Although Kristina and Vadim Oss have only been in Detroit for a year, they've already managed to make an imprint on the city after taking over the former Inner State Gallery space.
The previous owners, 1xRUN, announced late last year that they were relocating their art print business and gallery to a new location near the Heidelberg Project after selling the building, originally purchased in 2013 for $400,000, to Vadim for $1.2 million.
The couple opened its own gallery, K. Oss Contemporary Art, on Feb. 2, with an exhibition by San Francisco filmmaker and artist Ronald Chase. The Osses, both students of Chase, say their vision for the gallery is to expose Detroiters to "different" art from around the world that has inspired them.
In their travels, the Osses say they have been exposed to their fair share of different art scenes from around the globe. Both originally from Russia, the couple met in Moscow and moved to the United States about four years ago, using it as a home base as they traveled to Latin America. In all, Vadim says he has traveled to more than 50 different countries in his lifetime.
Although the couple married in San Francisco, their most recent U.S. home was New York, which Vadim says Kristina was reluctant to leave. "It was basically a matter of convincing Kristina," Vadim says of the couple's move to Detroit. "I've been in real estate for 15 years, and it was always a side hobby that supported us while we were traveling. Detroit presented an incredible opportunity for growth. ... I enjoy getting some dilapidated place and making it beautiful."
Kristina says Detroit's art scene was another pull in moving to the city. "Many people started talking about Detroit in San Francisco," she says. "To be a part of the artistic movement here is very exciting."
Despite Detroit's rising national artistic profile, Vadim emphasizes that K. OSS is not concerned about locality. "It's not about being local. ... In Detroit, there's a certain mentality of 'Detroit vs. Everybody,' and it's kind of like a self-contained pot," says Vadim. "We wanted to bring something from the outside and expose this art which is a little different ... and see how the public reacts to that."
The Osses have certainly succeeded in bringing in something new, exhibiting Chase in Detroit for the first time in his nearly 60 years of working as an artist. But as far as public opinion, for some the gallery might exemplify an intrusion into neighborhoods that used to be affordable for most artists to live in. (The Osses have turned the upper levels of their gallery into luxury apartment rentals and an Airbnb.) After all, Detroit's is an art scene that can be distrustful of outsiders, and especially of those who can be perceived to be dismissive — recall the controversy that erupted when Brooklyn, New York's Galapagos Art Space announced it would set up shop in Detroit several years ago and declared, "You can't paint at night in your kitchen and hope to be a good artist."
Politics of gentrification aside, the gallery's Feb. 2 opening was attended by well more than 100 people, and will be followed up by a film screening on March 22. The screening will include six award-winning films by students of Ronald Chase's nonprofit San Francisco Art and Film Workshop.
K. Oss Contemporary Art will screen short films 8 p.m.-9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, at 1410 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 248-599-2232; kossgallery.com.