• UO Interviews: Auto Body Art Collective

    Meet the members of Auto Body, a group of Long Island friends who came together to create a revolving real-time art space for sharing each other’s creative projects. We collaborated with Auto Body on our latest shoot with Polo — go behind the scenes with us to get to know the group.

    Can you share more about how you all met and how you’ve stayed in touch since high school? 
    Quinn Sherman: Sure. So, Johnny, Tyler, Will, Charlie, and I went to Bellport High School, which is about a mile and a half down the street from here. Georgia and Claire have been coming to Bellport their whole lives, so we met them in the  summer just being out here all the time. And Aria went to Parsons with Tyler and they met there, and she started coming out here when they started dating. 

    A kind of informal prerequisite to Auto Body was a project that, I guess in some small way all eight of us worked on called Corner Store Cooperative, which was in Bellport, under which all of us worked on our own projects. The girls made T-shirts, some weird bags, necklaces, and dresses. We all started hanging out that same year, which is when everyone began solidifying a friendship. We’ve stayed in touch ever since. 

    How have your tastes, or creative curiosities, evolved since then? On the flip side, what has stayed the same?
    Aria McManus: I think that we’ve always been inspired by developing a community in a place that’s not necessarily New York. I think that New York City and Bellport both share a commonality, in that in both places you can do something small and have a large impact, and so that’s been an interest of ours, which we’ve developed in different ways. From having a store on Main Street to starting rumors that then became true, then starting a newsletter which worked to spark the interest of our community. 
    This is one very small part of what we do but which is seen as an evolution of interacting with our community as well as bridging the creative endeavors we see going on in New York City and bringing them out here. We have the ability to have the landscape contrast work in unique ways, which you can’t really do in New York City.

    Georgia Read: We also started our first summer on Main St. We all worked collectively as artists. We all made shows together with the content coming from this group. We’ve evolved since then and we sort of work as organizers, producers, and curators, and put projects and shows together that is either work of our own, or work of friends. We’ve also expanded beyond that, doing shows not just in Bellport but in the city as well. We’ve been in Miami, LA, and we hope to go further. 

    What inspires you about working in a place outside of NY or a bigger city?
    Johnny Knapp: The connection that we already have innately with the community, from growing up here, and taking our life experiences and what we’ve learned outside of it and applying it here in Bellport. And also developing a challenge to foster the type of community that we’ve made here because it’s maybe not as expected, or an obvious choice for an art gallery or collective. But, it’s worked. We’ve used all of those adversities to our strengths, bringing together a lot of people under one roof who wouldn’t be meeting each other otherwise, who have now met through the interface of Auto Body. 

    Aria McManus: In each project that we do we try to interact with a community member or a local farm, or a local deli restaurant, or store owners, which engages the community. We bridge a museum show that we just did with local restaurants who would have not had a place to encounter one another in normal circumstances. By bridging that gap, it makes for a very interesting dynamic. 

    Charlie Stravinsky: We’ve produced work together as a group and beyond that, we’ve been showcasing other artists so having other young artists and exposing emergent artists to an audience that wouldn’t normally know about them. Chris Lux and Barry McGee were two California artists we had in a show,—giving that kind of exposure across the country has been fun for us. Even though we’re based out of Long Island, we don’t see it as a limiting factor. We can bring anyone here and it feels like a natural fit. 

    What’s the role of continuing a conversation about art in a small town?
    Georgia Read: Part of why we are who we are is because this town has a lot of amazing and creative and unique people in it. And sometimes we’re bouncing off of that, and other times we’re bringing in people that wouldn’t otherwise encounter that. 

    Charlie Stravinsky: And people also get really comfortable in the suburbs so it's nice to engage them. 

    Georgia Read: We’re bringing unexpected groups of people together and giving a voice to friends.

    Aria McManus: When you do small things in communities, it can have a large impact, and it can be very noticeable. For instance, in downtown NY, that happens a lot. And I think that doing things, even in proximity to a large city, can have an effect on that city, it is an expansive network for people in that city, it's not such a separate idea – both are linked in a lot of ways. 

    What advice do you have to other young artists who are looking to start something on their own?
    Tyler Healy: Advice for a young artist, or a young group, or a community that doesn’t have art in it, would be: it’s so doable and so achievable if you just work hard and put it together and surround yourself around good people. 

    Charlie Stravinsky: It’s important to think MICRO and to think MACRO. It's important to think about who to involve on a local level and also others whose work you might be interested in, or who you might have a really loose connection to. 

    Aria McManus: In my experience with this project, I’ve been very surprised at how open my idols are to talking to me, or being in a show. People I think would be so out of my reach are totally willing to collaborate or work on something together. 

    Claire Read: And be persistent and don’t give up. We have continued our efforts since losing our space and we’ve made things happen in places where I think a lot of people might not think it's possible. We’ve put a show on a rooftop, in a nature preserve, so anything is possible. Just keep at it. 

    Johnny Knapp: As far as advice goes for younger artists who are looking to start their own thing, or operate on their own fruition, would be to think outside the box; don’t go with convention. 
    Moving yourself as far away from where you think things are going on can be an advantage — it can make you more recognizable because you’re doing something that’s not happening around you. You’ll have unlimited freedom to do what you want because you have more space and different resources available to you that wouldn’t be possible in a big city. We started a space in an auto garage, and by renovating that we afforded ourselves with a really large space (to work) as well has having a gallery, which wouldn’t have been possible in a big city where we would have been confined. This has been a really big benefit to thinking outside of the box and doing our own thing. 

    Quinn Sherman: If you have an idea but don’t think it would be allowed, just do it. Ask for forgiveness later. Sometimes we do things rogue. If you can’t execute the “thing” because there's restrictions, do it the best that you can. If people like it, they’ll support it, even if it’s not allowed or done by the correct procedure. Do it anyway so it exists and so it can change and develop and exist. Get the idea out that you have inside and that you want to see existing. 

    Tyler Healy: Failure and trying things is always good. Constantly learning from our mistakes or expanding and getting better from where we were the day before. Always try to get out there and do something. If it works out, it's great, and if it doesn’t you’re still going to learn from it. Just do it. It’s worth it.