Supporting Art and the Environment with G2 Gallery’s Jolene Hanson

July 11, 2011

Jolene Hanson’s educational and professional background in photography made her a natural fit at the Los Angeles-based G2 Gallery. Hanson herself aimed to be a National Geographic photographer before her schooling turned her focus toward curating. Now, curating and directing at G2, she has come full circle, exhibiting a number of National Geographic and earth-focused collections. Simply put, the gallery’s mission is, “supporting art and the environment.” Following each exhibition, the gallery donates all proceeds to environmental charities and causes, including California-based Heal the Bay, the Ballona Wetlands and Audubon California. Beyond the art’s environmental focus, the gallery itself tries to conserve whenever possible, including installing bamboo flooring and using no-VOC paint each time the walls are redone for a show. “It’s been an evolution process at the gallery,” Hanson says. “We look at environmental issues or concepts that we want to address, we look at our organizations that we’re working with and we try to match things up. Once that perfect fit happens, it really works.”

Transcription

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to Green is Good, and we’re so lucky and honored today to have Jolene Hanson with us. She’s the Director and Curator of the G2 Gallery in Venice, California, which is a green art space dedicated to the focus on contemporary nature and wildlife photography. Welcome to Green is Good, Jolene Hanson. JOLENE HANSON: Thank you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Jolene, what we love to do with great people like you in the beginning is for you to share the journey with our listeners. It’s better for you, instead of us to read your bio, it’s better for you to share the journey of how you came to Venice, how you came to be the curator of this wonderful gallery, and how you operate the gallery. Talk a little bit about your beginnings the journey there. JOLENE HANSON: Absolutely. When I was young and pursuing college, my personal dream was to pursue photography and possibly become one of those National Geographic photographers. Through my education, I took a number of turns, and realized that wasn’t the direction I really wanted to go. I ended up graduating with an associate’s degree in photography, a bachelor’s degree in art education, and from there went directly into managing a photography studio. I did that for a number of years, and evolved into running a non-profit arts organization in Vermont, and did that for a few years. I really realized that management was something I was strong in, and my interest in photography and art as a whole was an area that I wanted to focus that management strength. I moved to Los Angeles. You can’t fight the weather here, coming from the East Coast. Fortunately, I found Dan and Susan Gottlieb, who are the owners of the G2 Gallery, which I currently curate and direct. I met with them for a few interviews, and obtained this position. What we do here at G2 is we exhibit photography by National Geographic photographers, as well as other nature and wildlife photographers, both locally and internationally. Our mission here is supporting art and the environment. Through exhibitions, we actually give back to the environment. Our proceeds that we retain after paying the artists for sales of their work, we donate all of the proceeds back to environmental charities. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. Is this a paradigm that you had seen somewhere else nationally, or is this a brand new paradigm that you’re creating with regards to art and the environment? JOLENE HANSON: It is something that we have yet to find someone else who’s doing what we’re doing. We are owned by a couple, Dan and Susan Gottlieb. Dan is a hobbyist photographer, and Susan is an environmentalist. When they vacation, they always go to beautiful landscapes and Dan takes pictures. That’s somewhat of their passion, is that photography element with the environment. They, through a series of conversations, decided to open the G2 Gallery as a venue to exhibit photography, specifically landscape or wildlife photography, animal photography, because that’s something that they’re both very, very interested in and Dan really felt that it was imperative to utilize the facility both as an education and community type of center for people to come and see this work, and also to give back to that environmental community, to help continue in feeding our environment, really, and creating awareness as to our environment. That led to us deciding to donate all of our proceeds. MIKE BRADY: Jolene, just a quick question. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Is this the same Dan Gottlieb that was the Deputy DA for the county? JOLENE HANSON: Yes, it is. MIKE BRADY: You’re kidding. JOLENE HANSON: No. That is the same Dan Gottlieb, yes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. For our listeners out there, Mike and I are on your website right now. Talk about art, your website is just gorgeous. If you’ve got your iPad or your laptop or you’re in front of your desktop, go to see Jolene’s beautiful website. It’s theg2gallery.com. It’s a beautiful website. Really, it’s a piece of art itself. Talk a little bit about, Jolene, the environmental causes that specifically you and the Gottliebs are interested in and that you’re supporting and promoting. JOLENE HANSON: Absolutely. There are a number of environmental causes, and there are a number of ways that we work with them. Locally here, we work with Heal the Bay, the Ballona Wetlands, and Audubon California. We really feel it’s important to bring in that local element, and we do that through a number of things from partnering exhibits. Currently, we have an exhibit, Ocean Wild, with photography by Brian Skerry, who’s a world-renowned National Geographic underwater exhibit. We partnered with Heal the Bay, so any events that we host throughout the duration of the exhibit, we ask admission and we completely give that admission back to Heal the Bay, as well as any proceeds from the sales from the exhibit, we will be donating back to Heal the Bay. That’s a great example of locally. In addition to that, we work both nationally and internationally. We work with Earth Justice, the Sierra Club, Conservation International, and so many more. To plug the website, we have a page on our website called We Support, and that shows you a number of the organizations that we do support and links directly to them. