Teamwork – Galleries and Their Artists

It started innocently enough. One of my Facebook friends, Catherine M Foster, an artist  in Poulsbo Washington, mused that she’d like to put together a list of the qualities of her dream art galleries. She wrote “I figure if I have 3-4 galleries like Dragonfire, I do not need anything more to make the kind of living I would like to receive from my artwork.”

And the discussion turned serious. Her friend Gayle said “…The key is support your galleries and work with people you trust and have integrity.”

Galleries are fighting to stay opened. Most have been hit with rising property taxes, utilities, rents (if they do not own), and tax liabilities. Many that have been in business 20+ years see what they’ve built up gradually slip sliding away. And they are trying to decide whether or not they want to stay opened and fight, or close up and retire. They are tired of shoring up, and don’t know what to expect in taxes, health care, utilities and their clients.

Many owners “get it” that technology should be their new BFF, but they can’t get the warm fuzzies thinking about it. Their inventory system is as technical as they want to get; and, that system probably took weeks to iron out the bugs.

So what DOES an artist do? A smart artist who is in galleries supports those galleries by promoting them to their collectors and potential buyers. When a gallery markets an exhibition and hosts an opening reception, a smart artist talks about it in his social media sites, website, and blog.

Peter Muzyka, painter of Vanishing Rural Georgia Art, recently had a show at The Point of Art Gallery in Union Point, Georgia. He provided a stack of detailed portfolios of the pieces in the exhibition to the Gallery. If a buyer did not purchase during the show, he had the information to contact the Gallery later for a piece.

Anne Jenkins, the owner of the Gallery, said that Peter had a complete inventory to give to her before the show, and that every painting was labeled correctly when he brought them for her to curate. He got word out to his clients and collectors about the show. His peeps were at the opening reception in strong numbers. He was punctual in bringing and picking up the art.

Peter understands he is part of a team when his work is at a gallery. He worked hard to make his show a success.  And gallery owners, if they were making a list of the qualities of a dream artist, would certainly tick off Peter’s qualities.

What’s With “Make the Arts Affordable”?

I haven’t been on my soapbox for a couple of days, but the more I think about this, the higher up it I climb… I recently got a notice from an arts organization (NOT in Georgia) calling artists to donate art works for a fund raiser for the group. The premise was new to me, so I was intrigued as I read the prospectus.

The organization has 200 8″ by 10″ stretched, numbered canvases. They are asking artists to come pick up one or more of the canvases and paint/make art on them; then return them, signed, to the organization. In the meantime, anyone who would like can come to the organization and buy numbers from 1 to 200. One number is $35; four numbers are $100.

The organization is proud to be able to “make the arts affordable” to everyone.. On a certain long weekend in a few months, all of the completed 8″ by 10″ numbered works will be hung in a public venue, with a closing reception to put the works into the numbered hands who purchased them.

Let’s lump over the part about how artists are very frequently asked to donate their work (most businesses nowadays are inundated for that sort of request, although artists seem to be on EVERY list) and think about this.

How can the art group believe an established, professional artist  and a lady who paints are contributing equally? From this seemingly “every piece of art is equal” mentality, I hear the art group saying something I paint is of the same value as something my artist friend Anne Jenkins or Margaret Warfield or R Sidney creates. And I’m loudly proclaiming IT IS NOT. If all four of us had contributed, my work’s number holder would go home without anything tangible to show for his/her money. And I believe that the works of Anne and Margaret and Ron should be priced accordingly. It is an insult to them to lump their work with mine.

I’m fortunate to have many friends on Facebook. I read how young professionals are out to eat, drinking fancy drinks, buying new shoes, and trying to keep up the rent, car and utilities payment. I get the impression that some of my friends want a pair of really cool shoes MORE than they want a piece of art for their great rooms. The question isn’t whether they perceive themselves as having the money; the question seems to be what they want MORE – shoes or art.

It’s past time to figure out what kind of art appeals to niche markets not buying traditional art products, then providing those products. My friends with the cool shoes have iPods full of songs they bought & downloaded from iTunes. They’re buying art… just not the same kind of art that has been on the market for years.