The “soup kitchen” is a brilliant idea by gallery owners Monika Wuhrer and Gary Baldwin. Each night in December, a different person signs up to cook a meal for approximately 15 -20 people to be served between 6 and 8pm every night in December until the 24th. Kind of like an advent calendar of food. Most of the dishes are a one-pot meal–either a soup or stew which can be served in bowls with bread on the side.
Mostly, people from the neighborhood or artist or musician friends sign up to cook, but occasionally there is the new person who sees the sign up sheet and is up for a challenge. The people who come vary from working class people to self-employed artists and occasionally a neighborhood person who is down on their luck or simply hungry.
This is my second year participating in the soup kitchen. The first year, I was uncomfortable with the concept. I didn’t like not knowing what would be served or worse, what time food would be ready. I missed the comfort and control of cooking in my own kitchen and making my favorite dishes. This year, however, I find myself looking forward to the time I can go over, and talking with whoever happens to be there. My daughter is free to run around with the other children and play while the adults “play” with the other adults talking and sharing a glass of wine. Sometimes, the chef will incorporate an artistic element to the evening, either displaying photographs on the stark, white gallery walls or reading a monologue from a play he or she has written.
Sometimes the conversation flows easily and sometimes not, but the food is nearly always tasty (it’s new York after all–we have standards!). I only wish that I knew what to do in January.
– Lily White

I love the gallery. The exhibits are always surprising and provoking, but for me the best is not what is hung (or painted) on the walls, but the way you have been able to make a connection between the gallery and the neighborhood, i.e. the community of people who know it and come again and again. Until this gallery I knew them only as dead spaces where one goes to drink wine and stand in front of objects and make small talk. Passive consuming. This gallery is alive. You dare to demand that the observer become involved, and shed preconceptions about what art is and what a gallery is for. The gallery is professional in the presentation and quality of the art, but you are also open to the amateur, like the evening you let me hang the Daimler pictures, and to totally crazy and brilliant uses such as the soup kitchen. I have to admit to approaching some of the things you put on with skepticism, but it invariably melts in the embrace of your enthusiasm, your openness and your appreciation of the unconventional.
In terms of how to finance it, I’m bad at that. That’s why I’ve always worked for a paycheck. But how about incorporating as a 501(c)(3), an “arts education center”, and getting people like me to do a monthly contribution of 20 or 30 bucks through transfer from my checking account to the gallery so I won’t notice it and I get a tax deduction? I’d gladly pay a “gallery tax” to help keep it going. Or how about an auction of pieces hustled from your artist acquaintances? I’d buy something if I knew the money was going to the gallery. I do want to support the gallery financially so it stays open and available to us, you just tell me how.
Conrad Lower

In July 2008, painter Jacob Ouillette and I decided to collaborate on his installation, Painted Space, at the Open Source Gallery. We have been friends since we were both Fellows at the Edward F. Albee Foundation in 2002. The play was conceived and written to evoke the aesthetic of Jacob’s work in the gallery, and was staged in the gallery itself and on the street in front of it. It was performed four times: twice at the opening on October 10th, and twice at the closing on November 15th.
Monika and Gary were not only accommodating (which isn’t always easy with a small staff) but incredibly enthusiastic about the process of mounting the play and the performances. It was particularly important to me for two reasons. First, though I’d lived in the neighborhood for a year and a half, I’d never worked here. I had tried to become involved with the local theatre and had been ignored. Second, though Jacob and I are friends and know each other’s work, we hadn’t worked together, nor had we working on a theatre piece as part of an installation before.
The actors, director, Jacob and I were very happy with the process and the results. Open Source is a great resource for artists that live (as I do) and work (as Jacob does) in the neighbor. Please feel free to contact me at the above if your have any further questions.
Anne Phelan

Open Source didn’t so much as open on 17th Street at 5th Avenue as it moved in. It’s small, square, and spare, and has become the quirky and — without trying — likable new neighbor. Several of the shows have featured local artists, but all of the works, just by virtue of being in the space, feel as though they belong locally — as though we all have some vested interest in them – in the space.
Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be a need to reflect or ruminate. Things happen. Period. For 24 days in December the lone show was a hotplate and a stockpot and every night from the first of December until Christmas Eve wonderfully steamy stews, soups, and gumbos fed anyone who was hungry and showed up. The competition to cook was mighty and behind the picture window stayed fogged with sweat and the scent of whatever bubbled in that night’s pot, the tables were full, and so were we all.
The rear projected film series beating against that same front window creates small ripples in the nightly foot traffic. Somebody is paused by the girl in the hoola hoop, there’s interest in the kids dancing through and around the space, and in teen digit weather, some primal thoughts of spring are tapped by the lady on the beach. It’s another show that lives and breaths, in this case its pixilated self. Inside, the vision plays itself out in reverse – the hula hoop now ricocheting off the girl’s hip to the left. A scattering of butts out front ratting out stragglers who check the exhibit in between smokes. Inside or out, it works.
Nancy Cross Shimmel