The co-op spirit

Dear Artist, One of the motives behind the current “Occupy Wall Street” phenomenon is the encouragement of co-ops. In one iteration, you need to move your cash and loans from a “big greedy over-extended, over-bonused bank” to your local, friendly, member-owned credit union. A few artists, rather than giving their work to “greedy, overpaid galleries,” have been using a similar system for years. Co-ops of all sorts are increasing in popularity. “Co-ops are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility,” says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Co-op galleries, in my experience, have had a spotty history so far. While there are many varieties, the typical system is where a group of artists get together and open some sort of brick and mortar gallery. Rather than hiring help, they agree to take turns manning the place and selling each other’s work. Many co-ops start out as hunky dory love-ins and end in enmity and dissolution. Some flourish with long-term friendships, while in others the artists seem to check in and check out. Petty jealousy and perceived favouritism trumps garden-variety greed. In the commercial gallery system, a modified form of greed drives the hive, and some artists get the idea that they are the expendable bees. Michael Douglas, as the unpleasant Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street, said, “Greed is good.” Fact is, greed has authority. Everybody understands it. Also, people who are motivated by money will spend a great deal of time studying their special interests. Some art dealers become celebrated experts on aesthetics. Such is the wisdom of the capitalist system. One of the problems with co-ops is authority. Many clients of regular commercial galleries appreciate getting what they think is informed advice from a dealer who is perceived to be distanced from the vagaries of unbusinesslike artists. Further, when collectors encounter artists who appear to be “too smart” in the ways of value, investment, and even aesthetics, they may catch the Noon Balloon for Rangoon. For those artists who might be thinking of starting or taking part in a co-op gallery, consider including a pinch of greed. Give volunteer salespersons a commission on all sales other than their own work. Make it possible for people to profit from the hard work of others. It’s what makes the world go ’round. Best regards, Robert PS: “The future you see is the future you get.” (Robert G. Allen) Esoterica: The democratic, co-op gallery may be a template for the future. One of the reasons is the lower commissions that co-ops usually take from artists. When commissions are lower there’s a shorter time the collector has to wait for resale prices to rise to what was originally paid. And if you’re one of those who think that people buy serious art without thought of resale, you’re smoking the wrong stuff. Just like nasty old Wall Street, people jump out of buildings when there’s no return on investment.   Artist-run gallery juries in members by Geri VanHeuverswyn, San Antonio, TX, USA  

“Macintosh & Blue Delft”
original painting by Geri VanHeuverswyn

I am a member of the River Art Group in San Antonio, Texas. It has been in existence since 1947 and operates possibly the oldest artist-run gallery in Texas. The gallery is located in the historic Florian House in La Villita in beautiful downtown San Antonio. I believe the membership (all juried in) numbers around 300 or more. I think the success of this gallery is due to the fact that all members contribute their time and talents, and to the wonderful tourists that visit San Antonio. What a thrill to see that your work has sold, not only locally, but to various countries around the world. There is 1 comment for Artist-run gallery juries in members by Geri VanHeuverswyn
From: Betty H — Oct 25, 2011

Love your colors,reflections,shadows. It all works so well.

  Commercial art galleries doing valuable work by Bobbo Goldberg, Orlando, FL, USA  

“Captain Hook’s Croc”
original painting
by Bobbo Goldberg

The idea of comparing a gallery to a megabank seems quite a stretch to me. The monster banks and disreputable investors not only misrepresented the value of investments, mortgages, etc., but were covertly betting that they would fail. While their investors lost everything, these particular bankers did very well for themselves by playing the odds in both directions. “It’s dethpicable,” as Daffy Duck would say. On the other hand, galleries (and who knows this better than you?) provide a real service. They have to keep the doors open and the lights on, sell off the floor, hold parties and art soirées, provide refreshments, keep books, pay taxes, know the market, keep in touch with customers, and they take a nice piece of the action as their only compensation. How can you compare the two? Sorry. There’s a big difference between providing an honest service to earn an honest living, and manipulating the monetary system to screw everyone and prosper yourself. Besides, most gallery owners I know aren’t getting multi-million dollar bonuses as a consequence of their nefarious work.   Expert managers are necessary by Kris Parins, FL, USA  

