In December 2020, on the outskirts of Morgantown, WV, artist and curator Eli Pollard was knee-deep in dust and dirt renovating a small space in a 100-year-old building. His plan, as the pandemic raged, was to open an artistic space.
“It was just about Christmas time. And I thought, ‘How foolish would it be to open a gallery right after Christmas,’” Pollard jokes. He did just that, filling the expanse with works from around the globe. Thus Galactic Panther was born.
More than 200 miles away in Old Town, Alexandria, his friend Erik Muendel, a zealous collector of Pollard’s art, was draping the walls of the recently acquired ESP Tea & Coffee with several of his would-be business partner’s prized pieces. Then, a chance encounter with a patron sparked the idea to open a sister gallery in the Northern Virginia town. Fast forward to August 6, 2021: the day Galactic Panther opened its maiden exhibit, infusing some edge into the quaint neighborhood.
Pollard, who teaches in the University of West Virginia’s design department — instructing students in fashion design, interior design and landscape architecture — drew from his adeptness for using free word association to conjure band names, songs and album titles and his experience as a multi-disciplinary artist to manifest the name.
“My primary art form is painting, printmaking and drawing two-dimensional, visual artwork,” Pollard explains. “I’ve also worked in three-dimensional realms and done a lot with video, animation, short film [and] acting. And I’d never call myself a musician by any stretch of the imagination. [Though], I love the creative process that goes into [music] as much as visual work.”
He also used his interest in hypnotherapy as inspiration.
“[The name is] inspired by some things that are almost seen as sci-fi,” Pollard says. “It’s got a metaphysical bend to it. I wanted a name that references something much larger than society, so I made it galactic.”
Galactic Panther is a name equally befitting the nether reaches of the mind artists often tap into to access their unique genius, the funky, kaleidoscopic, and otherworldly artworks scattered throughout its space and the expansive community of creatives this iteration of the gallery is building in Alexandria.
Pollard describes the space as an “international contemporary art gallery,” that currently houses contemporary art from local, regional, national and international artists — from countries as far-flung as the Philippines, New Zealand and Denmark. The works are also a vehicle through which Pollard can share his love of travel — listing Italy, the Czech Republic and Costa Rica among his favorite destinations — and enable the community to “enjoy international culture from home,” an experience that’s been stifled by the prolonged pandemic.
Galactic Panther also is intensely committed to empowering local creatives on multiple levels.
“We’re giving space to local creatives to not only show their artwork but to share their other talents,” Pollard emphasizes, noting they frequently host comedy nights on Wednesdays and Fridays, a featured musician on Saturdays and open mics on Sundays.
Galactic Panther also offers artist-run workshops on weekends, including their take on the classic sip and paint: “Gather, Drink, Create.”
The gallery’s current exhibit, “Presence,” billed as a contemporary art show, runs through early December. Pollard notes that the themes for “Presence,” include “the presence of the human form, the presence of energy from beyond the veil and the presence of cultural curiosity and exploration.”
Galactic Panther: 1303 King St. Alexandria, VA.