location is at 15515 Waterloo Road, Cleveland.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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