“Field day”
watercolour painting
by Kris Parins

Your point about the lack of an “expert” overseeing things at a co-op gallery is a good one. I’ve resisted becoming involved in that type of arrangement because I have often heard participants use the term “sitting the gallery” when they describe their work shift; some co-ops even allow spouses or friends to “sit” in place of the member artist. That indicates a complete lack of understanding of what it takes to run a successful retail business. Those co-ops who hire a gallery manager seem to do better over time. Your suggestion of offering an incentive for making a sale would put things on the right track.       Internet is the third rail by Alan Soffer, Wallingford, PA, USA  

“Impulsive I”
encaustic painting
by Alan Soffer

I participated in a co-op many years ago when I was making ceramic sculptures. It was kind of unpleasant, as I seemed to be one of the few people who had a full time job. Also, since I was a male, they expected I would do all the heavy lifting. When I transitioned to painting in 1985 I never entertained the idea of anything but a commercial gallery. None of the people in that business ever struck me as greedy. They were looking for a decent living at most. Having had my own business I understood the costs that occurred behind the scenes. Electricity, heat, AC, phone, advertising, staffing, and rent all came with a price tag. Many of my artist friends seem to resent the commissions charged, but I think they are naïve. If this was such a lucrative enterprise there wouldn’t be so much turnover. I, for one, respect and appreciate what it takes to make this work. But if you want to make truly cutting-edge, personal inventions you probably don’t have a choice. For those artists this is usually the only way to find an audience, as the for-profit galleries are rightly very concerned about sales. I think the Internet is now offering a third rail for artists to be their own sales department. It takes a lot of time to make art, pack and ship, photograph, make proposals, and also sell your work. If you require sleep as I do, and actually have a life with friends and family, choices have to be made. There is 1 comment for Internet is the third rail by Alan Soffer
From: Anonymous — Oct 25, 2011

Excellent letter. Spectacular painting.

  Co-operating for excellence by Jane Whittlesey, Louisville, CO, USA  

original painting
by Jane Whittlesey

I am currently an owner in a 25 member fine arts cooperative in Lafayette, Colorado. We were formed with the help of a local landlord, the city’s downtown development association, and a few forward thinking, local artists. We are doing well in this depressed economy, and are considered a big asset by our local residents. We are in our fourth year of business, and have made increasing profits every year. Just like in the “real” business world, there are healthy businesses and unhealthy ones. We are one of the healthy ones. We are in the business of creating good art, enriching our community, and supporting one another. We are NOT in the business of commissions, greed, one-upmanship, and we do not have a hierarchy of “good” or “bad” sales people. We focus on making our gallery the best it can be, helping one another when we need it, and sharing our knowledge and skills with one another. In short, we cooperate for excellence. Our arts cooperative works because of the examples we set with one another in our day-to-day interactions. It is our “cooperative corporate culture” to be respectful, open, and supportive, and most importantly, to not lose sight of our shared goals. I’m sure the cynics will say that “someday” we’ll “wake up” and realize that we are in the business of making money, not art and community. I completely disagree. If we lose sight of why we started in the first place, that’s when the money will stop. Businesses don’t have to be “greedy” in order to succeed. We can be both successful and ethical. And we are.   The alienation of art buyers by Trish Sheff   In many ways galleries intimidate people, charge too much, and in the long run they end up hurting both consumers and artists in general. I know many of my neighbors would like to buy good paintings that cost $500-$1000, that are unique and attractive, with no thought to investment. But frankly, there is not much in that price range in local galleries, co-op or otherwise. Most of the work that would look nice over the fireplace starts at around $1500. Local art fairs with cheaper art are often filled with really cheesy paintings — think purple cats, nasty sunsets, etc. Sadly, these potential consumers with open pocket books, but not that open, end up buying reproductions, posters, prints — instead of original art. It seems to me investment type galleries are for a niche type consumer but the also end up alienating a lot (or most) potential art buyers. There is 1 comment for The alienation of art buyers by Trish Sheff
From: Leah — Oct 25, 2011

Ah, I have heard many of those “I would buy original art if only it was cheaper” and blaming the galleries for pumping up the prices – and I don’t beleieve a word of it. The same people buy all kind of expensive junk trinkets without a blink. They only want you to give them your original art for free. Galleries help artists establish and maintain a fair price for their art. Those buyers buy prints, because all they want is something cheap to match the sofa. They don’t do anything for artist’s carreer.

