Kasum Contemporary Art
Kasum Contemporary Art is a gallery located in Oklahoma City's progressive Plaza District. Owned and run by Tony Morton, Kasum displays some of the most diverse and unique art in the state. I spent a morning over at Kasum taking in the amazing art and conversing with Tony about himself, the gallery and the industry. Check out what he had to say in this Q&A.
NC: Where does the name Kasum come from?
Tony: It's my family's last name on my father's side.
NC: How long has Kasum been in existence.
Tony: Going on 3 years now.
NC: Do you come from a family of artists?
Tony: Not really, I come from a family of people who were kind of connected to the arts in a way, they were in the publishing of magazines and various publications when I was younger. A lot of them were cultural publications.
NC: How did you get into art?
Tony: No, but I have been married to an artist for over 20 years and she's a co-owner of this gallery, she's my partner in this gallery and she's a pretty talented artist. I was a woodwright for many years and did custom furnishings but I'm not an artist. An artist for me is someone who has conceptual vision and can see something that doesn't exist and I've never had that. I've always had a real passion for it though.
NC: What medium does your wife practice in?
Tony: Predominitely in printmaking, her name is Stacey D. Miller. She's an oil painter as well.
NC: What led to Kasum?
Tony: I had been running other people's galleries for 12 years. Additionally my wife had as well and when the time came for an owner of a gallery I ran to retire I wasn't ready. So we took a big ballsy, bold risk and ponied up some of our own bones and decided that we were gonna do it. The Plaza seemed like a real natural fit. I wanted to separate us from Paseo (Paseo District) because a significant amount of the people over there showing are essentially part time artists, it's something that they pursue cautiously, or in their free time. I've never worked with those people. I've always worked with people who if had a 40 hour week job, they were in the studio or garage another 40 hours on top of that because they couldn't breathe without it.
So we were surrounded by examples of part time people, most people without even thinking about it tend to follow the majority and look at them as right. We needed to do something to separate the quality of artists that we were working with, from the mass majority of artists represented in that area. In addition this area (Plaza District) touches an eclectic variety of people in a way that the Paseo District does not, and it does it every day of the week.
NC: You've done a great job curating the work here, tell me a bit about what goes into that process.
Tony: The artists that we work with are career oriented artists and most of them are in at least 5 galleries that represent them on contract as their agent. A lot of them are in major cities such as NY, Chicago, LA, etc. and it's just the difference of time spent in the practice. A lot of the people we work with have something that makes them very, very unique. The abstract show that we have up right now, Stephen St. Clair is the guy who invented Dialuminism. Brian Allen is creating color changing acrylic paints, theses are people that do really progressive things.
NC: What was it that made you want to bring something like this to Oklahoma?
Tony: This is home and it felt like there is some much room to do something of this nature here. If you count up all of the art dealers in the state there's 10. There's so much room for growth and we're in Oklahoma at such a unique time when perceptions are changing at such an accelerated speed, there were a billion reasons to stay in Oklahoma. I like the people here, I pretty much everything about here but the weather.
NC: (Laughs) I don't think anyone would disagree about the weather comment. What do you see Kasum developing into, or what's the next five years look like for Kasum?
Tony: Oh, man! Five years out I hope we're in a position where we have enough of a patron base for the artist's that we represent so that we can take bigger risks inside this facility. A huge part of what I do is finding the people early that are fast growers in their careers, and more importantly fit our market place. If you look at our website you'll see that we have fifty plus artists and it is eclectic. It is from expressionism to abstract. There are some artists on there that are a real risk.
My wife and I would like to be able to take risks all of the time, but we do have to pay those bills so we have to be sure that it applies to our market. So I hope that five years out we're in a place where we have enough sustainability that we can take real big risks several times throughout the year to introduce people to things that otherwise they wouldn't see without traveling a thousand miles. Unless people are given the opportunity to appreciate them, they won't recognize that for themselves. Being that we are art for art's sake people, and that something that we deeply appreciate more opportunities to share with people here art that they wouldn't naturally come into contact with.
NC: Tony thank you for your time and we hope to continue seeing wonderful things from Kasum.