Meet Boris Garbe of Mills Gallery. Boris Garbe is the current Gallerist at Mills Gallery in Orlando, FL. Discover how Boris Garbe got started and where he got to where he is today.
Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.
In 2016, I had spent the last 15 years as a Spanish and sign language teacher. At that time, I then decided to join the Orlando arts scene by opening an art space called Mills Gallery.
At that point in my life, I had known little about art. However, I decided to remain real to himself at surround himself with a team of experts who would guide and advise him at every point. I had gotten the help of Gallerist Lael Dewahl who showed him the ropes about how to run a gallery. Additionally, artist and designer Victor Bokas has designed the logo as well as the official look of Mills Gallery. Also, I worked with local filmmaker Marvin Welch to create a series of films that introduced the gallery to Orlando and showcased what my overall goal with.
My wish was to create a gallery that was attractive to young people, as well as a place that was available to and representative of all artists, regardless of their sex or gender. Mills Gallery became a pioneer project for gender equality in the Orlando arts, and we strive to exhibit an equal amount of female and male artists annually.
In 2019, I brought on curator Kyle Eagle on board to Mills Gallery. This is around the time that I started a podcast called THE EXPERIENCE WITH CHRIS FIO, which starts break-out local talent Chris Fioravantti. THE EXPERIENCE WITH CHRIS FIO podcast premiered in February 2020 with some of the highest ratings ever experienced by its distributing company PFT Media.
Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
To be sure, my experience in the art world has been an amazing journey. However, at no point was it easy. Starting with my decision to be 100% transparent about my lack of knowledge about art and how to run a gallery, I encountered a lot of pushback from people that did not understand what I was trying to accomplish.
Additionally, I interned with three galleries before starting Mills Gallery. I had seen a lot of things that I felt I could improve upon. For starters, I wanted to bring a sense of balance to the gender inequality I was witnessing in the art scene. First off, male artists were shown more often, their art was usually more expensive, and more money was spent on advertising them. I saw that this was completely unfair and attempted to balance the scales. This meant listening to female artists about their concerns over preferential treatment and learning that equality is an unpaved path.
My other major goal was to create a gallery that was attractive to young individuals. I saw that few galleries catered to an audience that was not well-read or -knowledgeable about art. As a matter of fact, I remembered clearly how as a young man I hated going to art galleries. This was due to never feeling really welcomed or appreciated at them. I wanted to create an environment where people knew that it was okay to not be an expert on art.
During the first two years that Mills Gallery was open, I was not able to get a lot of interest from the local press. This made it a challenge in attracting an audience for the exhibitions. I then decided to create my own press empire. That was when I created a weekly radio show about art, followed by a podcast about art. That in turn led to my long-running web-series called KISS MY ART with the artist Marla E.
Starting in the fall of this year, local social media influencer Ted Bogert and I are starting a new show called ART AF. This show will deal with the long recovery that the art scene will have to make after the coronavirus epidemic.
Tell us about your business/company. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? Additionally, what sets you apart from others?
Under the guidance of Kyle Eagle and I, Mills Gallery, has become a force to be reckoned with in the Orlando Arts Scene. One of the experts with whom we work is the psychologist and artist Dr. Linda Brant. Brant has taught me about art and the deeper, sometimes hidden meanings can be revealed in creative work. After lengthy interviews with the artists, meetings with Dr. Brant, as well as casual conversations with art patrons, I prepare a special gallery tour that is unique for every show that we feature. This tour is offered to all of our visitors and it allows us to introduce the art in a way that is both informative and fun.
Under Kyle’s guidance, Mills Gallery has become known for featuring both young and up-and-coming artists as well as seasoned creators. Our exhibitions deal with all kinds of content. We have shown works by controversial writer Williams S. Burroughs as well as creations by transgender artist and activist Kieran Castaño.
My top favorite aspect that sets us apart is our unique internship. After completing their internship with us, each intern has to create his or her own exhibition featuring an artist of their choosing. They have to create a poster as well as the advertising campaign, they are in charge of food, drinks, music and all of the items that are necessary to put together a successful show. Mills Gallery splits their financial profit for the show with the intern. This is not only a graduating experience, but also a way to earn a sizable amount of money if done properly.
Currently, we are very excited to work with Moriah Russo. Russo brings with her to Mills not only an academic background in studio arts, art history, and criticism, but also an extensive resume of experience organizing visual arts exhibitions and niche cultural events locally. Notably, Moriah’s skill set extends also into the realm of business. She’s flexing her professional muscle from live event promoting in the music industry to bring Mills a fresh appeal.
How do you, personally, define success? What’s your criteria, the markers you’re looking out for, etc?
I feel that Mills Gallery is successful if an artist has the opportunity and motivation to produce. Addtionally, that is the result of the creative production is mutually beneficial to the creator and to the community.
I have been lucky that my ego has allowed me to be humble about my lack of art education. This particular point of growth has opened doors to fruitful dialogues with such diverse artists such as Harold Garde, Andrew Spear, Marla E, Pedro Brull, and others, and I hope to share the joy of learning from art with my community through Mills Gallery. Also, this past year has illuminated my goals for life in the artworld. I have learned that I am far more interested in the artist and their journeys than in the art itself.
Apparently that is a controversial revelation, but so be it. Kyle Eagle, Dr. Linda Brant, and Moriah Russo are all about the art. This allows me to focus on the artist, which I believe to be the most important piece in the process. In traditional galleries, there is too much focus on pushing and selling the art. I would like to believe that Mills Gallery is in no way or form traditional. The rules on how to run a gallery are changing because the old ways simply do not work anymore. In my opinion, a gallery should work with the artist and allow them to revalue and reinvent themselves. The most important thing is to cultivate an art community that is fair to people of all walks of life. Specifically, a community that teaches artists about how to grow as people, patrons, and artists.
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