  Secrets of a successful co-op art gallery by Dikki Vanhelsland, Tucson, AZ, USA  

original painting
by Dikki Vanhelsland

I belong to Desert Artisans Gallery in Tucson, Arizona. This is my 5th year with them. The gallery is in its 24th year. One of the originating artists is still in the gallery. We have a wonderful, operating group. We all work one day a month or two half days. We have one members’ meeting a month. Roll is taken. We have a set of functioning gallery policies that are strictly adhered to. If there is a problem, the Board handles it. Every member has a gallery job besides the one work day. We totally change gallery shows four times a year. We do have consignment artists who are fine crafters and pay the 50% consignment fee. Our members pay only 25% to the gallery. We do have a buy-in fee and a dues fee each month. The walls are for our members of whom we have 30 or so. The members jury in potential new members. I am a batik artist who has done very well in the gallery. I feel we are in a very exclusive group that care for each other and are thrilled when someone makes a great sale. We are staying viable through these times because we are ethical, work hard, do good work with cheerful attitudes. We are a rather charming group, I must say. We are at I have heard some sad tales of some co-ops where a few members do all the work or there are personality problems. We, fortunately, are a successful co-op.   Co-op art gallery worth the compromise by Diane Leifheit, Paul Smiths, NY, USA  

“Before the clouds broke”
pastel painting
by Diane Leifheit

Our artist co-op — Adirondack Arts Guild — has survived as a co-op going on 15 years. There are 14 of us. Asking artists to treat the gallery as their own business, get along with each other’s own particular personality quirks and survive in a mean economy is no small feat. And yet here we are. It is possible. Our business is in the black. Our organization has grown from 5 originating members to fourteen, with one sole original still on board. Each artist has a strength committed to the organization: a left-sided accountant type, a couple of former designers, community activist for the arts, shopkeepers, gardeners, floor polishers. With exception of 3 non-sitting members, the members each sit at the gallery 3-4 days a month, pay dues and receive a percentage of sales of their work. There are no prima donnas. Everyone is on the same level and contributes to the whole. We all re-hang and move our work once a month. We have a featured artist opening once a month which brings in a different variety of over 100 folks every opening. Being featured every other year and moving once a month provides impetus to produce more and better work all the time. Our Guild has initiated art events and helped make the area receptive to the arts. A new artist co-op has opened down the street this summer. Several studio /galleries exist in town that were not here 15 years ago. That is belief. It can be done successfully without hiring anyone. The driving force: Having a place to hang and show our work vs. having it leaning against the wall in the studio. Really, isn’t that — and the friendships — worth compromise vs. a 50% commission? There is 1 comment for Co-op art gallery worth the compromise by Diane Leifheit
From: Nan Fiegl — Oct 25, 2011

Visited your gallery a few years ago. Very nice! If I only lived nearer, I would ask to join.

  Successful co-op art gallery requires balance by Janet Hawse, Edmonds, WA, USA  

“Eagle owl”
original painting
by Janet Hawse

I belong to Gallery North, a co-op that has just celebrated its 50th birthday. I can’t speak for those artists who got together a half century ago… I wasn’t there, but after working with this gallery for half a decade, I can tell you that a successful cooperative gallery takes balance as well as the personal dedication of the artists involved. Balance refers to both the artists’ commitment and the type of artists that are members. First, artists need to balance their time between creating and working for the cooperative. If artists spend too much time involved in running and promoting the co-op and not enough time creating, they burn out or become frustrated and angry at their fellow members who may not be contributing as much to the gallery’s success. Secondly, a successful co-op gallery needs the right balance of artists, both in the work shown and in the skills the artists bring to running the gallery. It is not always easy to find the right mix of art work and personalities. Some artists join cooperative galleries with the feeling that they are joining a club, while others recognize that a co-op gallery is a business, not a club, and decisions have to be made that will keep the gallery going, regardless of hurt feelings. Again, it becomes a balancing act, but with great rewards when it works out. When cooperative galleries are successful they provide an environment for artists and the community that may be more comfortable and entertaining than a private “for profit” gallery. Some risks can be taken and artists can produce work with more than a price tag in mind. Gallery members pay less commission while the community is presented with the unique work of their local artists, artists that they can meet and make a connection with. In addition, when times are tough, co-op members can come together to weather the financial storm. An added bonus is the diversity of the member artists creating a well-spring of ideas that enrich the gallery. Obviously, cooperative galleries do not work for every artist — perhaps they are only good for a handful. However, when they do work and are in balance, they become an extraordinary delight for both the artist members and their community. There is 1 comment for Successful co-op art gallery requires balance by Janet Hawse
From: Kathleen A Johnson — Oct 25, 2011

