Contemporary art and canine assistants, an interview with Sherry Leedy
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art has been an institution in the Crossroads Arts District for three decades. Since its doors opened in 1985, galleries have come and gone, and the Kansas City arts scene has changed drastically, but Sherry Leedy has remained and has been a driving force in revitalizing the Crossroads neighborhood, too. In addition to regular exhibitions of work in ceramics, photography, painting, glass and mixed media, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art offers an inventory of fine artwork and consulting services. Both director and curator of the gallery, Leedy works with everyone from the first-time art buyer to experienced private collectors and national museums—but she doesn’t do it alone. Stop by the gallery sometime and you’ll find a dedicated canine companion at her side (or at least close by): True Good, a multi-generational Australian labradoodle. Spaces sat down with Leedy recently to talk about the gallery, its work and its four-legged “employee.”
Kansas City Spaces: How did True come to “work” at the gallery?
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Sherry Leedy: True is actually my second gallery dog. My first gallery dog was my Wheaten terrier, Sam, who passed away about four years ago when he was almost 14. After he died, I began looking for a new dog. I researched breeds and temperaments. I was also looking for a dog that didn’t shed. Wheaten terriers don’t shed, and I got kind of spoiled with that. I eventually settled on an Australian labradoodle and found a breeder in Hesston, Kansas. When the puppies were born, my daughter and I went to pick one out. All the puppies were so adorable! We got it down to two puppies and couldn’t decide between them. The breeder raised the puppies in the house, so we were in the kitchen at the time. She had treats out and asked all the dogs to sit before they got a treat. True sat immediately, and so we decided, “That’s the guy for us!”
And that was pretty much it. He’s been at the gallery ever since. It was always the plan that he would be with me all the time. He comes to work every day. In fact, all you have to do is say “Do you want to go to work,” and he’s ready. He’s way more enthusiastic about it than I am! He greets everybody that comes in and barks at dogs that walk by on the sidewalk—all the normal dog stuff. Usually when we do a show, we have him do his pick—whatever he likes the best—and have him go over and lie down by the piece and snap a photo.
KCS: How did you settle on the name True?
SL: I live in Union Hill, and sometimes I walk by the cemetery over there. There’s a great tombstone from the 1800s with the name True Good. I thought, that is such a fabulous name: what kind of character would someone be with that name? And I thought there’s no better name for a dog, because what could be more true than a dog? When he does something bad though, we call him Too Bad.
KCS: When would be a good time to visit True. Any exhibitions coming up?
SL: We’re doing a big ceramic invitational called the Once and Future New Now. We have over 20 artists, both from our region and nationally in this exhibition. It’s sort of a look at what’s going on right now from both people who have been in the field for a long time to up-and-coming artists. The show opens on February 5 and will run through March 19. It will coincide with a big national ceramics conference that will happen in Kansas City in March. We’ll also do an opening in March that we’re calling the Red Hot Shop, which is going to be an exhibit of more modestly priced ceramics, in connection with the conference.
KCS: Your gallery has been an institution in Kansas City for going on three decades now. How have you seen the arts scene in Kansas City change since you opened? What sets your gallery apart from others?
SL: We’ve been in business for a long time. We were the first art gallery in the Crossroads, and we’ve been pretty instrumental in the growth of the neighborhood and developing this part of town. We started out incorporating artists that are nationally and regionally known, as well as artists that are based here in Kansas City. And what has traditionally been called crafts, like ceramics and photography, that’s become more commonplace as time has gone on, but that is something we did from the very beginning. I’m also an artist, and at the time I started the gallery there were very few artists involved in running galleries. That too has developed and changed over time. Pretty much everything has changed: galleries have come and gone, the Charlotte Street Foundation happened. Really everything has changed. It’s a much more lively and dynamic arts scene than it’s ever been.