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Again, for our listeners out there that have their iPad, laptop, in front of their desktop, go right now. It’s www.theg2gallery.com. Mike and I are on it right now. We both have our separate electronic devices in front of us as we’re speaking with you, Jolene, and this is just beautiful. Showing the pieces of art, it makes the website itself just almost a beautiful frame for the art that you’re exhibiting there. JOLENE HANSON: Well, thank you. We are fortunate. We have phenomenal artists that we represent. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Given what you’re doing in your mission, I’m still fascinated by this paradigm. Are other art galleries contacting you and saying, “Hey, we want to replicate this, or at least some of it.” Is it now a paradigm with regards to the environment and the art community that others are going to replicate, you believe? JOLENE HANSON: I’m not sure on the replication. I will say there was one woman from the East Coast who was looking into building something similar, not completely identical, but similar. I’ve done a lot of research looking for other people doing what we’re doing, and we are a unique venue. Nature and wildlife photography is a unique niche within photography, and it’s not typically exhibited in the “gallery world,” so one of the great pleasures that we have is we’re able to offer photographers exhibits that really, other than possibly natural history museums, they don’t get those opportunities. It’s really exciting. It creates a new venue for viewers to come and see a different type of art, and it also creates a venue for artists to really push some of their own projects through photography. JOHN SHEGERIAN: As you said earlier, the G2 Gallery donates all the proceeds from art sales to environmental causes. What I’m seeing here on the website, and I just want our listeners to hear this who don’t have their electronic device open in front of them, donations since opening on March 8, 2008 are $512,454. Is that the real number, Jolene? JOLENE HANSON: That is the real number. That includes a number of things, the art sales as well as fundraising efforts. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Unbelievable. Mike and I are just so pleased. This is just such a brand new paradigm shift in the art and the environment, that we’re just so pleased to be able to help showcase this wonderful concept and your wonderful gallery. Is there also any online sales? Remember, we have listeners in China, Korea, U.K., France, all around the world, that listen on iTunes every week and we get e-mails. Is there any way for them to buy some of the beautiful art that you have and photography online? JOLENE HANSON: Yes. The best way to do it, it’s not typical click-through and give your credit card online, but if you go to our exhibits tab, it will give you a submenu, which has artists. You can click on that tab and you can go through our artists and literally e-mail and I believe it has their e-mail address on the bottom of every page, which is info@theg2gallery.com. Just e-mail in, “I saw this artist’s work. I’d like to order it,” and our sales director will take care of you and get that purchased for you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. Let me ask you this question. Besides the amazing amount of money, the huge sum of money that we just discussed that you’ve already donated, that the gallery has donated, $512,000 in just a little over three years, what other types of greening does the gallery do? What other types of green DNA does your wonderful gallery have? JOLENE HANSON: That’s a great question. There’s a number of things. When we purchased the building, we went through a minor renovation project. There was old carpeting and things that we had to take care of. When we went through that process, as we moved step by step, we really tried to think about what’s the most sustainable material, what’s the most ecologically friendly way to handle this situation? For example, we have bamboo floors, which I will plug the bamboo floors. They are amazing. I highly recommend people getting them. We have a lot of events and a lot of traffic, and they have held up. It’s phenomenal how well they’ve held up. We use all no-VOC paints, so the paints don’t have those VOC chemicals in them. They’re much more environmentally friendly for the environment. I will admit, we do paint a lot because exhibits change. We have to fix up the walls, and so that’s really important to us. In addition to that, we host a number of events here. Any events that are our own events, we utilize environmentally friendly products. If, for example, we need plates and cups and silverware, we use the wheatwear and the corn cups, and we try to keep that to a really environmental standard. Lastly, our housekeeping, we use green housekeeping, so all environmentally friendly materials for our green housekeeping. We also have joined two great organizations, the Arts Earth Partnership, which is a green art-related certificate program, basically, that’s really wonderful because it kind of has set a number of standards. When you go through the process, you’re forced to think about, “Wow, I need to do this. Wow, why aren’t we doing this?” It really kind of helps you hone in on the areas you’re not being as environmentally friendly as you could be and making those adjustments. The other one is the Green Chamber of Commerce, which is nationwide. