Artist and gallery owner Jane Cowley of Cowley Fine Art in South Haven, Michigan speaks about the challenges of owning a resort gallery today, and what artists should know.
AS: You are an artist who bought an art gallery. What have you learned from owning it?
JC: The one thing I did learn was to trust my instincts concerning the business of the gallery. Running a gallery is very much like creating art. You start with a vision and as you progress, the vision changes and evolves. It requires creativity, talent and a willingness to be fluid. I’ve learned not to follow a rigid formula, but to listen and follow my inner voice.
AS: Are there any special challenges in running a resort gallery?
JC: The main challenge is that resort towns depend on seasonal traffic. The main season for us is summer which really is only June, July and a little bit of August. Kids go back to school in August and September and with them go the parents and their disposable income. You have to plan for the leaner months, which are many, and think outside the box to keep the gallery viable.
AS: What are the most important things artists need to do to help their galleries sell?
JC: This needs repeating, even though most artists have already heard this.
- Do your research. Make sure you are a good fit for the gallery.
- Make sure your work is ready for the gallery. Framed, ready to hang, etc.
- Make sure you promote yourself and the gallery as much as possible.
- Open your mouth at artist receptions. People want to hear from you and learn a little about you and your work.
It really does make a difference.
AS: What are the main characteristics of successful artists?
JC: Successful artists never stop creating. They don’t let rejection or criticism discourage them. They also pay attention to the business side of being an artist, keeping track of inventory, pricing, correspondence, etc. They keep active in the art community and they promote themselves through galleries, private showings, juried shows and the like.
AS: Are there any trends that are popular at your gallery right now?
JC: Plein air is very popular, especially around here where the landscapes are so beautiful. The lake, the dunes and the forests all serve as a mecca for the plein air artist. Trends change. A few years ago, outsider art was very popular. That has waned. As far as price points, the trend around here is between $150.00 to $400.00 and those are mostly landscapes of the surrounding area.
AS: What message would you like to share with art buyers today?
JC: Please remember art is essential to our lives. You might not agree, but if you look around, it is everywhere, a part of our human psyche. In these economic times it is important to support the arts and the artists. Artists contribute so much to our culture and to our progress as a nation and a people. I don’t think people want to buy art from the big box stores and have them dictating our cultural heritage, and they will if people don’t economically support our creative people.