Well said, Janet. Gallery North is one of the longest running galleries in the nation, stop by and see us next time you are in Edmonds, WA.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The co-op spirit

From: Susan Holland — Oct 20, 2011

Lately I have been wondering whether it would be a good alternative in this little community to organize a monthly art auction! Not so much a co-op, but a gathering of art by member artists that can be attended on, say, a Saturday morning, in a day-rented building, where people can bid on art that has been assembled for viewing the day before. Even an amateur auction might work, and no one has to be particularly talented at hawking wares to show work to interested buyers who have come for that purpose. Have you, or others, ever tried such a venture? Susan Holland

From: Darla — Oct 21, 2011

At many large science fiction conventions, there are SF-themed art shows (a few are juried, but most are open). Each piece of art has a signup slip where attendees can register a bid, or buy it outright at a quick-sale price. Then they have a live auction the next day. This kind of thing might work in conjunction with a farmers market, home show or other good-sized gathering. You have to have a way or reason for potential buyers other than the artists to attend.

From: J. R. Baldini — Oct 21, 2011

I was in a Co-op gallery of 25 artists in the late 70’s. It was exhausting, especially with a young family. We eventually ‘hired’ gallery sitters from AARP who were sweet, but had no sales experience. It quickly seemed to fall on the same shoulders to keep it running. The Co-op was in an excellent location attached to a performing art center, so we were open evenings of performances. During intermission, there were few sales, but the gallery seemed to be great place to hang out till the performance resumed. The NYS Arts Council was also in the same building – and they say location, location location…we gave it a shot for 3 years…

From: Marney Ward — Oct 21, 2011

I had an experience similar to yours with the person whose checks started bouncing, but it has a happy ending. I am often paid in installments, but this one time, half way through, the checks started bouncing. The buyer was in financial trouble and very apologetic. I told her to enjoy the painting and pay me the remainder when she could. She tried a year or so later, but I told her to do so only if it was comfortable, and the check never arrived. I was slightly disappointed but was OK with that because I figured I had gotten what I would have if I had sold through a gallery. Five years later, she called me out of the blue and asked if I was still at the same address, and that she was about to mail me a cheque. She said fiercely I wasn’t to talk her out of it! She said it meant a lot that I was so nice to her when everyone else was hounding her, that she loves the painting and is glad she can finally know its been paid in full. I got the cheque and we both ended up feeling good inside. I guess I’m vain enough to figure that anyone who loves my paintings must be OK.

From: Karen R. Phinney — Oct 21, 2011

I live in Halifax, and am a member here of a co-op gallery. I also show at another, regular gallery. The co-op works pretty well overall. We are a collegial bunch, supporting each other and happy for each other to sell. When we are on duty, I know that enthusiasm for others’ work, particularly if the customer is interested in it, is real and helpful. One of my fellow artists sold a canvas of mine to some out of town folks by showing them all of mine in the shop, including one in the window they’d missed and the sale was made! So, co-op’s can work. That is not to say there have never been issues, but overall we have fun and are very supportive of one another. I guess it depends on the people involved. Most of us are very happy, in the competitive market here and it is very competitive!, to have a place to show and sell our work. We willingly take part in art promo events and other things. It is like one big happy family!

From: Beth Kurtz — Oct 21, 2011

In this article you didn’t mention PayPal, which has been for me the best way to sell online. Like many artists, I don’t have credit card capability — my business is just too small to go into that. With PayPal I don’t have to wait for a check to arrive and then for it to clear. I sell only small, inexpensive work online, and so for it has worked out fine. I usually send off the pic right away, the customer pays right away. Should the customer not pay, I’m not sure what I’d do — I do think PayPal has a few options — crossing that bridge when it appears.

From: Len Skerker — Oct 21, 2011

Your references to GREED here specifically related to forming of co-ops, might be tempered by this thought: where is the line (and how wide and vague is that line) between greed and ambition? Usually they are simultaneous and depend on the position of the observer. We praise one, and disdain the other. See how the words look and sound different, as does the facial expression while saying them.

