Shotgun Review

Hot Tub Dialogues

By Shotgun Reviews February 28, 2012

Subterranean Gallery director Ayla Rexroth and cocurator Clayton Skidmore have organized the Hot Tub Dialogues, an unconventional discursive platform that brings members of the art community together in a hot tub inside the basement-level apartment gallery in Kansas City, Missouri.

The inaugural event took place February 11, 2012, with experimental sounds by the local composers Leah Sproul Pulatie and Gregory Gagnon kicking things off. In the hot tub were the artist Hesse McGraw, chief curator of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and the architect Josh Shelton, a principal at the Kansas City–based firm el dorado inc. Their slideshow format emphasized forward-thinking methodologies for negotiating art through nontraditional spaces, such as a storage facility, with tongue-in-cheek exhibition titles like Hopey Changey Things (adopting Sarah Palin’s phrase). The rich collaborations that result in the Hot Tub Dialogues between architects, curators, and artists often play with undefined boundaries and raise questions about what conditions enable boundary-pushing work.  

One week later, Kate Hackman, codirector of the Charlotte Street Foundation, and Raechell Smith, chief curator of the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, entered the tub. The local band Metatone opened the evening. Hackman and Smith’s format made the audience privy to an intimate conversation between these long-time friends and professional colleagues. Initially theatrically loud, the conversation volume soon dropped to a whisper,

Hot Tub Dialogues

Hot Tub Dialogues; Kate Hackman and Raechell Smith, February 18, 2012. Courtesy of Subterranean Gallery, Kansas City, MO.

causing the audience to listen intently in order to catch the speakers’ words, including snippets of information such as a brief reference to “Twenty-Six Big Ideas,” which was never fully explained.1

Indeed, the intimate and brief nature of the sessions left questions unanswered and trajectories incomplete. For example, McGraw’s opening line, “We are trying to catch up to Duchamp,” left plenty of lingering questions even after a fifty-minute discussion about it. Although ephemeral, these conversations set the groundwork for creative communities to reach across divisions and to demonstrate optimism for future dynamic exchanges. 


Nicole Mauser obtained an MFA from the University of Chicago in 2010 and was a recipient of a Post-MFA Teaching Fellowship in 2011. Mauser is a painter as well as cofounder and codirector of Plug Projects, an artist-run gallery based in Kansas City, Missouri.



1. The "Twenty-Six Big Ideas" are a part of the Visual Arts Constortium's plan for the arts in Kansas City.

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