Stephanie Baptist became interested in the art world as an aspiring photographer, and worked within commercial and nonprofit art organizations before opening her gallery Medium Tings. Mediums Tings, located on the second floor of Stephanie’s Crown Heights brownstone, is a welcomed change from the known contemporary art gallery aesthetic, and provides a space for emerging artists of color. This week, Stephanie answered a few questions about her beginnings in the art world, and the inspiration behind opening her gallery.
What was your career path before opening Medium Tings?
I spent almost seven years working as a commercial photography agent for companies in New York City, and then I moved overseas to London. While in London, I gained my MA degree, and simultaneously embarked upon a dual career, as both an independent cultural producer for various commercial and art led projects for brands and design studios, as well as in the contemporary art space, where I worked at a gallery for a few years. Since my return to NYC, I have worked for nonprofit arts organization and currently still work as a freelance producer and art consultant on a range of projects.
How did you get involved in the art world?
I was an aspiring photographer, which led me to the exploration of both the commercial and contemporary side of the business. Working as a photography agent, I worked with photographers that had two-sides to their practice: commercial and fine art. In light of this, I attended a lot of museum and gallery shows, which slowly began to shape my interest in the contemporary art world.
What inspired you to open your gallery?
I think a culmination of things inspired me to open the gallery. First, I would have to say that I spent a couple of years, actively seeking my ‘dream’ job only to find that I had to create it! I really wanted to build a space that would be encouraging for emerging artists regardless of whether they had an MA degree; one that would allow them to be experimental and develop the skills for engaging with curators, writers, art enthusiasts and the general public. I also wanted the space to be welcoming for visitors and a place where questions about collecting/art market can be discussed.
What was the process of creating your business?
I still feel as if I am the beginning of this process, as it has only been one year. I am still developing frameworks and putting systems in place that will make it easier for me to expand and hire staff.
What are some of the challenges you faced?
As a one-person operation, I wear the bulk of the hats! This can sometimes lead to fatigue, or general burn-out or a lack of inspiration, as I must find reasons to motivate myself to keep going, even on the most challenging days. I try to mitigate this, by leaning heavily upon friends for my brainstorming sessions and I now have a team of freelance support I can call upon for help, so that I don’t spread myself too thin.
How do you decide which artists to manage?
This is a rather organic process. Most of the time, I select artists based on a theme that I would like to explore or expand upon, or purely based on intuition. It is also important to have a good rapport with artists. Relationships are a two way street, so it is important that we both get along with one another.
What does a day in your life look like?
My days truly vary, as I am still juggling the gallery and my freelance practice so no two days are alike. For example, the gallery is currently on summer break, so I am organizing for our next couple of shows. In light of this down time, I have taken on a freelance project working for an organization and assisting them with the production of a rather large photography exhibition. In light of this, my days are filled with client work and my evenings are filled with my long to-do list for the gallery, which involves anything from taking a meeting, sending out emails, studio visits, or filling out grant applications.
How do you unwind/practice self-care?
I try to exercise a couple of days a week, and am conscious about the foods that I eat. I also try to meditate on a daily basis and am working towards unplugging the electronics an hour before bed. I am not always successful, but I try and take things one day at a time.
What's some advice you were given or wish someone had given you?
I would have to say that some of the best advice I have been given, is to essentially put your head down and do the work. These days it is so easy to see what everyone else is doing via social media channels, which can result in insecurities and negatively impact your own personal growth or desire to put something out into the world. However, if you just decide to push forward regardless of perfectionism, you will be surprised by what you can achieve.
What's up next for Medium Tings?
We are planning to have a solo exhibition with painter Marcus Leslie in late August!
What's your sign and how do you feel about it?
Capricorn! I must admit I am generally indifferent, but I do check my horoscope every now and again for fun.
What are you currently reading?
South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, by Kellie Jones
What are three spots to visit in your neighborhood?