From: Ron Wilson — Oct 21, 2011

Nineteen years ago, when I first came to Canada I was drawn into ART TEN – a co-op gallery in the Town & Country mall. My shift was Thursday nights. For that I got a space on the wall and a feature show every now and then. It worked exceptionally well. Sales were reasonable even then when the unemployment rate was 11%. The saving grace was the pottery — we put up tables and shelving in the middle of the kirk and those sales paid for the rent. Sales of paintings was gravy on top. It was well run, discipline was strong. I think Art 10 is still flourishing although I have since moved to Victoria. Hey, I might even start an equivalent Art 10 here of course with Nanaimo’s guidance and permission!

From: Claudia Roulier — Oct 21, 2011

I belong to two local co-ops it used to be if you weren’t discovered by five years into your co-op your art was “crap”, but now a days with many high end galleries closing it’s actually a nice alternative, I get lots of sales and referrals to my studio I like co-ops and you learn quite a bit that you wouldn’t have.

From: Jackie Knott — Oct 21, 2011

I don’t know a soul who objects to honest profit in a business, be it art, a junkyard, or retail selling shoes or cars – that is not greed, that is capitalism at its finest. We all would be philanthropists if we had a decent living and enough excess to be generous … the only moral dilemma is profiting on others’ labor at the expense of a living wage and their quality of life. Apparently some are blanching at gallery commissions. I remember when I meekly submitted from a commission of 20 to 40, and I hear some are now at 60% … probably why so many of us have websites now. It is unseemly that marketing profits more than the artists’ labor, but it is what it is. It’s been a long time since I sold cars and real estate but the costs of operating a physical business are extremely high today. If the numbers work and the artists are happy with their representation and compensation, all is well. Co-ops sound really good at first blush and some work and others don’t. It depends on the individuals involved along with that nasty charactistic of human frailty – greed. And it may not even be monetary. It may be power, esteem, control, or just a contrary disposition. It’s been my observation the more personalities that are thrown into the mix the harder it is to serve all parties to their satisfaction. Everyone has an agenda – everyone, without exception. Even a co-op must be operated for a profit or it ends up costing someone too much, either in time or money. Otherwise, succumb and give your art away … personally, I think mine is worth more than that.

From: Gary Godbee — Oct 21, 2011

I joined a co-op gallery in NYC when I was just starting out in the 1970’s, and I found that it was of immeasurable help in understanding how commercial galleries work. You were responsible for accessing and utilising a mailing list, contacting printers and paying for your show card (offset, in those days!), hanging your own show, and providing all of the refreshments for the opening. In addition, you were expected to sit for your own show (or hire someone or get a friend) during it’s run, make sales, attend monthly meetings, and contribute labor to the upkeep of the gallery space. It was actually wonderful! Of course, the downside was usually financial. Joining a co-op usually means an initial downpayment/ entrance fee/ whatever/ that in the past was expensive (around $1000-1500) and is probably more so now, plus a monthly dues for the rent of the space. Many artists were able to recoup all of their costs with sales of their work during their one or two – person shows, but many were not so fortunate. In addition, co-operative galleries can be extremely selective and joining one these days is almost as hard as getting picked up by a commercial gallery from all recent reports. Also, it is rare that anyone is “discovered” at a co-op gallery- you still have to develop your portfolio and approach commercial galleries on your own. The upside is two-fold: You are exposed to the actual running of a gallery and get an appreciation of why you have to give commercial galleries a commission for the work you no longer have to do, and you get exposure in a market that is always highly selective wherever you live and are able to cultivate collectors that may stay with you as your work progresses. Some people will use co-op galleries as stepping stones to the world of commercial sales (as I have), but many others will find that the exposure provided, the sense of autonomy, and the good feeling of being in a group of like-minded artists fits them for the long term instead. The key is finding a co-op that has a sense of unity and history so that pettiness and competition (in a bad way) is avoided.

