Alternative energy

By GREG COOK  |  October 19, 2009

Making it on their own
For Leonard, who has been performing music and organizing concerts since he was a teen, GASP’s “Sonic Arts” program gave him a regular base of operations, a place where he could pursue ideas that intrigue him — from computer-generated sound and DJs to contemporary jazz and chamber music — without worrying about whether he can find a venue. “The events I produce are events I can’t see [in Boston],” says Leonard, “unless I produce them.”

Campos-Pons oversees the gallery’s artist-organized group exhibitions. They feature local and international emerging artists, particularly people fresh out of local schools, with a dash of art stars, like Kerry James Marshall or Carrie Mae Weems, attracted by or recruited by Campos-Pons’s own stature, persuasion, and sheer will.

Artist and teacher Evelyn Rydz, who came on board as gallery manager before the space opened (she achieved the rank of gallery director before she left in 2006), recalls the night performance artist Pamela Z was scheduled to perform at GASP. It was January 2005, and a blizzard blew in. The staff suggested cancelling, but as Rydz remembers, Campos-Pons insisted on going ahead with plans. “We will do this. It will happen. We’ll make it happen.” Rydz says, “Sure enough, it was packed. Somebody came from the neighborhood on skis.” For Rydz, it epitomized Campos-Pons. “I really think Magda is about making things happen.”

“She’s sort of like a center of gravity,” says Nash. “She seems to attract people to her that give a little bit more than they would otherwise.”

Campos-Pons is currently at work proposing an international art blockbuster in Boston, an event that she hopes will make the city a can’t-miss destination on the circuit of global art biennials and fairs. Inspired by jurying the Boston Center for the Arts annual “Drawing Show” in 2008, she has been quietly forging plans for a Boston Drawing Biennale (though it could end up being a festival or, to start, simply an exhibition). She says she’s formed a small task force that has talked with some potential venues and donors. And they’ve begun circulating a draft proposal.

“I have been thinking for a long time,” says Campos-Pons, “in all my traveling, in all the cities that I have been in in the First World and in the Third World, what could be a moment of currencies, what could be the thing that joins together and then brings this city together with force in the visual arts? The idea is to bring together all these institutions, to bring together the forces that are separated between the Harvard Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the ICA, MIT, Isabella [Stewart Gardner Museum], all the colleges, and find the way that the entire city becomes a force with some kind of umbilical cord — the umbilical cord could be drawing — and really make Boston a destination.”

At this point, the idea remains at the level of conversation. “But a serious conversation,” says Campos-Pons. “I just want to be sure that it happens. I want to keep talking. I don’t want any other road except the road that it happens.”

“Bag It” will take place at the GASP Gallery, 362–364 Boylston Street, in Brookline, on October 23 from 6–9 pm. Admission is $50, or $100 to become a “friend of GASP.” Read Greg Cook’s blog at

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