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. Really, green and sustainability is really a DNA issue; it’s not just about the art, and it’s not just about the charitable contributions, but truly you guys are really, truly living it on a day-to-day basis. You’re walking the walk and talking the talk. JOLENE HANSON: That’s very true. My personal biggest pet peeve is no paper towels. I’ve forced every employee to get accustomed to it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Good for you. Talk a little bit about the challenges. We’ve talked about some of the amazing things you’re doing, but with every business and every new industry and every new paradigm that is created in this sustainability and green revolution, there’s challenges. Share with our listeners, Jolene, please, some of the great challenges you’ve faced in starting this gallery and scaling it and making it so successful. JOLENE HANSON: There are so many challenges, especially along the level of being green. When you’re looking at business, everyone has a bottom line, and there are certain budgets which we need to fit within. The challenges that we’ve faced, lighting has been a challenge, and I’m continuing to work forward on ways to solve that problem because being an art gallery, there’s a certain standard of lighting, which the LED lights haven’t quite met up to yet. We’re getting closer. That’s a great example of an area that we’re still actually working towards. We’ve changed all the lighting in all the non-exhibit areas, and we’re working towards changing all the lighting in the exhibit areas. That’s a perfect example of a challenge. Other areas, just in general, our events, when we’re having private events and other people are coming in, maintaining that standard and finding ways to assist others in complying with what we would like to happen in the gallery. Those are also challenges. Really, it’s a lot of teaching and adjusting. There are things that I personally have had to adjust to, and as humans, we create habits. It’s learning to slowly coax ourselves out of those habits and obtain new, better habits. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is really so true. Mike and I have learned that the last two-plus years, when we’ve been doing this show. All the greatest thought leaders and other types of business leaders that have been on the show have told us what a process this is for all of us. JOLENE HANSON: Yeah, it really is. Everyone has their own quirks and their own things that they like to do. We need to change in a very comfortable manner, so that it’s a positive change. MIKE BRADY: One of the things we want to do right now, too, is give you kudos on your site. Both John and I really have just been enjoying while we’re talking to you, Jolene, just looking through all of the different parts of your site. Especially, if you want to see those bamboo floors that you’re bragging about and just how good they look, take the virtual tour. As far as looking at the website, Jolene, the lighting looks awesome right now, even though LED has not gotten as far as it is going to go in the future, really, what a beautiful, open, and very airy and inviting gallery. JOLENE HANSON: Thank you. We were really fortunate when we purchased the building. It has a lot of natural light. We have skylights and we have really large windows that we’ve been able to cover with walls that still allow the light to come in. It’s one of those things that as we were renovating, we really thought about how do we keep this natural light and yet protect the art and create more wall surface? We are so fortunate. The building itself, the bones of the building, are just fabulous. It really gave us a great place to start to create this gallery. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What I would love to know, and I’m sure our listeners would also, I’m looking at your gorgeous website. Again, for our listeners, today we’re so honored and truly lucky to have Jolene Hanson, the Director and Curator of the G2 Gallery in Venice. Please go to her website, theg2gallery.com. Buy some art, support their cause, and support the environment and the whole sustainability revolution in that whole process. Listen, I’m sure the world of artists is just amazingly wide and diverse. How do you get to choose? How do you make those tough choices and determine the content of your exhibits? Because there’s only 365 days in a year. How many exhibits do you have, and how, then, do you choose the art for those exhibits? JOLENE HANSON: It is very hard. It’s been an evolution process for us here at the gallery. When Dan brought me on to the project, the first thing he said to me is, “I want the best National Geographic photographers.” So, the first thing I did was make a list. If I live forever, we might actually make it through that list. