A look inside the new contemporary artspace downtown that you should know about.
This article was originally published in the first issue of VIA Noke Magazine, printed in Roanoke, Virginia in May 2012. exclamations has since closed.
Tucked into the corner of Market Square in downtown Roanoke is the entrance to exclamations, a fairly new space that remains to be discovered by many locals. I met Mateo Marquez one afternoon in April for a tour of exclamations and was surprised by what I found inside. The spacious rooms I entered were welcoming, with worn wooden floors, high ceilings, and large windows overlooking the market. The empty white walls serve as the perfect blank canvas for things to come. Pieces of sculptures in progress were scattered across the floor in one room; a lounge area had been created in another. “It can be anything we want it to be,” he tells me, reclining on a couch under the window, watching people pass by on the street below.
Chelsea arrived and we followed Mateo down a long hallway lined with doors along the left side. Originally thinking that the space was primarily for exhibitions, I was surprised to find that these smaller rooms were meant to be studio spaces. “We only have two rented out right now,” he told us, explaining that he and his partner, Amanda Agricola, were still seeking artists to fill the other spaces.
In November of last year Mateo, a contemporary artist who works in multimedia and projection, and Amanda, a contemporary sculpture artist who also works in multimedia, decided to create a unique space in the heart of downtown to exhibit their work. Soon after, they expanded their mission and began working to provide studio and exhibition space for other local contemporary artists. “At first we decided to have a personal show,” Mateo explained, “but once we got involved with the Marginal Arts Festival it turned into something else.” The Marginal Arts Festival is an annual multi-day and multi-location event held towards the beginning of each year. Their exhibition for this event included performance artists, musicians, installation pieces, large-scale paintings, sculptures, poetry, and other visual art, exhibiting the works of artists from Roanoke to Germany. Amanda seemed to still be in disbelief over the crowd that the festival brought into exclamations. “We had over a hundred people in here. Maybe close to two hundred.”
Their website states, “exclamations takes an open minded approach in defining artistic practices – the movement and use of the body as a tool of expression, the making and sharing of foods, contemplations and conversations on texts of old and new – there is space in exclamations to exceed boundaries, cross disciplines, and redefine ideas of art.”
On May 2nd exclamations was presented with the Perry F. Kendig Award for Outstanding Emerging Arts Organization by The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. When asked about the award, Mateo said, “It was great because we worked really hard doing this and we appreciate that recognition.” They hope such recognition will bring awareness to what they are doing with exclamations and will encourage other artists to get involved or have shows there. “The same artists and the same people have been around in Downtown Roanoke for years. Something we’re trying to do is give an opportunity for new people to get recognition.”
“The main thing we want to do is have a nice space to offer for anybody to use. We want to have weekly shows here,” Mateo explained, adding that other shows they’ve had in the past have included various types of artwork and live music. “We can use this space to host parties. Bring your artwork and hang it on the walls. Bring your friends. I honestly don’t like going out to the bars around here but I would like to come to a place like this. You can have some drinks, you can put up art, have nice music… just whatever. Everyone is welcome.”
Anyone who is interested in showing an exhibition of their work should contact the duo. As their website says; “If you are in need of a working space, please contact us. Because we are artists too, and we know how hard it is to find a nice working studio, our prices are accessible.”
*Note: Since publication in 2012, exclamations has closed.