Curt Barnickel started collecting Shepard Fairey screen-print posters about 10 years ago. Fairey is best know for his “Obey” images and Obama “Hope” posters.
Since then, he has expanded his collection from screen printing to concert posters, records and apparel printing and stickers—enough to fill up a gallery, Agent Ink, on Fifth Street in Santa Rosa.
After owning and operating a marketing company in downtown Santa Rosa for four years, Barnickel decided that the end of his building’s lease was a sign to finally pursue his dream of running a screen-print gallery.
“It’s really been a passion of mine to open up a gallery that’s a little bit different than what most people are used to,” Barnickel says. “I feature screen prints, so that’s a little different from what Santa Rosa is used to. I think of myself as more of a Haight-Ashbury slash Berkeley type of gallery than a fine-art gallery.”
Agent Ink features everything from screen-printed apparel, records, skateboard decks, rock-art posters and enamel stickers to collectible vinyl dolls.
“I wanted to hit every demographic, so we also have onesies,” says Barnickel. “We’re trying to get the families in here.
“The screen-printing thing,” he continues, “is a big focus. All the apparel is screen-printed as well. Everything is screen-printed, even the covers for the records we sell are screen-printed by local artists.”
After a soft opening in March, Agent Ink officially opened its doors on May 13. “Our grand opening was very successful,” Barnickel says. “We probably had around 150 or 200 people in here that night, which was way more than I ever could’ve imagined.”
Barnickel says the gallery sees increased foot traffic due to the new Old Courthouse Square and Wednesday Night Market–goers. “I really like downtown Santa Rosa,” he says. “I wouldn’t open a gallery anywhere else.”
Barnickel says downtown Santa Rosa is perfect for his gallery.
“I think my art is more for 25-to-45-year-old-type people,” he says. “I think Montgomery Village is a little old; Railroad Square has too many high-end galleries. I’m not really a high-end gallery. What I go for is art for everybody. ‘Art for everyone’ is one of my taglines. You can come in here with $15 and buy something, or you can come in here with $1,000 and buy something.”
Barnickel’s favorite part about Agent Ink is that it allows him to show the community a glimpse into the history of screen-printing.
“It’s not only a gallery; it’s going to be more of an educational center, where I’ll have people out here actually doing the screen print process so people can see what it takes to actually create one of these posters.
“I’m just passionate about the art, and I’ve always wanted to let other people know about it.”