Paul Coors started art gallery Publico while he was attending the Art Academy in 2002. After it closed up shop in 2008, he moved to Brighton, where he eventually opened DIY space Ice Cream Factory, which continues to host art and music events. We talked with him about what it’s like to run a space you also live in, as well as his philosophy behind alternative spaces.
CityBeat: How did you get started with Publico?
Paul Coors: “I just started doing that space because I felt like I was surrounded by people my age who were doing really great stuff who weren’t being represented in the spaces I was going to. So I figured, if I knew all these people, we’d just get together and do it ourselves. It was very insular at first, just people I knew. I had several roommates. Every Final Friday we’d have a new art opening, and some poetry readings. About a year and a half in, it became more collective.
“I was never intending to stay in town. I was super-amped coming out of high school to be a famous artist. (Laughs). I got a great offer at the Art Academy, so I stayed for that. But I was dying to go to New York. That was my mindset.”
CB: What do you gain from running a space like Publico or Ice Cream Factory?
PC: “By the time I was graduating, I was spending more time by far on the space than I was on my thesis. It was almost like an annoyance that I had to fulfill these requirements to get the diploma and get out. My heart was definitely in this space, because I felt like I was learning more doing that kind of cultural work than on fulfilling whatever you need to get credit hours. So in that way alone, I learned more by putting on shows and dealing with people than I ever did from college, and continue to. It became something where word gets out, and then musicians and whatever hit you up when they’re passing through. So it becomes extremely rewarding in the way you can host people or bring people in specifically, be it a visual artist or a poet.”
“The Ice Cream Factory is much less of a regular, regimented space. Publico started out like I was living there and I had a gallery. By the end it was reversed, like it was a gallery and I had a room off to the side.”
CB: What role do you think art spaces play in development in neighborhoods like OTR and Brighton?
PC: “I feel, unfortunately, a lot of times creative people, especially creative white people, are sort of the tip of the spear. I hope unintentionally, and it’ usually a financial thing. You move into a blighted area for low rent, but you maybe the tip of the spear of this thing that’s going to change everything. I think developers use places like mine or other peoples’ to their favor. The reason people like me move into those places is for very plain reasons. You can get a lot of space for a low amount of money.”
CB: With that in mind, what responsibility do you feel toward the community around you?
PC: “t this point in my development, I try very hard to get as many kinds of voices and perspectives into the mix. But I can only provide the space, you know? It’s been much more of an effort of mine lately… I focus on people who don’t really fit into neat little boxes. There is this other stuff to be had, but I don’t know that it’s being represented. Obviously this is an extraordinarily segregated city, both financially and racially.
“[Brighton] is a very mixed neighborhood, but still very segregated in some ways. It’s better now in terms of more racial, et cetera mix, non-binary genders and stuff like that. It’s still not even remotely close to what it should be, but it’s way better. I’ve just noticed there’s more mix. It used to be just white kids. The show last night was awesome for that. Probably the most mixed show we’ve ever had. That’s the direction I want to go in, to make those contacts with those communities and get those things in place. That stuff has definitely been on my mind.”
CB: Do you think spaces like Ice Cream Factory, or Publico, or semantics, or whatever, will exist in the future here?
PC: “I’d hope so. In coastal cities, people do stuff in their apartments. I could see it there. Whatever the recent history have been — between mine, Cide Central, or Publico, they’re very handsome spaces. I say that just hoping that people don’t gear their mindset toward, ‘it has to happen there, or it’s not going to happen.’ I think we’ve just been very lucky to be able to attain those spaces in financially strange times in this town. But I’d like to think you don’t even need a space. As much as I could sing the praises of DIY spaces, they’re still not answer. I’d hope people don’t just think about just in terms of a space or financial restrictions, but what’s required and available to do revolutionary things.”