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Then we hope you do that. JOLENE HANSON: That was kind of where we started. In addition to that, we started receiving so much interest within our community, people who had stopped in and they know someone, so we put together a jury application process, which you can access on our website on our Contact page. It says, “For jury application, download here.” We do accept jury applications. I kind of have my dream list, and then I have my jury applications coming in. One of the things that I have to say kind of was amazing for me was about a year-and-a-half into the project, some of the jury applications coming in were people on my dream list. I was like, “Oh my gosh, these people want to come to me!” which was really exciting. It is very hard. The way that we really look at it is in two different groupings. We look at our environmental issues or concepts that we want to address. We look at our organizations that we’re working with, and we try to find ways to match things up. Once that perfect fit happens, it really works. For example, our current exhibit with Brian Skerry is a perfect fit with our local organization here, Heal the Bay. We had an exhibit a few months ago with a fellow whose name is Garth Lenz. The exhibit is titled Boreal Future, looking at the issues of the Boreal Forest and the tar sands in Canada. At the same time this year, Club Canada was really working on a campaign to educate people about what’s going on in that area. They both kind of fell into our lap at the same time. There’s that going on. We also have a series that we call Nature LA, which is Los Angeles County professionals working in personal projects in nature or wildlife. A lot of those come through our jury application process because, again, we’re getting those jury applications in, and they’re people locally. One of the wonderful things about Los Angeles is it’s a city filled with talent and passion, and throughout, we’ve been able to find phenomenal photographers and start putting together that series. It’s tough. We’re evolving in our calendar, but we have approximately 15 exhibit spots coming up next year, for example. There’s about 1,600 artists that I want to fill those spots with, so it is a tough process, which a lot of people, both Dan, Susan, and myself, the staff here, and other people from the outside that we work with get to have input on. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there, again, the G2 Gallery’s website, theg2gallery.com, is such a treat, Jolene. Mike and I are on it right now, and I’m just looking at some of your upcoming exhibits, the Poetry of Ice, Nature LA with the beautiful starfish highlighted. Looking at the exhibits that are coming up just makes Mike and I want to drive down and go there right now and also your past exhibits are on there. It’s such a beautiful compendium of all the hard work and wonderful work that you’re doing there. It’s just amazing. Unfortunately, we’re down to about the last three minutes or so, and I have a couple of last questions I want to get to because I know our listeners and Mike and I want to know, this is the hard one. Do you have a favorite exhibit that you’ve worked on? JOLENE HANSON: That’s almost impossible. There are a number of exhibits where the experiences in themselves were phenomenal. I worked with Robert Glenn Ketchum a couple years ago, putting together his retrospective exhibit. Robert is very involved in Bristol Bay in Alaska and involved in really saving land. That exhibit was phenomenal to work on. Recently, we did an exhibit with a fellow, Jack Dykinga, titled Native Lands. It was an exhibit to correlate with a National Geographic article that he had done, looking at native lands here in America and the return to original land use processes and applications, and how that’s making a difference in restoring our land. Those are just two. There are millions. What’s great about this job is every artist is phenomenal. They’re great to work with, and the work reflects it. It’s hard to pick favorites. Every artist is a new experience, and it’s like a new little enlightenment in life. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re down to the last minute-and-a-half or so. Give us two quick things, your favorite anecdote that shows how all the hard work you do really spreads the great environmental message that we’re trying to do here on Green is Good, and what are your plans for G2 in the future? More galleries, more exhibits? What’s next? JOLENE HANSON: You got it. Some of my favorite anecdotes is really simple, people walking into the building and saying, “Oh my God!” or “I had no idea.” Whenever I hear those ideas while I’m working in my office, it’s just like, “Yes, we hit. What we tried to do happened.” Those are things that really mean a lot to me. For the future, we have so much coming up. Next year in January, we’re going to be doing a big exhibit with Clyde Butcher, who, if you haven’t seen his work, we actually have a small exhibit, kind of a teaser, to pull people in, in our gallery. You can see that on the website. He works in Florida in the Everglades and uses traditional 8-by-10, 16-by-20 field cameras, and the work is phenomenal and very large-scale. There will be more Nature LA, and hopefully we’re going to be bringing in some more interactivity and possibly trying to travel some of the exhibits that we’ve hosted in the past. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. Jolene, you’re always welcome back here on Green is Good. Mike and I are in awe of all the great work you’re doing. Any time you want to share more of the message and all the other great things you’re working on over there at the G2 Gallery, you’re always welcome back here. For our listeners out there, one more time, please go and support theg2gallery.com. Jolene Hanson, you are Director, Curator, and an inspirational eco-preneur, and truly living proof that green is good.