This week's blog post was written by mosaic artist Colleen Patricia Williams.
A cooperative art gallery is a notion that has been around for a while, but here in Portland, it has really taken hold! Artistic Portland is one of these cooperative art galleries that I have been a member of. As I go on hiatus, I offer this blog post to give some of my thoughts on this gallery that I’m a part of.
With the advent of the internet combined with the economic crash of 2007 that our nation still hasn’t fully recovered from, artists have had to get creative about the way that they sell their work. In the case of our gallery, the cooperative gallery survived where many other traditional galleries did not.
The combination of different artists, artisans and crafters, allowed the survival of artists in a tough economic time. The other plus to the cooperative gallery is the sharing of ideas, as well as the exchange of art supplies combined with the expertise of one’s colleagues when another head is needed to figure out a tough problem.
The sense of community that occurs with a cooperative gallery is one that is unique and that is valuable; many artists, including myself, find that the cooperative experience is one that we treasure. The nature of a cooperative gallery is such that all of the artists put in time, leading to a socialization that many of us do not get from our time in our studios, as art is often a singular process that is, by nature, often a lonely thing.
The other plus to a cooperative gallery is the many varied works made by our artists and artisans are all handcrafted; nothing is made in a factory! Our people put in the time to make each piece unique, each piece may have elements in common with pieces, such as the body of work of a particular artist, such as a painter or a sculptor or a photographer. Each artist has a unique talent that they bring to the gallery, which not only sells the work of that artist, but also gives exposure to the other artists in the cooperative.
One of the other ways in which membership in our cooperative is a benefit to the artist is the ability to creatively sell artwork, allowing the more expensive pieces to be put on a layaway plan, or with a deposit, to hold the artwork for a collector/customer. This is a benefit to the consumer as it allows them to be able to access art they love and might otherwise not be able to afford, making this a win-win situation for all concerned!
The other part of the membership benefit is the special events where the artists can interact with the customer, to answer questions, sometimes to see demonstrations and for First Thursday, extra refreshments for both adults and kids.
I’m going to miss my colleagues at the gallery during my three months away, and I’ll miss our friends and customers that come in to see us during our shifts at the gallery. Have a wonderful Autumn season, everyone and I’ll see you again near the holidays!