Recently Art Biz Blog did a post on "Why Artists Should Embrace Galleries" and there was a counterpoint on The Abundant Artist on "Why Artists Should Avoid Gallery Representation." I posted a rather long comment on Art Big Blog (and a shorter one on The Abundant Artist) in support of Art Galleries and felt that I should do a post on why I love the galleries that are representing my work.
I bounced around to different states for a while after graduating art school. I was working full-time and it was difficult to dig in and promote myself to galleries (or even have much stock), so the world of gallery representation is somewhat new to me in the past few years.
I landed here through some connections and applications. I was part of the original group that was accepted into this Gallery/Artist's Cooperative. It has been a long haul and we have shuffled members in and out and has been a great connection to the City of East Lansing. Gaining understanding what it's like having a local walk-in style gallery has been an eye-opener for all of us. Helping start up and run Grove Gallery has given me a huge appreciation for galleries and why we pay them a commission.
The major pros for Grove Gallery for me is that I am in there normally at least once a week. I can move work in and out of there as I please. I can even open it during closed hours by appointments or friend people in town visiting. The flexibility is wonderful and also, I have been there for over 5 years now so my clientele knows where I am.
Lansing Art Gallery
I ended up working with Lansing Art Gallery through my application for the Individual Artist's Grant. I have no idea why I was so nervous to contact LAG. The director is a pleasure to work with and her staff has been/are artists within the community. Although this Gallery is a mere 4 miles away from Grove Gallery, it gets the downtown "lunch crowd" and is just plain easier for some of my customers to pop in and get a pair of earrings or bracelet while buzzing between meetings.
The quality of exhibits that Lansing Art Gallery brings in it fantastic and they do a wonderful job holding events and working with artists. Their gallery shop is also filled with local art, of which everyone at the gallery can speak to or get in contact with the artist. Through LAG I have held an artist's talk about my grant project which included a trunk show of my stock that I had on hand. They have also sent beading repairs my way for their customers and I am a go-to instructor for their Girl Scouts jewelry-badge class.
This gallery approached me via email in the fall last year for their 2013 season. I was wary at first, but they had contacted me through my website saying that they were looking for Michigan artists and specifically what pieces they liked on my website. They were excellent at communicating and I checked out their website and noticed that they did (or had) represented a few fiber artists that I know. So I asked around and they sounded like a good gallery to work with. Glen Arbor is a hot summer vacation spot for Michiganders and Synchronicity is only open for that season May-October. I have never had my work in this area of the state before and I like that I'll have jewelry stock back in my hands just before holiday sales get rolling.
Upon driving up to deliver my work and meet the gallery owners in person, I walked in and had a flash back to some summer in middle or high school. I had been in this gallery before with my family and I remember being impressed and really enjoying the work. The owners were wonderful and we had a look around. I recognized some other Lansing artist's work there and am honored to be represented with such a high quality of artwork.
I entered 3 of my pieces into a juried show called Fibers577 this year and all three were accepted. The exhibition held at the 577 Foundation was only for a weekend, then the artists had the option to have their pieces move with the exhibit to Angelwood Gallery in Grand Rapids, OH. The owner of the Angelwood Gallery sent out a very detailed email to all of the artists, keeping us informed as to how the transfer of work would go, exhibit details and she mentioned that it would still be set up with other artwork with a price point for moving sales. I replied to her e-mail and offered that my beaded jewelry correlates to my 3-D work that would be in the show if she was interested I could send some more sell-able pieces along to her.
She was excited to have my work in her gallery via email and I did meet her at the private artist's reception for the Fibers577 show. I love meeting business owners who know the area and are extremely professional. The owner of Angelwood Gallery was on her game and I'm happy to be supplying my beadwork to her and plan on staying on as a jewelry artist with them.
As I typed out this blog, the most common theme for me being comfortable with working with any gallery or business is communication and organization. I have had a few situations that were lacking in these qualities, so I make sure to ask as many questions as possible before signing on and expect all of my questions to be answered if they want to represent my artwork. I also want to meet the owners and people selling my work, and it's fantastic that they're making it easy on me, by approaching me (I'm not as driven to set up meetings and schlep my work around, just to meet with someone who isn't interested or doesn't care to understand what I do).
I just swapped out some jewelry at the Lansing Art Gallery today with Sara. She organizes a lot with the gallery shop and gave me back pieces that were older, and kept some pieces that people had recently been interested in potentially purchasing. All of these galleries put in a lot of work to display my pieces, connect with me and their other artists. It's great to have my work out there for people to enjoy rather than sitting around at my studio, waiting for the next exhibit or booth. My jewelry in particular is meant to be tried on, touched and sparkle under the light of a display cabinet, not sitting in my jewelry box at home. I'm also happy to report that I received checks from 3 of these 4 galleries for June sales, which I think gives even more credit to the work that these galleries put in.