...serenity in motion
Should I or should I not Co-op
Art in the time of COVID, we are all looking for ways to sell our art. I was loosing my studio space,… again. Casting about for affordable places to rent for artwork space, I found a local co-op that had a classroom they can’t use right now. It is 10x10 so It doesn’t work for teaching and social distance, but they need to make money with the space. I made an offer, contingent on me being accepted as a member. Low and behold I am now a member of Avenue West.
For those who live in Spokane, it is a wonderful space and well worth visiting. We have a wide-open floor space made for social distancing in the gallery. We ask you wear a mask when you visit but doesn't everybody? Why should you come and see us?, not just because I am hanging there but, we all need a place to get out and go to. Is it worth joining a co-op? It depends on how many places you have to sell in right now. This is the second gallery space I am hanging in. Spokane Gallery on Dishman Mica is the other place that is happy to display my work. I have so many different things I paint about that SG has my aspens and landscapes while AWG has mostly skies. I pay a monthly fee and I have the gallery open while I am in there working in the “studio”.
When you join a Co-op, there is generally a fee you pay and a commitment of hours. You are asked to share a task, and everyone is given an allotment of time to fulfill. Currently with the COVID situation, not everyone can work. They cut the hours down to two days a week and then open by appointment. My addition gives them 2 more days to have the open sign on.
There are down sides to a situation like this. 1st you join with people who might not all have work compatible with yours. Co-ops have people at different levels of expertise. You might find yourself hanging in between Grandma Moses and Andy Warhol. You should always take that in consideration. 2nd, not everyone sells well. That doesn’t mean that the work doesn’t all sell well, I mean not everyone is adept at selling art. Galleries that are owned by one person generally know how to market and sell art to people who are interested in it. If you aren’t any good at selling art either, well….. You may end up spending a years’ worth of fees and have no sales to show for it.
3rd, they may not be particularly good at promoting the gallery. Co-ops use the group fees to cover their costs. They might have it in their budget to pay for advertising, but most don’t always have that. Therefore, you must be willing to do a lot of self-promotion. 4th, many co-ops are resistant to change. Co-ops are formed by several artists getting together and pooling costs. As time moves on, they agree to add members and eventually form a board of directors. Founding members stay on and if it was successful when they started it, they don’t see a reason to change the way things are done. It can be a fight to have a new idea implemented if you can talk all the members around to seeing it your way.
There are some excellent up sides to joining a co-op. First, they all had a beginning and they like to help new artists. They get very invested in someone new and are excited to offer advice and help teach what they know. Second, they can be a social club of sorts. Because you all like art, you start out with a big thing in common. Third, because everyone pays dues; the gallery can be more stable and solvent. The co-op knows what it needs to keep afloat, and they work hard to make sure those debts are met. You have to attend the meetings and unlike a private gallery, you will always know where the gallery stands financially.
Consider this, what is the location of the gallery? Is it well known? How long has it been in business? How many members does it have and what is the ratio of mediums? Pay attention to what people are doing. You might be a great photographer but if you are exhibiting with 5 other camera pointers, your work might not stand out like you hoped.
Avenue West works hard to attract attention, keeps changing with the times and had a good variety of mediums. They have plans for promotion when COVID is over and they are a friendly bunch of talented people. The set up is such that I don’t feel like I will be bookended by incompatible artwork. I like it here. Come by and see it, you will see.