Be Kind Gallery 101 Cultivates a Caring and Inclusive Community for Creatives
Viewed from different lenses, a single work of art can tell innumerable stories.
Art possesses a singular ability to speak to different people in different ways, and that is part of its power. That being said, there is also great power in an artist’s intent, in the often deeply personal message they seek to share. At Be Kind Gallery 101, both interpretation and intent are given space, thus creating an atmosphere where creativity, conversations, and connections thrive.
Be Kind Gallery 101 was founded by Stability X, an artist and veteran who sustained traumatic brain injuries after jumping out of airplanes during her service in the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina. When she decided to leave the military so she could better care for her daughter, X was met with little support.
“I sustained multiple traumatic brain injuries doing those jumps and decided, as a single mother, that I needed to stop so that I could have some cognitive abilities to take care of my daughter,” X said.
“She is, overall, top mission. I needed to do what was best at that time for my health and for my daughter’s safety. I did not get a positive reaction from my leadership when I made that decision. I could no longer perform human resources work, which had been my job for nine years, to the best of my abilities because traumatic brain injuries affect your executive functioning skills. I ended up getting disability compensation, but it wasn’t enough to take care of my daughter and me.”
X started a stationery notebook company to bring in some more income but discovered that the burnout resulting from being an entrepreneur with brain trauma made the situation untenable.
In addition to dealing with financial struggles due to lack of support, X was also dealing with isolation.
“When you’re in the military, you’re part of a team of soldiers,” she remarked.
“You are rarely isolated. When you’re a veteran out in the community, if you’re not with a company that has six or seven other employees in your immediate vicinity, you can feel immediately isolated… What I want people to understand about veterans, especially those recovering from injuries, is that it’s important
to reach out. Talk to them, ask them about their journeys, and see how you can help introduce them to different resources and organizations.”
These experiences, paired with X’s long-standing love of and talent for art, led her to open Be Kind Gallery 101 in March. She currently invests her disability compensation into the gallery, and her ultimate goal is to attain 501(c)(3) status.
“I wanted people to know that I was trying,” she said of her decision to open the gallery. “I wanted to say, ‘This is how I’m trying. Come in and ask me questions, and let’s talk about it.
See how I’m still working.’ Veterans who are injured don’t get enough compensation nine times out of ten, and they still have to work. This is how I choose to work.”
X and her partner, John Rose, are both artists with unique styles. Rose likes to incorporate found objects that are often perceived as trash, such as empty beer cans, into his art, thus giving them new life. “I feel like I’m still discovering myself as an artist, and I feel like you always need to be open to evolving as an artist,” he noted. “It’s an ongoing process.”
X is a mixed-media artist. “Including pictures that are already made can give more of a story to a piece and inspire more conversation about a piece,” she said. “I enjoy doing the ‘unordinary’ when it comes to art. Often when you go into galleries—to this day—you’re just seeing paintings. I want the mixed-media niche to expand.”
In addition to showcasing a wide array of styles and mediums, Be Kind Gallery 101 invites artists of all skill levels to share and sell their work as space allows. “I want to bring awareness that this is a space that’s not going to say, ‘We’ll consider your work when we do another exhibition,’” X noted. “Bring in your work, and as long as we have the wall space, we will hang it up.”
Providing a safe and welcoming space for artists to share their stories through their work and for visitors to browse, talk, and shop is the gallery’s primary mission. Rose says that he “would like to help people find confidence in who they are as artists and as people,” and X hopes that coming to the gallery will provide people with a sense of refuge.
“Coming into this space is a break from what’s going on out there,” she remarked. “There is so much consumption and consumerism. You don’t have to buy anything when you come in here. You can just look and explore. I think we need more spaces like this where you don’t feel pressured. Giving that refuge is so rewarding to me, as is having people ask questions about the art.”
X can personally attest to the triple-fold power of creating, sharing, and talking to others about one’s own art. One of her pieces took 18 hours to create. “Every hour that I spent making it, I knew that it was helping me to get it all out and not keep it bottled up,” she said. “I want my art to get me in good trouble.”
With its intentional and inclusive approach, Be Kind Gallery 101 is undoubtedly fostering invaluable connection and bringing much-needed awareness to talented local artists.
“I want people to know more artists the way that we know Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber,” said X. “We need to know painters and sculptors. Our experiences need to be shared and spoken about.”
Whether you choose to enter the gallery as a storyteller or an interpreter, you will likely empower others to share their stories. Together, our stories paint a beautiful picture—or perhaps, more accurately, create a dynamic and powerful mixed-media piece.