Effervescent in nature and proactive in progression, McClain Gallery Manager Anna Farrow is a beacon of light in our art scene. Taking one of the most well respected spaces in Texas, Farrow is combining the success of the past and the promise of artistic dialogue in her daily work. Coming from a painterly background herself, Farrow found herself not totally at home behind the canvas during her undergrad studies. It wasn’t until her work in gallery spaces in Boston where she began to see how her passion for the visual really excelled with her eye for contemporary work. Coming home to Houston has allowed her to expand her gallery beyond blue chip champions and welcome work that is important to today’s cultural and political landscape. Farrow answered some questions about her road to McClain along with what she hopes to accomplish in the future:
Free Press Houston: Do you have any distinct memories from your youth that lead you to admiring art?
Anna Farrow: I definitely have a several distinct art related memories from my childhood. The first is the poster from the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival of 1976 hanging in my bedroom. The poster features Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Shell with Red. I’d like to think being exposed to the Mother of American Modernism at an early age had some sort of deep personal effect. My mother was a huge Georgia O’Keeffe fan and coincidentally my aunt is a huge Alfred Stieglitz fan, so I grew up around a lot of art and art lovers. My great grandmother had her last exhibition at 80, so it might also be in my blood.
FPH: Was there an individual/individuals that you admire growing up or in your educational experience that made you want to be an active member in the arts/galleries?
Farrow: I would have to say my previous gallery director in Boston, Andrew Mroczek was pivotal in my decision to work in a gallery setting. He was a great mentor who is also a photographer. At McClain Gallery, we showed him and his collaborator, Juan, last Spring during Foto Fest. He strikes that perfect balance between gallerist and activist.
FPH: What originally attracted you to Houston? How have the arts changed since you’ve been here?
Farrow: I was born and raised in Houston and only returned about 2 years ago after being in Boston for over a decade. In the years I’ve been gone the city and the city’s art scene has flourished. I always knew I wanted to be in a city that had a deeper appreciation for non-traditional art practices and I truly believe there is no place in the country that has such fertile ground for art-making as well as amazing philanthropic support for the arts.
The main difference I have noticed since returning is the surge of university art programming. It’s very exciting to see the kind of impact that Rice and U of H are now having on the city as a whole. Both institutions have become true forces to be reckoned with in the arts.
FPH: What are some of your past accomplishments in the arts here or abroad that have contributed to your professional eye/scope? Also what are some of your current projects/arts involvement at the gallery?
Farrow: In Boston, we opened a show entitled Of Cuban Invention in 2012. It included 45 works on paper, painting, and sculpture by eight world renowned Cuban artists, including; Carlos Cárdenas, José Garcia Montebravo, and Zaida del Río (which was the first time the artwork had been seen in the United States). In Houston, I would say that opening the show CANON: Photographs by Andrew Mrocek & Juan José Barboza-Gubo at McClain Gallery in 2016 really proved to me that a gallery of our nature could host important dialogue about positive changes for the LGBTQ communities. It’s a topic that many art galleries shy away from in major spaces but Robert McClain truly gave this awareness an opportunity to be respected in a space, allowing for the potential of more shows of this nature in galleries in the near future.
As for current projects, I’m really focused on expanding our client and visitor base through engaging in programming that is approachable and discussion based. I’m also working on some collaborative public art projects.
FPH: Do you see yourself staying in Houston? If so, what would you like to accomplish in the future in regards to the arts?
Farrow: With everything flourishing so rapidly here, I am absolutely staying and would love to see more new faces at the gallery along with more activist art being included in collections. These pivotal works certainly have a place in art history and current galleries and I hope to encourage that trend to other blue-chip galleries here and elsewhere as we move forward. As for other future plans, I would love for McClain Gallery to collaborate with Project Row Houses, the new Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, and the Center for Contemporary Craft. There’s so much to be explored with dialogues across organizations and spaces here in our city.
McClain Gallery is located at 2242 Richmond Avenue Houston, TX 77098. DISAPPEARING FABRIC: Sculpture By Jonathan Seliger is on view through October 28, 2017. For more information, visit www.mcclaingallery.com