From: Colleen Underwood — Oct 22, 2011

Have been a member of a co-op gallery in Halifax called Art1274 Hollis for 4 years now.It consists of 21 artists including 2 potters and a jeweler.We are very fortunate to have the compatibility and respect with 21 people who have come together to make this happen.Our sales are great and we are regarded as the gallery with personality. We each pay a small monthly fee plus 25% of sales goes back to the gallery to cover rent and other operating costs. It has provided us with a place to sell our work, hold shows and inspire one another. Work is divided and each member no matter how big or small the job helps out. With 21 bodies our schedule of shifts only works out to 1-2 days per month.I actually enjoy the shifts as you can connect with the customers and I often take my paints and get a few hours of painting in. Gallery is run as a business so decisions are made with “what is the best decision for the gallery” and not individual artists. Maybe we are just fortunate to have the members we have or perhaps we all realize the owning and running our own gallery does take work and dedication and to make it happen we all need to pitch in. For us it is working.

From: Ned Rodwell — Oct 22, 2011

It looks to me like we are again in a transition. It’s not that capitalism is so bad, it’s just that power corrupts. There is little point on camping out to protest the big banks — the better thing to do is to stop dealing with them. Ditto credit cards — their ongoing interest balances keep people poor. We have entered an era where some big corporations and even small companies have become predatory. Any way that art can be distributed without huge markups is also worth thinking about, if not changing our modus operandi.

From: Carol Worthington-Levy — Oct 22, 2011

This was really of interest to me because I’ve been considering trying to get into a coop gallery, or even trying to create one. LOVE the idea of commissioning the person who sells a piece. People sometimes miss the big picture in the world of sales. For example, when we were selling a house back in 1993, the market was slow. Our house was in a tract that was about 25 years old and the realtors were so depressed they were not even bothering to go to the open houses in our area. But we’d done a lot of improvements that made our home special. So – we decided to do a $1000 drawing for realtors and all they needed to do was to show up during open house hours that week, walk around the house with a questionnaire in their hands answering things like “is there anything in this room that you believe would hinder someone’s interest in the property’ and at the end, ‘do you have any homebuyers who are looking for a home in this price range’. We got about a hundred agents that day, with all their suggestions (many which were excellent). After the drawing the winning agent ran back to the office crowing about how he’d won $1000. Then he talked about our house. A couple of days later another agent from his office brought over homebuyers who did eventually buy OUR home. Since then I’ve mentioned this to many people in need of selling in a tough market – but they balk at the $1000 investment. Amazing. In the big picture, $1000 is nothing considering the house is a $300,000+ property. With coop galleries, sometimes they shortchange the lighting or display – a big mistake because it’s all an investment in the sale of work. And if one piece is sold, often that identifies a future buyer too, because many people will get more than one work by a favorite artist. That sales-artist deserves a commission, for sure.

From: Dorey Schmidt — Oct 22, 2011

As a closet artist who has sold only a few paintings in a lifetime but strongly endorses populist endeavors, I find your cautions concerning community galleries valid and helpful, though sad. Even with the most altruistic intentions, the cream of the crop of artists floats inexorably to the top of sales, and is often then gobbled up by astute gallery owners. Perhaps that natural selection process is a valid reason to risk the other pitfalls of gallery communal management? Texas

From: Eric Grant — Oct 22, 2011

An honest broker is needed in most transactions to offer the client an informed opinion of the positives and negatives that are inherent in any deal.

From: Jana Botkin — Oct 22, 2011

In the past 2 years I participated in 2 different co-op galleries. One was a wash in terms of expense versus sales; the other turned out to be akin to a minimum wage job. Many members thought it was good enough to just earn back expenses, but I was not one of them. The first co-op set up some great guidelines. However, there was little willingness to follow and no guts to enforce the guidelines, and things got sloppy, unprofessional and downright embarrassing. I held on by my fingernails to complete my one year commitment; my sigh of relief upon leaving might have been heard all the way to Canada! The second co-op was a 2 month commitment during the months of November and December. Our lease was not extended, no new digs were found, and since I only broke even during those high retail months, this suited me. Bottom line: a successful co-op needs artists of similar professionalism, self-discipline, vision, and business philosophies.

From: Jim Oberst — Oct 22, 2011

For the last 5 years or so, I’ve been a member of a co-op gallery – Artists Workshop Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We’ve been in existence continually since 1990. It’s a congenial group. There is some tension between the “old timers” and newer members, but we always seem to be able to work things out. We have a committee to jury in new artists. We charge a small commission and a manageable monthly fee. The absolutely greatest thing about Artists Workshop, from my point of view, is that we provide a way for new artists to show their work, and to get some satisfaction from selling their work, meeting other artists, contributing to the Gallery’s success, and talking with visitors about art. We are located in a tourist town, which helps immensely to keep us in the black, but I wish every region had a similar gallery for new and emerging artists to immerse themselves in the activity they love.

