The Way I Work... Guts Gallery Founder Ellie Pennick
Ellie Pennick is changing the art world. As a self-proclaimed “queer Northerner from a working-class background” in England, their mission is to empower underrepresented voices and champion the next generation of artists. And so they founded Guts Gallery – built on a belief that artists of colour, and those who are queer, working-class or struggling all deserve a spot in the elitist art world. “Art has the power to narrate stories, display diverse perspectives and spark dialogue and emotions that can inspire meaningful change,” they say. The gallery was named after the idea that it takes guts to transform the art world, and Pennick is doing just that.
They speak to artist, author and Service95 contributor Glenn Lutz (the inaugural artist-in-residence at their Guts Project space) about realising dreams, burnout and centring LGBTQIA+-identifying artists.
On Creating Guts Gallery… When I couldn’t afford the fees to accept a place at the Royal College of Art [in London], it made me reflect on the broader social austerity issues in the arts. That’s when I decided to start Guts, aiming to establish a fair art-business model focused on reforming inequality and providing support to emerging artists. My mission is to empower artists to demand the respect and ownership they rightfully deserve.
On Their Most Recent Exhibition… It was a group show of LGBTQIA+ identifying artists called Saints And Sinners. The exhibition explored what it means to be LGBTQIA+ today. As a queer person, this made me extremely proud.
On Their Morning Routine… It includes skipping breakfast (I’m working on changing that!), consuming too much coffee, catching up on the news, emailing and checking in with artists.
On Their Working Playlist… At Guts, I find music makes the whole experience more engaging and approachable, and we enjoy creating playlists for each exhibition. At the moment, I’m listening to: Sound And Vision by David Bowie; Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order; Are ‘Friends’ Electric? by Tubeway Army; Luxo Pesado by Fernanda Abreu and Hypnotic Tango by My Mine.
On Their Work Uniform… At Guts, all staff members can wear what they want to work. I like smart casual in the day, but I love to wear a suit at an opening – although it is a fine line between looking like Bette Porter from The L Word or a child in an oversized suit…
On Inspiring Films… I will forever have a deep appreciation for Ken Loach’s films – I, Daniel Blake perfectly encapsulates the British class system. Other must-watches are What Happened, Miss Simone? and Triangle Of Sadness. Each of these films has truly left a lasting impact on me, fuelling my commitment to principles of equality and compassion, and ensuring that those with less privilege are granted space.
On Inspiring Places… I travelled to New Orleans, Jacksonville and New York shortly before Trump came into office. The experience of encountering diverse regions and political ideologies right before his presidency was mindblowing.
On The Instagram Accounts To Follow… For funny posts: @freeze_magazine, @loveofhuns, @dj_fattony_, @jerrygogosian and @artreviewpower100. For the news: @aljazeeraenglish and @guardian. For all things queer: @pinknews and @them.
On The Best Career Advice They’ve Received… Read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
And The Worst… When I was going through burnout, the worst advice I got was to ‘keep pushing through’.
On Artists They Admire… Olivia Sterling, Elsa Rouy, Shadi Al-Atallah and Sophie Vallance Cantor are all artists that I champion. Their political engagement, passion, kindness, immense talent, honesty and dedication make my job truly fulfilling and worth every moment spent.
On What’s Next… Being in the position I am in right now is wild to me, especially considering that I am one of the few gallerists from a working-class background operating in a very upper-class industry. My ultimate goal is to persistently promote reform and change through the gallery’s ethos and hopefully witness others experiencing the positive impact of these changes.
On Their Alternative Career Path… Perhaps [I’d] run a queer sober bar, or be an MP, or work with charities!
Glenn Lutz is an author, artist and guest editor of Service95’s men’s mental health issue