written by Julian Rankin | photography by Frank Farmer
As a child in Jackson, Leslie Galloway’s family physician was Dr. Virgil Isaac Aultman, whose office sits on Old Canton Road beside Cups Espresso Cafe. Both Galloway and Ian Hanson remember that doctor’s office and coffee shop as a few of the only things that are still the same in Fondren. Everywhere else in the neighborhood, small businesses, new restaurants, music venues and creative enterprises have sprung up. When Galloway graduated with a degree in graphic design from Delta State University in 2008, she, like Hanson, returned home. After living in the suburbs of metro Jackson for a few years, she rediscovered, with Hanson’s help, the dynamism of the growing community. “Ian invited me to hang out in Fondren a few times and within a year, I had a whole new library of friends,” she says.
These chefs and songwriters and business owners and free-thinkers compose the couple’s core groups of friends and collaborators. The artist community in Jackson is built on relationships. Before Galloway and Hanson were business partners at Midcity Print, they were colleagues at a local design agency. Hanson went to work for Kalalou and Galloway moved on to join the team at A Plus Signs and Creative, another innovative, artist-run Fondren business. She has been an integral part of Priced to Move and Figment Jackson, and she now works as artistic director at Ridgeland clothing company Libby Story.
At her day job at Libby Story, Galloway works with a photographer who came to Jackson from New York City. On a recent photo shoot, they took a trip to Midtown, using locations off the beaten path (like the DJ-run comic book store and all around good-time-place, appropriately dubbed Off Beat). “The photographer was interested in growing industrial neighborhoods,” says Galloway. “She was all about shooting in Midtown. There’s beauty in the area. And that’s why it’s cool to have people from those larger cities come because they see things like the food culture and coffee shops and murals and Fondren After 5.”
Her days are filled with inspiration and artistic activity. From the time she wakes at her Fondren home, Galloway is making lists, prioritizing, priming for the brain activity needed to consistently churn out new ideas. Once this creative process beings, the momentum builds. “When I’m at work, I’ll be researching a poster for Libby Story and in that search, come across something inspiring that I want to try out in a screen print,” she says. “I see those types of things throughout the day and after work I get a chance to try them out in the studio.”
Midcity Print is many things. Part business, part passion project. For Galloway, it is also a refuge, a place to let loose her creative notions in a space free of constraints and critics. “In a design job, so much of what you create is a cog in a big wheel, in a brand,” says Galloway. “This,” she says of the print shop, “is people literally buying a bit of you – less about the money and more about the fact that someone actually likes it. That’s what’s rewarding about having a creative lifestyle outside of work. I’m doing this because I want people to understand.”
The tension of working in a creative job with bottom-line business expectations is summed up by the parable of the pig bowl. Galloway laughs as she begins to tell me the story, which involves Ian Hanson’s first week working at Kalalou. Hanson jumps in mid-story to narrate. “When I started the job, my supervisor and I sat down and talked through all the things I’d be working on,” he says. “What it came down to is that I have the liberty to design to coolest lighting or chair or whatever it is that I can possibly imagine. But at some point in the day we have to keep in mind that one of our best selling products is a bowl shaped like a pig.”
“Every job has its cherry projects,” adds Galloway, smiling. “But every job also has its pig bowl. They’re still pretty little things but it’s not necessarily what you want to do creatively.”
On the wall in Midcity Print are dozens of hand-produced posters. Work from Galloway and Hanson and the others hang together, side-by-side, in perpetual conversation. There are years of them, and they continue to build. Many of them are promoting or commemorating local album releases and bands and art shows and community events, a tangible record of all the creative work being done here by so many.
“There’s no problem with being somebody who punches numbers all day and gets a paycheck and goes home,” reflects Leslie Galloway. “That’s just a type of person. But that’s not the type of people that we are. I can’t understand, for myself, not having the ability to create.”
See “Screen Play: Ian Hanson” here