A behind the scenes look at working in an Artist Cooperative Gallery
I joined Prescott’s local Artist cooperative gallery in 2009. Arts Prescott Gallery was originally founded in 1994 by a small contingency of Prescott artists looking for a location to sell their art. What started as a small gallery one block off of the famous Whiskey Row became a much larger gallery just a year later, In 1995 they moved into a space directly in the middle of Whiskey Row. The original founding members gutted the current location at 134 S. Montezuma which had housed a dark and dingy real estate office filled with cubicles. All of the funding and all the sweat equity was provided by the 28 artists at the time. One member built the sales counter that is still in place today.
Painter and Yavapai College art instructor Linne Thomas was president of the cooperative in 1995 and is still an active member of the gallery today. In fact, several of the founding members are still active members of the gallery today. They refer back to the “olden days” often, but also keep up with all the changes of operating a business in current times.
Traditions continue at the artist cooperative
Next month the gallery celebrates it’s 22nd birthday. Every year we serve cake and wine and throw a party for the community that has helped support us over the years. In November we hold a Holiday Party which helps to launch our annual month long art fundraiser. All the gallery members and other artists from the community donate artwork for a month long art sale. 100 % of the proceeds from the show go to a local charity. Over the years we have donated thousands of dollars to the community with charities like United Animal Fund, Hungry Kids of Yavapai County, Horses with Heart, Coalition for Compassion and Justice, Victims of the Yarnell fire and many more.
Getting a group a artists to agree.
The business of an artist cooperative.
Some days it’s a bit like herding cats, but we remain harmonious most of the time. The group meets monthly to review action items. Each member serves on at least one committee to take care of tasks like maintenance, quality control, advertising, shipping, display, finance and purchasing. We have a board of directors elected every year. Each member must live within a 50 mile radius of the gallery. There are no employees at our artist cooperative. Each day the storefront is open by one of the artists and closed by another artist. Typically an artist works 3 shifts a month. Each member pays a monthly fee to the gallery and a small percentage of sales. We keep cash on hand to cover any unexpected expenses. A few years ago some folks over indulging in the bars on Whiskey Row managed to smash through our front window. Twice a year we rearrange the gallery. We all take down our artwork and patch and paint the place. We call it our foo-foo night.
By definition, An artist cooperative (also co-operative or co-op) is an autonomous visual arts organization, enterprise, or association jointly-owned and democratically-controlled by its members. Currently we have 25 members in the gallery. The mediums offered include glass work, photography, painters (acrylic, pastel, watercolor), scratch board, digital creations, woodworking, fiber art (knit and silk), found objects, pottery, gourds and of course 5 jewelry artists. The member count fluctuates as artists come and go. Mostly, artists stay! Redimat framing supplies wrote an interesting article on the pros and cons of forming an Artist Co-op.
For me, it’s been a “pro” decision all the way! During the last 7 years I have developed as an artist and enjoyed learning from the knowledge of my artist peers. Being at Arts Prescott is like having an extended family that sells for you every day.
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at Arts Prescott Gallery, in Arizona.
Oh my, well written.
Thanks Rowena- glad you enjoyed it!