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By: Caroline Cummings

Click images below to enlarge

David Allyn

Quinn Corey



Founded in 2007 by brothers Whitney and John Jay McGurk, Elwa Productions aims to promote emerging artists as well as aid young collectors in their search for more affordable works of art. Elwa Productions stages art exhibits that experiment with factors such as location and mediums, all the while pushing the boundaries of the traditional art gallery setting.

In June 2008, Elwa Productions curated the show “Using it Up”.  After attending the opening, I had the opportunity to sit down with Whitney and John Jay and talk about the show and Elwa Productions in general.

Thirsty: How did you decide to start Elwa Productions?

Whitney: Years ago in college I had to write a business plan. I wrote it based upon developing a gallery and showing John Jay’s work, because I believed in his talent so much.  My original idea was that the John Jay could help run the gallery, but also show his work there and be commissioned for work outside the gallery. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time until John Jay moved to New York from Providence.

John Jay: So, Whitney had come up with this idea from the business and advertising side, a little more commercially minded.  Personally, I approach projects from a more experimental, artistic side.  After attending University of Vermont with Whitney, I moved to Providence where I went to the Rhode Island School of Design.  While at RISD I became involved with a community of artists that live in the area.  This eventually fed into what we are doing now.  In Providence there is a very grass-roots thing this going on. They call it the “underground”.  I had been doing shows there and producing shows in Providence for some time in old warehouses and run down spaces. I also had a big hand in developing an alternative space that has art, music, and everything in between.  So, I gained a lot of knowledge through that experience and learned how to produce exhibitions and create good productions, but all of them being very experimental.  When I moved to New York, Whitney and I talked about how to merge the more experimental art that I had been doing with the traditional, commercial artists that Whitney has thought about.

Whitney: When John Jay moved here we also started talking about creating a niche where there is a void in the current art market in New York.  John Jay had been promoting emerging artist in Providence and I had been networking in New York so it made sense to find a void that needed to be filled.  People who have a lot of money, who spend five, ten, fifty thousand plus, know that they can go to galleries in Chelsea and to the auction houses and things like that. But when you are talking about affordable art and young collectors, or not even collectors but just people who want to buy something small and put it in their apartments and not spend a lot of money. There really is no place to even do that. I mean I don’t know anywhere you can do that right now.  So, this is a way to help emerging artists and help young collectors or young adults grow their collections with art they can hopefully afford.

Thirsty: Tell me more about your current show, Using It Up.

John Jay: Having lived in Providence for some time, I realized there is a lot of talent there that is underexposed. A lot of artists show intermittently, but we wanted expand the availability and interest in their work.  The four artists in this show are all from Providence and I think their styles and aesthetics are very different but they all sort of work with the same underlying theme of “using it up”.  Three of the four artists are using found materials and objects that one of the artists, Shawn Gilheeney, is representing in his work.  Shawn’s paintings represent the spaces where the other artists (in the show) find the objects for their work.  One artist, Zane Claverie, makes collages using magazines, old book covers, and textbooks that he finds in these buildings.  He cuts them up and pastes them onto board.  And then you have Quinn Corey, who is doing the same thing with more found objects and he is very much into the psychedelic aesthetic.  Lots of bright colors and shag carpeting.  Quinn is into the idea of pop culture, high and low brow, and blending it all together into one big psychedelic hodgepodge.

David Allyn’s imagery is sort of based on the aesthetic of Providence, old industrial run-down buildings and he is using photo-transfers onto porcelain.  You know it is a really unique kind of style and his pieces are fired four, five, six times. It is a very laborious process that he goes through to make them.  But again, he is using the imagery of Providence.  He is also trying to bring it into today by juxtaposing wind turbines with the old electrical plants in Providence and talking about the need to find new sources of electricity and energy. In a way all of these artists are aesthetically very different but are using the vernacular language of Providence to make their art.

Thirsty: How are sales going?

Whitney: We have sold three pieces.  There is still a lot of interest that we want to capitalize on.  This is also a learning experience for both of us.   There are a lot of lessons that I will take with me to my next production.  We had a great turnout.  I would like to have done a bit better on the sales, but you have to start somewhere and I think it was a great start. From where I stand it was a great success. Elwa Productions and this first show that we put on in New York is just one step towards developing a sustainable business that we can run full-time or on the side.  Ideally, we would like to have a space and operate it with the same principals that Elwa Productions was founded on. Right now we don’t have the physical space but we have a great outlook, and idea, and energy behind what we are trying to do and accomplish.

John Jay: In a lot of ways the sky is the limit and it is only our level of energy and lack of sleep that can keep us back.  And I do want to say just on that side, you know the sales, it is what it is.  But in the end I really want to make it clear that we really value creativity and you know people who are producing creative endeavors and sort of people who are enthusiastic about it.  Not everybody is creating art but there are a lot people who are enthusiastic about it. So you know a combination of these can really work to make really special moments in our opening nights or the events.  In spectacular events or not so spectacular events, hopefully we are creating moments where this creativity can be exposed and people can enjoy it. I think that is fundamentally what we are trying to do.


Thirsty plans to reconnect with the McGurks from time-to-time.


All opinions expressed by Caroline Cummings are solely her own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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