Band of Vices Art Gallery Director Terrell Tilford gives us an inside scoop on curation and the power of spaces in helping artists share their work. Band of Vices Art Gallery opened with a solo exhibit, Made in Space, from contemporary visual artist and art educator April Bey.
We’d love to hear about your history as an art curator? What made you start collecting?
I would say I fell into it. But maybe we fall into most things we’re most passionate about. I’ve been collecting since I was 16. And about 19-20 years, from over the years from collecting and having really great friendships, trust with a lot of artists, I concocted this very wild idea of having an art show in our home. So I talked with my wife about it and she thought it was a great idea. So I said, you know what, why don’t we invite 4-5 artists to show them the house and maybe we’ll sell some work and put some money in artists pocket? Lets just see how it goes.
So of course we didn’t have the social media machine that we have nowadays. Maybe we had email and Myspace. We invited about 40 people. And that was by snail mail for the most part. Very simple print out. And that first week at our house we had about 80-90 people. And it was wild because everyone brought people. We don’t have a very fancy house, just historic as it was previously owned by Nat King Cole. We thought a lot of people would come just to take a peek at the house, but surprisingly they came and we sold a good portion of the artwork at the time. And we did this for about four weeks, just during the weekends. So by the time that show was over with, we were wrapped up and excited. So I said, you know what—lets do another one. We went through what worked and what didn’t work.
And the next thing you know, the next show we had, we literally had about 250 people on the first day we. I pulled in 5 artists from New York, Atlanta, here in LA, everywhere. It was like we were selling drugs. They were just coming in and slamming down the checkbook or credit card and I just could not believe it. And I said we were really onto something. We just kept doing it because it was really helping artists out. And after we did four shows in our house, by the end of the year—I said to my wife, this is a lot of energy and a lot of work what we’re doing. I think we’re done showing out of our house. And my wife asked, well what are you going to do, aren’t you going to continue this?
A couple days later I got a call from a friend, CCH Pounder, who said, you know I’m opening a gallery on Pico and you should come look at a space a two doors down from me. You should come take a look at it cause you’re going to open a gallery. And I said, I’m not gonna do this. I’m not that guy. And she said, a lot of people are depending on you. So I went and looked at the space and about twenty minutes into it, I was ready to sign the lease. And that’s how this monster took off.
What is the true vision behind Band of Vices? Did it branch out from your experiences with the Tilford Art Group?
I learned a lot doing Tilford Art Group. I overdid things, did too much, and tried to do so much more on my own. So I tried to build the ship, steer the ship, man the ship at all costs possible. I love to work hard but I ran myself to the ground, trying to do too much. Consequently, I needed to take a step back. I came to a point where I felt I wasn’t growing enough to help the artists grow further than what we had accomplished at the time. Since I didn’t go to school for this, it was a labor of love. I’m very clear about what I do know and that which I don’t know and leaning upon others who do know. So when I came back around and was figuring what the next version would be—I needed to take some risk.
With Band of Vices, I thought about this for a couple years. Each of us has our own vice. Whether its love, sex, art, cars, shopping, traveling. Whatever it may be. Each of us has that vice that ignites us, that amplifies us in some sort of way. It says something about us, but it also does something to still us in a very real way. And not just materialistically cause it can be religious or working out. We all have a working toolshed of vices that work for us. Some people call them hobbies, some people call them different things, but they’re also our vices.
For me with Band of Vices, its that this gallery is a collective for everyone. I took my name off this one because it’s not about me. This, not to be cliche, is a gallery for the people, of the people. We come together in a collective state for the good. Whatever our positive vices are, this is what each of us is bringing to it. In this wide world of everything that we have going on, that our space and what we do, is a sacred space for creative people and people who want to engage and indulge in it as well.
What can we look forward to seeing within the space?
