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Skydive art collective puts its feet on the ground

Skydive's new location at 2401 Norfolk St. Photo by Sasha Dela
Domestic bliss awaits at Skydive's new home. Photo by Sasha Dela
The formal living room will function as the main exhibition space. Photo by Sasha Dela
The property's expansive backyard offers ample opportunities for Earth art, climbing trees, networking etc. Photo by Sasha Dela
Catered exhibition openings? Yes, please. Photo by Sasha Dela
The bathtub simply begs for installation art. Photo by Sasha Dela

What goes up must come down, but when it comes to grassroots art collectives, that's not always a bad thing.

The Skydive art collective is moving from its original location in a Montrose Boulevard tower below the club formerly known as Scott Gertner's Skybar (and the organization's namesake) to an adorable brick two-story house on the neighborhood's western periphery. The old building at 3400 Montrose has a new proprietor, and all former tenants have left the premises as the high-rise receives a revamp.

Located at 2041 Norfolk St., at the corner of Shepherd Drive across from Star Pizza, the new digs represent a shift from the former space's stark office building atmosphere to a domestic home base.

The art exhibition area is located in the formal living room, which boasts a fireplace and French doors leading to a porch and backyard. The spacious 1920s home also allots for artist studios and living quarters. An acupuncturist, Percetta Curl, is moving into the home's library, where clients will receive treatments in the art-filled abode. 

In the months to come, Sasha & Co. will be overhauling the property's carriage house to offer even more studio space. The collective will have completed its move within the upcoming weeks and reopen in early November. Despite the residential redux, Skydive's keeping its original Montrose moniker.

"I have always been interested in domestic space as a context for viewing artwork," Skydive co-founder and co-director Sasha Dela tells CultureMap, describing the new location as "ideal." An artist herself, she believes that the Saturday Free School of the Arts, a Skydive program that offers gratis art classes, workshops and "skill-shares," will flourish in the expanded space.

Dela moved into the original 3400 Montrose office space in 2007 after completing the Glassell School's Core Program and launched Skydive in 2008. Exhibitions frequently drew themes from the office space setting, as artists riffed off of the mystique of the decaying corporate edifice, with its stain-concealing carpet and buzzing, fluorescent lights.

"I think the move is going to change the context of our exhibitions," notes Dela, adding, "As a whole, we'll be able to show much more work since our space will be two to three times what the first Skydive space was." Rather than office-themed programs, she envisions future exhibitions with more of a "domestic sensibility." 

Skydive isn't the first local collective to display artwork in residential habitats rather than the traditional white cube. The DIY Menil-area Joanna collab encountered such a positive response in its original Graustark Street home that it has now relocated to a larger, multi-room space at 1401 Branard. These Houston spaces reflect an international trend for independent-minded artists preferring to show their work in cozy homes. Dela cites San Francisco's Hallway Bathroom Gallery, Danielle Arnaud's exhibition space in her London home and Austin's The Donkey Show and Fluent Collaborative.

"There is a long tradition of people starting small businesses in their homes, and creating a diverse and mixed-use home/work situations," she says, drawing connections to Americans turning their homes into boarding houses and chicken coups in the 1930's.

Dela anticipates the Norfolk Street house will be more welcoming to visitors in comparison to a doctrinal gallery setting. "It will be an exhibition space, but it's also a beautiful home," she gushes, "and we're inviting people inside our home."

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