Q+A: Roxana Fabius, A.I.R. Gallery

Did you know that DUMBO is home to the first female artist cooperative gallery in The United States? Founded in 1972, A.I.R. Gallery has been supporting women artists in NYC through a robust slate of programs for decades.  In recognition of this incredible legacy, we honored A.I.R Gallery, which moved to Dumbo nine years ago, and its current Executive Director Roxana Fabius, with a 2019 Magic Feather Award this year. We met up with Roxana to learn a little more about her, the Gallery's legacy and about what's coming up at A.I.R.

What is the history of A.I.R. Gallery? Tell us about the legacy of this important institution.

A.I.R. Gallery was founded in 1972. The mission of the gallery is to create a space that gives support and visibility to women-identified artists. It was born during a time when women were creating their own spaces of representation, because they didn’t have access to what were then (and often now) male-dominated spaces. In the 1970s, only 20% of solo shows were dedicated to women. Today it's not much better: only 35%. This shows that even if we think a lot of things changed, a lot of things haven’t.

Our goal is to generate spaces where resources will be shared, and where women are free to present their work the way they want to present it. For almost fifty years, we've presented work by women artists across the full spectrum of voices. A.I.R. is an artist-run organization. It was co-founded by a group of 20 artists, led by Susan Williams and Barbara Zucker, and since then it has continued to be have a self-directed governing body.

The mission of the gallery is to create a space that gives support and visibility to women artists.

How has the work of the gallery changed over the past four decades?

That’s a good question! It is constantly changing, in the sense that we are always showing new artists, and their interests and projects are diverse and reflective of the times. We've also moved a few times, and each new space is a new chapter

But–the mission has always remained the same. 

One of the things that has become a really important part of our work is the Fellowship Program. This program gives unrepresented and emerging artists in New York City the opportunity to have their first solo exhibition, as well as to participate in group shows and other activities at A.I.R. Each year, six artists are awarded a year-long fellowship to develop and exhibit a project at A.I.R.

And what is your background? How did you come to be the Executive Director of A.I.R?

I am originally from Uruguay, and I came to New York to complete a Masters in Curatorial Studies at Bard College. I stayed in the city and started to work as a curator. A dear friend of mine had a fellowship at A.I.R. and told me they were looking for a new ED. I knew that A.I.R. fit my curatorial philosophy, and here I am!

What does the job entail? What's your favorite part of the work?

My primary responsibility is to define a vision for the organization for both the short, and long-term. This is related to curatorial activities and fundraising activities, to how we work with artists, and to how we collaborate with all the member artists that are part of the organization. From conceptualization to evaluation, I accompany all the steps on the way. My favorite part of the work is actually working with artists, being able to collaborate with them and help them through their process.

My favorite part of the work is actually working with artists, being able to collaborate with them and help them through their process.

What are you most proud of from your tenure here?

I think what I the most proud of is the relationships that I developed here, and my capacity to work with and support so many different people, different voices.

What do we have to look forward to at A.I.R.?

This is a very interesting moment for A.I.R. Being a non-profit, artist-run, feminist organization, a lot of things have been happening here for a very long time. This coming year we are going to engage with a program that is titled the “Scalability Project.” This project looks at the many different voices that are found in Feminism, and works with different interpretations and ideologies.

How did the gallery come to be in DUMBO? How has being in the neighborhood impacted A.I.R.?

The Gallery started on Soho, then we moved to Chelsea, and we ended up in DUMBO in 2010. Being in DUMBO has allowed us to develop new relationships, and to collaborate with a new kind artist. Just in this building alone, 20 Jay, we have a network of artists and galleries that support each other! We also have a lot of families that come to every exhibition, and we've seen the kids grow; it is really amazing

What is your favorite spot in DUMBO?

I think I have two. One is the rooftop of this building, 20 Jay St, and the second one is Brooklyn Bridge Park.