Performance art, musical ideas, children’s involvement. There’s a performance art school high school in South Central Los Angeles, LA Promise Charter High School (LAPCHS), I went and spoke with them this past February. And I was so impressed with—not just the students, but the staff, teachers, and everyone. And I thought, you know what, I could still be doing more. I’m going to bring these students into this gallery. And I’m going to let them do what they want to within the space.
I have a three year old that loves painting. And I’ve talked to artists about doing one Saturday a month where kids can come here and paint and everything will be accessible and available. Particularly to kids who don’t have access to it.
I’ve dreamt about this space two years ago. I knew I wanted this space and I was given this space. So theres a responsibility that I know that comes with having it and the vision that I see with it.
We have some upcoming programming that is going to be very unique to Band of Vices that I haven’t experienced in other galleries.
There’s enough of this for everyone. Not everyone likes everything. This is the fun part. Being part of a voice. Lending our voice out there. Extending this place as an expressive space to get the message out there.
What is that message?
Each artist will define that differently. Whomever is in that space will define it. This place really is for people to use it.
What of the opening and April Bey’s work?
I first discovered her last year at a gallery in Chinatown. I was intrigued by her work and the imagery of what she was doing with her process. So I bought her last piece at a show. Then I met her at her studio and told her I’d like to do some work someday when I had a space to show her work. And now here we are.
How do you see this space helping artists?
Financially first and foremost. I wanted to help support artists in the way they supported me as an actor. Whether they turned on the TV, wrote a letter to the network—when people used to do that. To show visual artists they have a platform.
To be able to show someone who works as vigorously and intensely as she (Bey) does. She calls it rule based art process. From the materials she uses, to how she purchases it, even the framing. Everything has a specific rule about it. That to me is someone who is displaying a future with her work as well.
How has working with other artists inspired your own work?
Being creative inspires creativity. Much to my wife’s chagrin, when I started really representing artists, I stopped creating paintings. I stopped creating collage work that I used to do because this just took on its own life. And it became more important to me. My greatest self expression is either in how I curate art shows or what I do on the stage. That’s my vice. Putting together an artists work and hanging the show and looking back and going this looks really fucking good. This is beautiful.
It sounds like you’ve found it more fulfilling to be directing—
It wasn’t intentional. This is the thrilling part for me. To watch people come in through the doors and to see their response. We spent six weeks doing everything that we could. It’s everything that I envisioned, but it’s superseded that as well. I’m so full right now. I’m so fulfilled.
It’s the little things, but all of it adds up.
What comes next, your own future plans, next on the agenda?
The goal for this year is to focus on women artists. So much of what has occurred over these past couple of years—I’m just drawn to what women in particular are creating and doing. Their voices are stronger than they have ever been. If I can provide a platform for some incredible or some up and coming visual artists, particularly for this first year. That’s sort of my homage.
So that’s the beginning, to start there and see where it goes. We’re starting a new dialogue with established artists. I’ve been doing studio visits in between all this madness as well.
Really just branching out there a lot more. Letting people know that we are here. We’re legitimate and we’re here to stay. And we have a space thats conducive for their imagination.
Join April Bey on a walk-through and artist talk at Band of Vices on Saturday, June 2, from 4 – 6 p.m.
Actor Terrell Tilford, known for his roles on television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Young and the Restless, Switched at Birth, Single Ladies, One Life to Live, and Soul Food. With a 19-year history in art curation, the Los Angeles native, who began collecting when he was 16. Tilford’s newest fine arts company, Band of Vices (BoV), launches its flagship gallery in Los Angeles’ West Adams District. Terrell received his MFA from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. Terrell resides in Los Angeles with his intuitive triple-threat wife, Victoria and their inquisitive three-year-old daughter. bandofvices.com
April grew up in the Caribbean (Nassau, Bahamas) and now resides and works in Los Angeles, CA as a contemporary visual artist and art educator. Bey’s interdisciplinary art work is an introspective and social critique of American and Bahamian popular culture, immigration, contemporary pop culture feminism, generational theory, social media, AfroFuturism and race. april-bey.com