It’s time to move on . . .
Three years ago this fall I was accepted into the Stone Mountain arts incubator program cleverly named SMart, Inc. The collaboration between the City of Stone Mountain and ART Station was using government grants to try to revitalize historic Stone Mountain village by attracting artists, providing them with inexpensive studio and gallery space, and training them how to conduct themselves as a businesses. I was nothing more than a hatchling, a featherless creature with a few nice paper collages and some potential, a fearful “pinkie” who knew nothing about how to set up a business and pay sales tax, how to market myself, how to get a wing inside the door of the art world. For only $67/month and a 30% commission on sales, I was given a large studio in which to work; shared gallery space for exhibiting my art; guidance in setting up a sole proprietorship; and mentoring on how to market my art. All of the city government officials supported our endeavor, and quarterly art strolls brought them and their spouses in to “ooh and aah” over our creations.
Those perks lasted six months for me—from January through June 2013. Then the government money began to dry up, the city began to lose interest, and our monthly costs went up to $200 plus 30% commission on sales. Two of the galleries closed and three of the artists left for better economic conditions (i.e., they got paying jobs); four galleries were condensed down to two. Unfortunately, though, as support waned, the number of visitors to the village and paying customers did not go up correspondingly. Too many factors lay outside of our control for six artists to revitalize an entire village by creating an arts destination.
For the past two years we fledgling artists have been on our own financially. No more educational workshops and free lunches. No more subsidies. We negotiate and sign our own leases. We pay our own utilities and insurance and security. We arrange and pay our own advertising. We piggyback off of “art strolls” organized by ART Station to correspond with the irregular openings of their exhibits. We have been forced to seek outside sources for revenue. We learned to fly.
Ironically, in 2015, I have earned more outside of the gallery than from it. Over the course of these three years I have managed to set up enough web presence and notoriety in the metro Atlanta art scene for others to seek me out. Oh, occasionally a stranger comes into the gallery and buys some note cards or a print or even a marked down original collage off the wall, but those sales are small potatoes compared to what I’ve sold in exhibits, made from awards, and sold to art brokers.
Now that I can fly, it is time for me to leave the nest. I cannot reason why I need the overhead of rent, utilities, insurance, and forced “open” days and hours. I don’t want to spend my time making small crafty items for tourists to buy. I want to focus on large showable collages that push the boundaries of what I think I can do. I will miss the comradery and the sharing of ideas, but I want to make my own hours.
For 2016, I am moving my studio home and giving up the gallery. This bird has matured and needs to fly.