Some wise ad campaigner once said-“you gotta have art” and I opened Art Cats Gallery in Muskegon in 1999 on the assumption that that premise was correct. In reality, I had no plan when I opened. I had a new studio with a showroom adjacent and decided to use the showroom for a 4 artist Holiday show. After the holidays I simply stayed. Having a gallery seemed like a good change after doing art fairs for 20 years. I was still an idealistic romantic then thinking the world would welcome a new gallery and the throngs would come and buy buy buy. In reality having a gallery is a lot of hard work. It is negotiating advertisers, artists, fund raisers, sales, consignment, wholesale, pricing, hours, customers, lack of customers, service and scheduling. The list of hats worn is endless. Would it have been an easier, more seamless transition going from full time artist to full time gallery owner and operator AND full time artist with a solid business plan? Without question.
Jumping out into the big bad retail world without a planning parachute is not a method that I would recommend but it can work. Art Cats Gallery in Muskegon just passed the 14 year mark. It has been a journey and as with all journeys, has had highs and lows and if being in operation for that long and actually paying all the artists and even occasionally paying myself makes it a success then I guess it is. Keeping it small and manageable has helped. Figuring out what sells best and developing a niche following has kept the gallery open. Keeping in touch with customers and searching out what they are looking for has gained me a loyal clientele. Knowing so many fine and fabulous artists however, has been its saving grace. As with any affair of the arts, the gallery itself could not happen without those hard working, creative optimists that are known as visual artists. Artists are the life blood of all things art related, the creators, thinkers, imaginers. They are the ones that will work long stretches at a time because they are inspired. Not by money, but by ideas, and brilliance and vision. And while I sometimes feel that my own art work has taken a hit and I have become more of a business owner than an artist, in my heart, I still consider myself an artist first. I have learned to savor those moments of creative vision and when they appear I consider them a grand gift and look forward to the times I feel connected and inspired and lost in my own work.