500X Alumna Interview: Mirka Hokkanen
500X: Tell us a little about yourself. What is your artistic background?
MH: I got my MA and MFA at University of Dallas, which is how I got involved with 500X. My concentration was in printmaking and after graduation I’ve shown work steadily in galleries, taught printmaking, organized community events and curated exhibitions. In the recent years, I have gotten into children’s book illustration, with my first book coming out March 15th, 2019.
500X: What years were you a member of 500X?
MH: I was a member for 2 years, I believe it was 2004-2006
500X: Were you ever a 500X officer? If so, what position(s)?
MH: I honestly don’t remember anymore, I believe I was on some sort of exhibition organization committee. I think we all took turns doing a lot of the work, I remember painting, hanging, gallery sitting.
500X: Who were some of the other members with you?
MH: Eric Tosten, Veronica DeAnda, Garland Fielder, Tara Welch, Sarah English, Simeen Ishaque, Brad Whering, Jim Burton, Jen Rose, Tina Medina. There were more, since there was always a turnover.
500X: Tell us about your time at 500X. What was it like?
MH: It was so much fun. We were all really young, some in graduate school and some recently graduated. Everyone was pretty serious (with a bit of rosy colored glasses perhaps), and trying to figure out how we fit into the art world. Or maybe it was that we were serious artists, but didn’t take ourselves too seriously. It was also really neat, that our works were all very different from each other. Our meetings were laid back, and as far as I remember we all got along really well. I remember Jim would bring his Aussie dog to the meetings and we would play Frisbee by the grass strip by the dock. We saw each other outside of gallery activities too and supported each other. Our receptions were well attended, and we took turns hosting, when it was our turn to show. I had one of my receptions with Sarah English and Eric Tosten (pic attached). It was a really fun group of people, and I still keep up with many of my friends from that time.
500X: Do you have a favorite moment from your membership?
MH: I don’t know if I can remember a single defining moment. Maybe a fun memory is playing with Jim’s dog at the meetings. Or maybe resurfacing and painting the gallery as a group. We did that one time, and it was a lot of work, but fun since we did it all together.
500X: What do you think you gained from being a 500X member?
MH: Most importantly, I gained the friendships that lasted all these years. Second, I gained a good understanding on how a gallery is run, what needs to happen behind the scenes, and how hard it can be.
500X: How has 500X impacted your career as an artist?
MH: I think it helped me become a more mature and professional artist – preparing and hanging work and being responsible for exhibitions outside of school. I also went on to being members of two other co-ops a few years later.
500X: Is there anything you'd like to add about your experience of being a member?
MH: I think one of the really neat things about the work being shown at the gallery back then, was that it was all really fresh. We were all still young and full of ideals. Many of us were still experimenting with materials and subject matter. It was before we all really established in our ruts. (I mean that in a good way!) I hope that the gallery still has that advantage today, over more commercial galleries.