Friday, August 28, 2009

Dark Clouds with Silver Linings

A few weeks ago, Alyson Stanfield of ArtBizBlog wrote about artists, the economy and "pop-up" galleries. Since reading her post, I have had two opportunities to mention both my experience with storefront or alternative space and Alyson's Blog with her resources for the business of art. Link to Alyson's thoughts about using temporary exhibit space.

The first conversation was in a chance meeting with a newly graduated art and design student. I was pleased to discover that she is interested in promoting other artists and eventually having a gallery, but I was sorry she felt she needed to put that on hold while she earned "real money." Reality says she is probably right. I suggested starting in non-traditional bricks and mortar ways.

The second conversation was in a phone call from an old friend which was full of questions about planning a gallery in today's economy. Words about finding quality work from loyal artists, unique promotion and ethics filled the minutes. As I made the suggestion to find Alyson's Blog as a starting point, her keyboard clicked and she suddenly said, "It's every thing I need!"

I could tell them both many stories about my involvement with "free" or alternative space over the last 40 years:

* a store window mini-exhibit of traditional crafts during a downtown festival;

* a derelict building which offered "no heat, no lights, and no rent" in an effort to clear the building of vagrants (the building was saved, renovated and now houses the art department of a state university;)

* a couple of 10-20 day special exhibits in "For Rent" or "For Sale" properties which needed exposure;

* studio/gallery/teaching space in both old and new buildings with too many vacancies which needed to be occupied (in lieu of rent: regular classes, openings, meetings which 'promoted' the building!)

In most cases, liability, heat and lights were provided by the owner. . . .

My favorite has been a downtown project which involved a permanent transition for six previously unrentable spaces. It was possible with the cooperation of the artists, the City, Federal facade grants, and the property owners. Artists got free rent for one year in exchange for making, showing and/or teaching art, promoting downtown and bringing feet to the street. Shops, restaurants and bars followed the artists and, although there is no more free rent, fifteen years later it is still working.

Art is powerful stuff.

The presence of Art in a studio or gallery, however temporary, has been a win-win for the artists and the properties.
The presence of people who are drawn to Art has made a difference in my communities in really unexpected ways.

Empty storefronts with Art;
ark clouds with silver linings.

BushStrokes (c) AAB
Cloud photos from my iPhone


Egmont van Dyck said...

I find your comments most interesting and have passed your link along to the board members of the East Bay Artist Guild of which I am a member.

Your words give hope that our non-profit organization could make a difference if given the chance.

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Annette: You're proof that you don't get what you don't ask for. I loved reading about your experiences with non-traditional gallery spaces. And, of course, I appreciate your referral. Thanks for sharing this!