Bale Creek Allen to host debut show at new gallery space in Near Southside
In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, artist and gallery owner Bale Creek Allen spoke with arts and culture editor Marcheta Fornoff about the debut show in his new space.
Allen: My name is Bale Creek Allen and I currently live in Fort Worth. Prior to that, I was in Austin from 1991 until about a year and a half ago.
I grew up in Fresno, California. After high school, (I) lived in L.A. for a year, and then moved to Boston to go to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. And then after a couple of years there, I went to Austin and just started working. From that point on, (I’ve) just been making my art full time, you know?
Fornoff: And people might recognize your name from your gallery, which has the same name. But you’re an artist as well.
Allen: I’ve always been an artist, and I probably always will be an artist. I don’t know if I’ll always have a gallery (laughs).
In the ‘90s, I had a gallery called Gallery 68, (for) the year I was born. And there was another gallery that Al Ruppersberg and my dad had called Gallery 66. It (was) kind of inspired after that, kind of like the next generation, which made sense to me personally. I did a gallery at Flatbed World Headquarters in Austin. I did it for several years and really enjoyed working with other artists and curating.
I approach hanging shows the same way as I hang my own (art) and I’m very, very particular about it. Part of what I love about what I do is installing and arranging things and just taking individual objects and making them kind of speak harmoniously together. As a curator, that’s something that I’m very comfortable with.
But as a visual artist myself, I’ve learned a lot wearing both sides of that hat. At one point I think I had eight galleries that represented me all over America. In the ‘90s when the gallery got in the way, I (was) just like, ‘OK, I’m not going to do the gallery anymore,’ and just kept making art.
You work in your studio, you do a show, you hang it on the walls in another market and hope that the gallery sells it. And if they do, great. If they don’t, then you get the work back (or) maybe they’ll keep something. I was kind of in that hamster wheel and system that’s existed forever. I just thought, you know, there’s got to be another way.
(Later) some friends of mine had this space, and they offered me an incredible deal if I would turn it into a gallery. That was called Canopy, which was in East Austin. My gallery became successful because of the type of programming I was doing, showing really strong contemporary art that I was passionate about. My studio was connected and it was open. I ended up selling a lot of my work. I did well for the artists, and it was this amazing thing.
I was inspired to do a body of work called “My America,” which ended up being this long thing. I’m still just finalizing it. But the idea was to raise money privately and do this body of work that consists of traveling to all 50 states. I had enough to just go out for a year and do my thing. It was just kind of like liberating.
Fornoff: You created this successful space in Austin where you were able to continue your work as an artist and also help support other artists. What inspired the move from Austin to Fort Worth?
Allen: My wife grew up in Granbury and she’s an artist herself. She’s a fashion model and left when she was 17, moved to New York and traveled the world. I didn’t think she would ever come back or live here, and I don’t think she did (either) at most points of her life. We would come up here and visit her parents and her sister and our nieces and nephews.
We have a hobby of looking at real estate. That’s my artist’s version of a 401k. We looked at this house one day. It was very, very affordable compared to Austin. I was like, ‘Let’s just buy this.’
We were talking about being in Austin since ‘91. I think I was just ready for a change of scenery.
I was literally Googling like most affordable places in America to live, thinking of the whole gamut from A to Z, like if I did a move, where would I go? I went to Morocco for my 50th and I thought, this is incredible. I’d like to live here.
And so we were thinking (about) extremes, too, and this is kind of extreme in a funny, different way. When my son graduated, we slowly made that transition.
Fornoff: Speaking of moving, you were initially in downtown Fort Worth and you recently moved to a space here on the Near Southside. You were mentioning, being able to own your space is important to you.
Allen: Initially when I moved here, I didn’t know Fort Worth very well at all. I (previously) had some shows around this area, so I had connections here and I have a lot of collectors here (in the Metroplex), but Fort Worth, not as much.
I looked around and tried to get a lay of the land. And I found this building (the gallery is in now) through Josh Block, who has a recording studio here. He owned this room right behind my (new) gallery and said he would sell it to me or rent it to me. I liked it a lot and I almost bought that right off the bat. I just wasn’t ready to commit.
(The space at Sundance Square) seemed like a really good situation for someone not knowing the town to come in and just be able to move into a space and have a one year experimental lease. So it was kind of a win-win. It really helped me kind of ease in, and it was during COVID.
It was very successful. It was a great way to give me the time to kind of understand the neighborhoods. Ultimately, I wanted to buy something.
Fornoff: You moved out of downtown, you’re in the Near Southside and you’re about to do your first show in the new space. Talk to me about the show and about your work that you do.
Allen: I was kind of beating my head against the wall trying to figure out how I wanted to do the first opening.
I just set up my own things in here first because frankly, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do a gallery. I thought, maybe I’ll just do my studio for a while. Last year all I’ve been doing is gallery stuff, and I was just kind of jonesing to do a new body of work.
These are all works from “My America,” some older pieces and then a couple of pieces that no one locally has seen.
Right now, it’s a gallery (and studio); there’s no real separation. It’s just an open space. I have my journals here, my work table, my drums. I’m just going to leave that open and just kind of, lock the drawers, clean things up and let people come in and have a celebration just to just to get the doors open. And then I think it’ll kind of evolve.