The Five + 50 art exhibition, currently running at the Hive Gallery through April 18, celebrates the venue’s five-year anniversary. The “5” is for the number of years the gallery has been in existence, and the “50” is for the number of artists in the show. Actually, it’s 54, but those extra additions just add to the interesting mix of artwork available to peruse and purchase. Each artist was given a 20″ x 20″ wood panel to do with whatever they liked. From painting to photography and more, the results range from fun to powerful to exciting. Some of the participants include Lalo Cota, Ashley Macias, Colton Brock, Sierra Joy, Bobby Castaneda, Steve Weiss and Thomas “Breeze” Marcus.
Located on 16th Street near Oak, this neighborhood gem is more than just an art gallery. The Hive operates true to its definition—it’s a shelter for buzzing bees. The bees, in this case, are the tenants who utilize the spaces within the complex. Currently, the place is fully loaded with occupants. There’s The Bee’s Knees vintage retail store, Demi Coffee, artist Jacob Meders’ Warbird Press printmaking studio, photographer Montye Fuse’s studio and gallery, and Sophie McCurley’s space, which will offer workshops. There’s also a trailer that is rentable via Airbnb and a garden area where you can pick up some greenery to beautify your personal surroundings.
The Hive is owned and operated by Julia Fournier and Steve Helffrich, who have their own studio spaces, as well. Julia is a retired schoolteacher, and she’s also a writer, working on a book of true-life stories about raising the twin sons that she and Steve adopted. Steve is an architect and a fine art painter, who, Fournier says, “always wanted to buy a building that he could use for his own work but to also include a gallery and resale boutique.” He found this building through a client, and the rest is history.
Though Fournier and Helffrich are currently changing the nature of their relationship, ending a decades-long marriage, they are both committed to a lifelong friendship, co-parenting and continuing to grow and develop The Hive, which is undeniably a labor of love for them both.
Fournier and Helffrich are gentle souls who love community and are excited to have a place to foster that spirit. Each exudes a complete authenticity in their shared passion regarding the venue as they discuss its history and future. “I always wanted a space where micro businesses could develop and grow,” said Helffrich. “We want patrons to be exposed to things that they might not normally see, and to be able to do so in a warm and calm environment.”
The serenity one feels upon venturing through The Hive and its different areas feels like a natural extension of the owners’ intentions. Julia, who is more of a mother hen than a queen bee, is often found in The Bee’s Knees, her curated retail spot, which carries a moderate but highly covetable selection of clothes, art and accessories. It also offers items on consignment by local creators. This retail space is a little reminiscent of Julia herself—quiet and a bit mysterious. That air of mystery is hardly contrived but more of a quiet sensibility that allows relationships to flow organically. She was excited about the store and started collecting items for resale while she was still wrapping up her lengthy career as an educator.
Though owning a building like this comes with an endless set of tasks, the two have fallen into some natural grooves, each handling things they are particularly suited for. Julia has discovered a fondness for booking the art shows; Steve handles the installation side. At the end of the day, they’re both equally excited by, and proud of, what’s hanging on those walls. They have a really deep fondness for emerging artists, and just as they enjoy helping micro-businesses grow, they like to give new, upcoming artists opportunities to exhibit their work.
Art isn’t the only programming at The Hive Gallery. Art exhibitions often include DJs, and the venue has also hosted live music performances and film events. The upcoming year will see more of that type of entertainment, as well as some new offerings. Both Julia and Steve like the idea of having interesting events that bring in new audiences. With that said, The Hive is “still a bit of a secret space” that many people are still discovering.
Julia described how she recently stood in the gallery and took a panoramic photograph of the exhibition, and said that looking at it gave her “360 degrees of happiness.” As the pair continues to pour a mixture of zest and hard work into fortifying The Hive, let’s look forward to what the next five years will bring.