Art Galleries. The choice is yours.

ART GALLERIES. The choice is yours.

The recent economy has been challenging for retail and especially for arts related businesses. In the city of Vancouver a new arts “district” is developing as the mainstream retail galleries, so long resident on the prominent South Granville slope, relocate to the fast developing industrial area of East 1st & 2nd Avenues, along Great Northern Way (remember the Finning industrial zone?) along with the new campus for Emily Carr University of Art & Design. Yes – they are leaving Granville Island.

Except for the uber wealthy, buyers and collectors have put art purchases on hold as a non-essential, way at the bottom of the shopping priority list. Here on the Sunshine Coast we have seen the closure of several local businesses in the last few years. Galleries have closed, moved on or reshaped themselves to fit a new marketplace. Artists & studios are struggling, some moving to other towns with lower rents and real estate prices. (more info)

With the addition of the new Public Market (old Yacht Club) to the SC Regional Museum, Gibsons Public Library and the Arts Building area, The Town of Gibsons has committed to creating a vibrant cultural “cluster. The new location (old Bank of Montreal) for the Gibsons Public Art Gallery (GPAG) is clear evidence of the administration’s support and commitment to the cultural scene. Music in the Landing, Gibsons Jazz fest, Sechelt Arts Festival, Writers Festival and Pender Harbour Music Festival all add to the general atmosphere of cultural buzz, entertain locals and attract visitors.

We do still have a variety of local “gallery” offerings and I am often asked what the difference is between them; Public gallery, Arts Center, retail shop, Artist Run spaces and Artist Co-operatives. I hope this information will clarify the differences and offer some insight to buyers and art enthusiasts.

Retail Shop/Gallery
Rely on sales – purchase art/crafts/product at wholesale prices for resale at substantial markup. Some gallery shops also represent artists and sell original works & reproductions on commission.

Traditional retail Gallery
Rely on sales and have a “stable” of artists that they represent, usually with a distinct style or genre (ie: contemporary, traditional, etc). Artwork is not purchased wholesale but displayed/stored in a space leased by the owner. The artist negotiates a commission to be paid upon sale of their work – between 40-60%. The artist usually has to frame at their own cost and is offered a “solo” show on a roster. The gallery is responsible for marketing, promotion, openings, website, etc – although most artists now share a portion of these costs, and sometimes have difficulty getting paid for their sales. Some artists sign exclusivity agreements – not to sell directly to the public, through other local venues or undermine the pricing determined by thes gallery.

Public Art Gallery
Funded by community, regional, provincial, donations & corporate sources. With a board structure, volunteer base, and mandate to represent regional culture, and bring off-coast art & events to the local community. A public call for submissions (artist/group with a show) is juried on an annual basis. Because there is a funding base – Public Art Galleries can select/exhibit work that is very unique, controversial or makes a social statement. Their choices are not driven by sales, décor/popular trends or marketing. It allows artists to show – and the public to view – work that would not necessarily be seen in a mainstream retail venue.

Artist Co-operative
Rely on sales, with a board structure that must maintain provincial Co-operative business practice. Shares paid by artist members, who share the tasks, staffing and costs of running a gallery space. Lower commission rate on sales paid by the artist (20-30%) to the Co-op, direct contact with the buyers, more control over the direction & management of the gallery. Opportunity for group/bulk purchasing on supplies, collaborative marketing, event participation etc. The public gets; to see a diverse range of styles, direct contact with the artists, better prices, retail services, and a unique visitor experience interacting with artist/staff.

Artist Run Space & alternate retail
There is a less structured version of an artist “collective” sometimes with as few as 2-3 members – that simply rent a space, hang their work and open the doors for business. Same benefits for the artist & buyer as a Co-operative – but more challenging to sign leases, manage POS credit services etc.
Some retail / collective galleries rely on membership fees and/or the artist pays-by-square-foot for display space allocation to cover costs. The public benefits with access to original works + retail services.

Pop-up displays, Craft Fairs, Markets & Shows
With the advent of new technology it is now possible for artists to easily offer credit services “on site”. (remember the old credit card units with x3 paper copies!) New phone/tablet “swipers” are much less cost for the artist to maintain – and offer the public more purchasing power. Several varieties of “gallery” or displays include:

  • Temporary empty retail space with windows to attract buyers in a busy mall or public location. Private rental by artist or group. Short term/seasonal commitment (ie: Christmas shops, calendar, book stores…)
  • Booth/display table at seasonal Craft Fair or Farmers Market– a minimal fee and sometimes a % of sales paid to organizer. Buyers get to deal directly with many artists, with lots of choices in great creative event atmosphere. Without a major commitment – the artist can utilize the direct contact to generate cash and interest in their work – but needs a range of “stock” to sell.
  • Art Markets & Home/trade show – huge venue, many booths, short term. High fee paid to register. An opportunity for artists to reach a much larger audience. Buyers access to a wide range of new product and show ”deals”. Retailers/galleries often look here for new product to purchase wholesale.

Studio Tours & Art Crawls
A great way to explore and purchase original work directly from the artist. Although there is some hesitation for visitors to approach an unknown home/studio (interrupting creative work or lunch, obligation to purchase, barking dogs, nobody home, etc)  read the listing carefully for open hours or “by appointment only” really does mean phone first!
The Art Crawl concept is a great opportunity for artists to do collective marketing, signage & event activities. It raises the comfort level for visitors who can be sure that the artist will be ready to welcome them, just browsing is acceptable, the dog is tied up. This can be the only time some artists open their studios or do demonstrations – make sure to sign the contact list as attendance is tracked for Non-Profit CCA fundraising data.

Online Galleries & Sales
There are plenty of online offerings to view & purchase artists original works or product. Etsy is a great example. Some artists & galleries offer online sales – with prices and “buy now” buttons on every item. It costs a lot to set up a true e-shopping website, many offer Paypal. A credit service, Paypal acts as 3rd party in a credit purchase. The artist/seller does not receive payment until the buyer receives the item – or the item doesn’t get shipped until the payment has cleared. But like any online service these days security is always in question – with accounts being hacked, or scams perpetrated.
Buyer beware – a phone call goes a long way in determining the legitimacy of a major purchase and watch for additional shipping/handling costs. If you are interested in shopping online my best advice:

  • Look for artists connected to a reputable gallery or online business. Do a Google search – deal with the artist directly if they have their own website. They may send you right back to the gallery – and that is a good thing.
  • Follow, subscribe to news or contact the artist to join their mailing list and be directly advised of new work, upcoming shows, discounts etc.  (I use a Hotmail account for such sign ups – with NO saved contact list that can be hacked with virus and changed easily if it is getting spammed)
  • Check reviews, Google search and ask to contact other buyers for verification that have purchased from the artist/gallery and testimony of their shopping experience.
  • Use a gift/prepaid credit card for all online purchases with unknown vendors. This has a dollar limit/expiry in case of fraud or identity theft.



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