Amy S. Kauffman and John Freeborn
John Freeborn – Co-founder of Space 1026
and Founder of 1Pixel Gallery
Amy – It was the summer of 1998, and I was in grad school at the University of the Arts. I was giving an intense theoretical explanation to our professor on a group of images that I had just installed. John was sitting beside me, staring intently — not at my work, but at me. The professor made a few comments and then proceeded to other studios.
John waited until she rounded the corner, and then turned to me and said, “Why all the bullshit? Why can’t you just talk normally?”
I tried to explain to him the reasons why I talked about my work in those terms. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Why can’t art just be about being good?”
John – The network of friends I made during my undergraduate studies at Rhode Island School of Design had become a support system that was invaluable to me. I expected the same sort of energy and feedback from peers in graduate school, but it didn’t happen. Students appeared more interested in theory than content. Amy was one of the few people I met who seemed to create strong work both visually and conceptually. Back then we barely knew each other, but after that exchange I was eager to see her reaction to the art activities I was involved in outside of school. I wanted her to see what was going on in my life.
Amy – A couple of weeks later, John and I were walking together through the streets of Philadelphia. We stopped at this giant building on Arch Street in Chinatown. He fumbled through his pockets, pulled out a set of keys and unlocked the door. We clamored up the steep stairs into a huge room filled with lumber and dust that lay thick like frosting on a cake. There were a few computers set up, some ramshackle rooms, and a young guy sitting behind one of the computers. He lifted his head to us and nodded ever so slightly. “What up?” is all he said.
I stood back, quietly observing everything. After chatting for a few minutes with the guy, John rummaged around the space seeming to look for something; we said our good-byes and hurried to get back to school. Along the way I asked, “What was that all about?”
John – I told Amy we were a group of friends trying to establish a space where we could support each other and stay creative after college. She was good-natured about the whole trip, but I don’t think we talked much about it afterwards. I realized after the fact that I never really explained to her why I showed her this part of my life. I often wondered what she thought of this excursion.
Amy – I stayed in grad school and John left after two semesters. We stayed in touch over the years, and eventually met up again; the rest is history. That building on Arch Street became Space 1026, a hub for young creative minds in Philadelphia’s rich contemporary art scene.
John – I realized that my education was being forged outside of formal academia. My involvement with Space 1026 occupied more of my time and attention. I stayed in touch with Amy because I saw someone who had a powerful vision in her work, and who demonstrated a deep level of commitment, concentration, and determination to bring her ideas to life. A few years after I left grad school, I started my own gallery, 1Pixel. I was organizing shows, so I stopped by her studio during her last summer of grad school and left her a note to call me.
When we met up I was fascinated with the way she carried herself and loved watching her talk about the smallest details of grad school. She was so intense with her work, and I admired her efforts and the results. Instead of just going out for a bite to eat at the mall like we had planned, I “hijacked” Amy for several hours.
Amy – Almost 10 years later, those glimpses from our past inform who we are as individuals and as a couple. They say opposites attract, and that holds true for us. My husband is forever the promoter, always scheming and plotting. He’s a dreamer who loves to have multiple projects going on at the same time. I am the introvert, head in the books and too serious for my own good. I focus on one idea and work at it until I’ve exhausted all its possibilities.
We’ve balanced each other out. John has learned to appreciate setting goals and seeing something through to completion. He’s worked diligently for years on the book, Big Kids / Little Kids, based on the contemporary art scene in Philadelphia, which became a reality this year. I have recognized the importance of taking more risks. I am now actively participating in the art world I used to only observe and read about.
Education was the point of intersection in how we came together as a couple. Our roots are grounded in the same principle: that learning and being open-minded are important to our growth and development. Our approaches are often the polar opposite, but after much heated debate, we realize we’re on the same page.