Slide Space 123: A Space for Art and Ideas at Mills College

by Rachel Davis on December 15, 2016

Slide Space 123: A Space for Art and Ideas is a new gallery located on the campus Mills College in Oakland. The idea behind of this new venture is to engage multiple disciplines with the hope of creating a powerful synergy of ideas and expression. Catherine Wagner, Dean of Fine Arts, invited notable alumnus of the Mills Art History program, Jackie Im (Co-owner Director of Et. Al.) to curate the first two exhibitions for the launch of the space. The ideology of the gallery is to, “start a more flexible space for students to use…a place to support experimental programming” Im stated.

When I visited the space, Im’s second exhibition was on view, entitled Valegro. It was a meditation on the cross species relationship between man and animal, the various connections and their implications: human and pet, animals as labor and as sport. From the website it states, “Valegro will explore these kinships and how humans and animals live with each other, how we cope with the world together at the intersection of empathy and protection.”  This exhibit includes work by Benjamin Ashlock, Beatriz Balanta & Mary Walling Blackburn, John Hiltunen, Sarah McMenimen, John Russell, and Jess Smith.


Inside Slide Space 123. Photo: Ben Hoffman

Moving forward, the programming will be delegated to a select panel of faculty advisors from the departments of art, art history, dance and music. They will be reviewing proposals from students and guiding them in how to think about displaying art, how ideas can be communicated within the context of the presented visuals as well as the overall design of the exhibition itself.

The space is intended to function as a safe haven for makers, musicians and dancers. Providing ongoing conversations about their various interests and to develop collaborative concepts in new and exciting ways. Chris Fraser, from the space’s faculty advisory board, explained that, “Mills has a storied tradition of working between disciplines. I like telling people that composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham – partners, collaborators, and innovators – both taught here for a time. It’s a major point of pride. But even so, it’s easy to hole away in your corner of the campus and get caught up in the concerns of your discipline. We hope Slide Space can provide a structure for facilitating greater dialogue between the various arts at Mills.”


Inside Slide Space 123. Photo: Ben Hoffman

To gain insight from a maker’s perspective, I spoke with senior art history and studio art major, Nora Roth about how the space engages students.  It is a space that facilitates growth and learning from interacting and working with a diverse range of artists and art world professionals. There is fluidity in the way Slide Space will and is functioning.  It is a transitional ease into the logistical dynamics of the art world. “Jackie Im’s fist two shows are a big indication of that; they were professional productions, but they retained that kooky spirit I love so much” stated Roth.

The dynamics of the new space will allow students to be involved in many different areas, including curatorial proposal reviews, art exhibitions, and open studio sessions. Initiatives like this will help students become immersed and engaged in a real art dialogue and practice.

Structuring this space for the Mills Community and greater bay area art scene will help to cultivate motivation and drive for students to seek out opportunity and involvement.  Such passion will further future growth and develop for the arts in the bay area. Many questions will play a role in the evolution of the space such as: How can this space accommodate the various changing needs of the community? How do we promote meaningful collaborations? How can this space help students prepare for a life in the arts? As answers evolve within and outside the environment of Slide Space 123, they will contribute to the many possibilities for the space. Community, collaboration and communication are the foundation many organizations strive for, Slide Space 123 possesses these traits and more. I look forward to seeing what comes out of this initiative as well as the kind of growth from local artists.