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Inchoate Art Gallery: More than a venue

Cierra Oliveira // Contributor

Connor Cahill, the drummer for Comma Sutra, checks out the VHS playing on the old-style TV before his set.

Beside a small overpass in west Greenville, down past The Anchorage restaurant, you’ll find Inchoate Art Gallery. 

“That’ll be $10, which, hey, includes the cost of your first drink,” Thaddeus says, the first man you’ll meet coming in from the back entrance to the gallery/venue/bar at 46 Lois Avenue.

Stay chatting for another minute while you wait for your friends to arrive and you’ll learn Thaddeus Inchoate is the owner. Local Rattlesnakeart magazines stand stacked beside the cash register, while piles of pins and stickers of artists currently hanging in the gallery, or formerly on show, flank either side. If there is space for work to hang, it is actively being hung, with a label and price tag to boot. 

“That $10 goes toward the bands and your beer and the artist’s submission fee,” Thaddeus adds, ringing you up and grabbing you that first beer. 

“Some places charge artists they’re sourcing work from to even send in their stuff,” he continues. “I used to run a gallery back in South Florida, asked all the artists there what I could do better. They said don’t charge for submission fees to look at their portfolio and select their work, and don’t charge hanging fees. So I don’t. That’s what the cover is for. The drink is in there too, and the rest goes toward overhead.” 

By now your friends have started arriving, as well as a handful of other relatively familiar faces — folks that are just as likely to be part of a show as to attend one. Look, there’s Leah Smolin, from Rattlesnake’s pop-up gallery-instillation “Candy Machine.” She worked on it over on Augusta Street next to the Planet Smoothie. Now that you think of it, when you were there the other night, wasn’t Thaddeus that boisterous, bearded guy roaming around the gallery? He was especially memorable with those knuckle tattoos. You couldn’t read them then, but now, as Thaddeus is handing you your IPA, it’s clear that his right-hand reads “I N C H,” his left “O A T E.” Propped up against the bar, he makes his parting, smiling remarks as you make ready to leave towards the soon-to-start show. 

“Collaboration beats competition every time, you know,” Thaddeus closes. “We can make something bigger together than what we are as individuals.”

Walking from the bar to the hallway, past the walls on the doorframe already saturated with local art, you get a view to your left of the neon-purple, sticker-plastered bathroom.

“I don’t charge submission fees,” says Thaddeus to the next customer behind you. “I’m trying to get a dedicated area for artists’ prints here soon.”

Look ahead of you at the ever-present rack of gallery T-shirts for sale, and a short jaunt with beer in hand takes you to the right where the showroom/performance area is now filling with strangers and musicians and friends and every overlap on the Greenville Venn diagram those circles might meet at.

Cierra Oliveira photographs her boyfriend Connor Cahill, the drummer for one of the bands you came here to see tonight, Comma Sutra, in front of the old VHS-playing box TV that Pearson Parham, the frontman/songwriter for Quality Time, brought for his solo-set opener. “Scream 2” plays to scrolling, horizontal lines and campy silence while acoustic renditions of Parham’s songs fill the space and rebound off the surrounding art.

One artist’s hanging work is certainly no stranger to these songs: Joseph Smolin, @artoon.dreams on Instagram, has had a floor-to-ceiling mural gracing the wall of Parham’s Quality Time Studio for months now. Here, artists’ works live in constant conversation with each other, happening at all points in the background, but you can tune into this visual gabfest too if you stop by to listen in a sense.

Charles McGuinn, an avid local concert attendee, taps you on the shoulder and points to the table that the box TV is resting on, gesturing to the paper and color pencils surrounded by scraps of previous patrons’ sketches. “Dude, do you think anyone would mind if I used these?” he asks. They put these here for that exact question. Sit down, draw something, by all means. Parham’s set is the perfect inspiration for some mushrooms that bear his same signature mustache. 

Now that you’re thinking about it, the vocals in here are pretty good, to say nothing of the strobing LED atmosphere and speaker placement; the singer’s sound-quality is fantastic. Who’s on sound tonight? Usually, it’s Thaddeus running both the PA system and the bar, bouncing back and forth between soundcheck and collecting the cover charge, but tonight it’s Max Franks, a freelance sound engineer, show-booker and community fixture. 

“It’s not every night I’m here, but I’ll come by on occasion,” Franks says. “We’re hoping to get some more metal-leaning and noise shows here in the future. I’ll definitely be running sound for that.”

The lights are dim, the acoustic guitar fades out to applause after giving its gift of long loved standards — “Let Go” is made achingly sincere in this subdued rendition. Before the band takes their places, the new bassist for Comma Sutra, Stephen Wright, can be heard talking about the last show he played here with his Clemson-based, Midwest emo band, Sitris. 

“We were there with a touring band at the time, so we gave our cut of the payout to them to help with their gas and all,” Wright says, adjusting his red skullcap beanie, the strobing kaleidoscope of lights filtering through his Miller Highlife bottle before it’s his turn to take the stage. “Love the sound here for sure,” says Wright. “Eva (lead singer for Sitiris) came through great last time. I bet it’s gonna work with Sam’s howls tonight.”

It’s Comma Sutra’s first time playing here, which is no surprise, considering Inchoate celebrated just its first year open last October. With the world finally moving again, the stage is set for this venue in west Greenville to flourish. The lights are changing. Your friend Sam Hobson is taking his place behind the keyboard. You think about buying a Rattlesnake when you close your tab, but for now, it’s time to bob your head and enjoy the show. 

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