Alumna, Kelly Dietrick opens Troppus Projects
Our alumni are always up to something good, wherever they may have settled down after graduation. One alumnus, Kelly Dietrick, is helping to improve the arts community right here in Kent. Kelly recently opened an art space called Troppus Projects, located at 141 S. Water Street. The name might seem peculiar at first glance, but is simply “support” spelled backwards, calling out for arts advocacy. The space not only serves as an art gallery but also somewhere to host art workshops. Art is also sold online through the website, featuring art by some Kent State professors and alumni. Here is a Q&A with Kelly to learn more about how and why she started the space.
1. What year did you graduate from Kent State and what was your major?
I graduated from Kent State in 1998 with a BFA in Fine Art (concentration in painting) and a minor in Philosophy (applying this as much as possible to my interests in art theory and criticism). Right after graduating, I worked as the Gallery Assistant at Gallery 138, the first iteration of the School of Art satellite gallery, which is now the Downtown Gallery. I went on to earn my MFA in studio art at Savannah College of Art and Design in 2001. Most recently in 2016, while also teaching in the School of Art, I earned a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Technology at Kent State.
2. Why did you want to open a gallery in Kent? What led you to this career path?
This could be a long story, but I'll keep it short! Broadly speaking, what led me to this has been a determination to actively use my skill set and do what I’ve worked hard to do for the last twenty years. That is, to make art, collaborate with fellow artists, have a positive impact, keep learning and changing, and make progress. I came to a point where I felt like I'd hit my personal ceiling here in Kent’s academia and decided I needed to reassess and make a change. That change I realized needed to be made either to my location, or to my career path itself if I was going to stay. I considered both and this is what happened! Whether it works out or not remains to be seen, but so far it feels like meaningful work and I’m glad I'm doing it.
3. Can you explain the idea behind the name of Troppus Projects?
Troppus Projects is the very first name I jotted down the first night I was entertaining the idea of starting the space. It was mid-February and I don't know if it was just me, but everything seemed to be bathed in the light of politics. “Resistance” lists were circulating on social media and they always included a call to “support art and artists.” It suddenly seemed like a sign of the times that supporting art and artists was considered important, and also something that was notably lacking. In any case, it was on my mind and certainly part of my mission. Interestingly, the word troppus itself can mean “flock,” “to march,” “to go in great numbers,” but perhaps most significant to me, the word also suggested a turn or change of direction.
4. What will you be offering for the Artist-led Workshops, Creative Collaboration, and Community Engagement aspects of your art space?
As for artist-led workshops, I’m currently inviting artists to propose ideas for 1-3 day workshop that can be delivered in the space. It's not very big, but it’s really a fairly functional space and I’m willing to keep the model flexible to accommodate a variety of roles beyond gallery space. I like the idea of short, intimate workshops that are a few hours, a few days a week that might culminate with an exhibition of the work made, or even just the processes explored. It doesn't have to be refined finished work to be worth sharing with the community! I'm also interested in presenting opportunities for more impromptu hands on opportunities in the space that can appeal to passersby. And of course, I’m very interested in collaborating with community members and small businesses in ways that can benefit our community.
5. Do you have any advice for current students on how to pursue an arts career?
I remember being told by professors that “no one is going to make you be an artist...no one is going to make you make art” and that’s true, it's a good thing to keep in mind. If you want it, you have to try to make it happen, and sometimes it really means you have to create opportunities for yourself. It might not be easy and it might not always seem pragmatic, but it might just be worth it. In addition to that, I’m learning so much as an artist from a curatorial point of view with this project. A rejection doesn't necessarily mean your work wasn't good enough. It might mean that your work didn't fit in with the other work submitted, or that the space didn't have the technology, or square footage, or whatever to support it. Keep on.