From: Brenda Behr — Oct 23, 2011

As an American college student who survived the 60’s, and a military brat who survived her father’s explanation that Americans back then were “fighting Communist aggression”, I’ve done much thinking about Communism, Socialism and Capitalism. I’ve concluded that although Capitalism allows us to dream, encourages us to compete and leaves open our road to success, it has a major downfall. And that downfall is Greed. More than once, I’ve referred to greed as “the Achilles’ heel of Capitalism”. The stories of America’s Wall Street bankers, Bernie Madoff and countless scores of others attest to this. Rich is never rich enough. As artists, we need to survive, but we need not let greed drive us to distraction. Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy”, the final chorale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, is about man’s triumph over evil. I don’t think brilliant works of art like Beethoven’s Ninth would have come into being had they not had the purest of motives behind them. Greed is evil. I realize I’ve ventured away here from the subject of co-op galleries, but I feel strongly about what I’ve said and am grateful for the opportunity to express my beliefs. Sorry, I usually agree with you.

From: Lisa G. McDonough — Oct 23, 2011
From: Jacques Lambert — Oct 23, 2011

I always thought Gordon Gekko was a nice little guy with sticky fingers

From: Mike Barr — Oct 24, 2011

In my experience whether it is a co-op gallery or an art society that needs to man their gallery, the focus becomes more on the roster than the art. Australia

From: Aubrey Case — Oct 24, 2011

Can you imagine an artist’s union? Unions are in decline because the work their members provide is uneven. Every human being should have the right to negotiate his own deal himself. That’s why artists are for free enterprise.

From: Moiya A Wright — Oct 25, 2011

Re co-ops/ In 1990 7 friends who happened to be artists- of varying ability – decided to rent a little house and turn it into Galerie Old Chelsea. We were not actually a CO-Op per say but all shared the expenses, divided the wall space between us -leaving some for non-member artists. When a partner’s painting sold – the artist collected all the payment. When a visiting artist’s painting sold – the artist paid a percentage to the Galerie. We did not charge for hanging their paintings. Rules – 1.only 7 partners (we were the Gang of Seven) shared time at the Galerie – along with some volunteers who loved to be there.. We also shared the expenses – and if there was a profit from the percentages paid by non member artists – it was shared among the members. 2. A general meeting once a month and the whole Galerie idea had to be fun – or no point in being involved, Members have come and gone. Maximum still 7 (with numerous volunteers.) Does not depend on grants. – just a small group of artists enjoying their work and passing their joy on to the visitors who drop in to admire (and often to buy). We (the founders) feel that keeping the nucleus small is one of the things that has brought success to the Galerie. It is easier for a small group to be in agreement with each other. Galerie Old Chelsea is now 21 years old (young). Moiya Wright – founding member (now retired)

From: Inga Poslitur — Oct 26, 2011

I like your idea of carving a percentage of sale to the volunteering artist in the co-op gallery. Wise approach. I think greed though is an international trait: it’s no capitalistic invention, no by-product of socialism (I am from Soviet Union originally). It’s a human nature.

From: karen dawson — Nov 18, 2011

“Further, when collectors encounter artists who appear to be “too smart” in the ways of value, investment, and even aesthetics, they may catch the Noon Balloon for Rangoon.” — just curious why you say this Robert? (smile) I assume it’s not about competency in the work itself, but something else… ; an attitude? or do you think our patrons are intimidated?

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Troubled Waters

mosaic, 17 x 21 inches by Ilona Brustad, MI, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Claire Remsberg of McCall, ID, USA, who wrote, “I have visited several co-op galleries recently. Sometimes the eclectic grouping is interesting, but other times I see chaos and a “we’ll take anybody” level of quality. I think that commercial galleries tend to have more of a market niche or unifying impression, which is of course the taste and personality of the gallery owner.” And also Carolynn Wagler who wrote, “Hoot hoot hurray! Agreeing with you re: co-op spirit. Does ‘Occupy a Town’ make one think of Socialism? Having been to Russia, that didn’t work either.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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