DALLAS, TX – It was early 2015 when Bro. Juan Castillo, the then-Chairman of the Dallas-Fort Worth Alumni Network, decided to create a city-wide winter formal. It would be designed to bring area alumni out of the woodwork and bridge the gap between alumni and undergraduates. It was in this context of the year-long planning of the Winter Ball that Bro. Castillo would come to meet two of the future co-founders of the newly inaugurated online art gallery, Gallery 86, a brother-created online platform designed to promulgate images and ideas at zero expense to exhibiting artists.
How the Group Came Together
Bro. Castillo first met co-founder, Bro. Arturo Hernandez in early 2015 at a local alumni BBQ. The two bonded over their shared love of all things art-related. After years of meeting nothing but engineers and political scientists, Bro. Castillo was excited to meet another artist in the fraternity. “It feels like there’s so few of us in the organization, at least here in North Texas, that it’s a major moment when you meet another artist,” says Castillo. During the second half of 2015, Castillo met Bro. Javier Riojas who was also an artist. Lastly, they met, Bro. Nicolás González. Both Bro. González and Castillo graduated from the same art school at the same university, Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts.
Left to Right: Brothers Javier, Nic, Juan, and Arturo
In the fall of 2016, Bro. Castillo sent a message to all the brother artists he knew in the area, asking them if they’d be interested in starting something art-related together. The would-be founding artists hosted their first meeting on January 16th. In a practical sense, the gallery was a cheap way for the artists to exhibit their own work. By coming together, they could pool their resources and afford things they otherwise couldn’t, like website design and hosting fees. Their first online show was called “New Beginnings,” in which they celebrated the founding of the fraternity, the founding of the gallery, and the idea of metaphorical rebirth. The first show was a mild success, with $21 donated to the SLB Education Foundation, nine National Endowment for the Arts support letters mailed directly to President Trump urging him not to cut funding for the arts, and over $200 in art sales.
It became apparent, however, that together the founding artists could do even greater things than initially planned, and Gallery 86 could become so much more. On July 8th, 2017, the brothers held a planning retreat in which they rethought and solidified what the gallery was, and what it could be. They decided on two ambitious statements:
Gallery 86 was started by artists for artists, so it will utilize its online gallery format to benefit the artist and expand his or her reach to new viewers, and therefore cost-effectively promulgate images and ideas.
To become synonymous with the term virtual art gallery.
There was a deep desire to keep the work of the gallery artist-centered. As a result, bigger plans were set in motion. The founding artists saw a need to expand opportunities and support for working artists in the Dallas area, so subsequent talks began about creating a new artist residency program, creating an institute to help new artists professionalize their practice, and there were even talks of buying properties for the construction of professional artist studios and an experimental, installation-only space where artists could completely morph individual rooms to their creative liking as an art form.
To raise needed capital, the co-founders decided their next phase of growth would be to create a Patreon page. Patreon is an online platform rooted in the age-old idea of patronage, in which members of the wealthy elite would financially support noteworthy artists (like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci), to liberate the artist to produce more artwork. Patreon plays on this idea and democratizes it, by bringing the individual price of patronage down substantially and allowing more than just the wealthy elite to support creatives they deem worthwhile. The Gallery 86 co-founders were primarily concerned with funding their practices, but the great accumulation of funds is also expected to help fund the planned artist-centered programs.
As it stands, Gallery 86 is a hybrid artist collective/art gallery. With one online show under their belt, and a strong showing at the Consulate General of Mexico in Dallas’s latest art show, they seem poised to launch into a strong start of the next year, particularly if the Patreon page catches on as it should. And although the Gallery bears no official connection with the Executive Office of the fraternity, it looks eager to engage the brotherhood in all things related to art. This of course, is a pattern started long ago, as even as far back as 2013, founding artist, Bro. Juan Castillo volunteered to design the cover for the first official history book of the fraternity, “Out of the Iowa Cornfields.” But for now, the ground work of the Gallery, and bringing its vision to fruition, continues.
You can catch the founding artists’ next online show titled “Home: Meditations on Race and Nationality” on www.gallery86.org starting October 24th.
You can also join Gallery 86 on Patreon at www.patreon.com/gallery86, starting at just $1 a month.
For more info, send questions, comments, and compliments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or reach out via social media on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook at @gallery86online.
Juan Castillo crossed into the brotherhood in the spring of 2010 at the then-SMU Colony, now Mu Delta Chapter of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.
Arturo Hernandez crossed into the brotherhood in the fall of 2013 at the Theta Beta Chapter of the University of North Texas in Denton, TX.
Javier Riojas crossed into the brotherhood in the spring of 2007 at the Chi Alpha Chapter of the University of Texas at Arlington in Arlington, TX.
Nicolás González crossed into the brotherhood in the spring of 2016 at the Mu Delta Chapter of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.