Monthly Archives: April 2016

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum May 1987

KCAC Forum Magazine May 1987

by Rebekah Presson

The reason artists and galleries get together is twofold: to expose the work and to make money. In both cases, the results of the union for most Kansas City galleries and artists is less than satisfying. The relationship between an artist and the gallery that represents them for her is one of mutual dependence. It should also be one of trust, but that part doesn’t always work out either.

Of six gallery owners asked, only two say they actually earn a living selling art. As everyone already knows, only a handful of Kansas City artists make enough off fine artwork to get by. And the people who visit galleries are more often other artists, giving support and/or keeping up on the competition, than potential buyers.

The situation is so bad, in fact, many consider the economics of selling fine art in Kansas City to e a moot point. As generously put by Bob Carlson, who’s Gallery Karl Oskar folded after burning through $200,000 (yes, two hundred thousand) of his own money, “If anybody starves more than the dealers, it would be the artists.”

Nevertheless, gallery owners complain about artists who shun loyalty and sell work directly, leaving the gallery without commission; and artists are angry with galleries that don’t promote them outside the immediate area. But when it comes down to it, both know that exhibiting art is a high-risk venture.

Most gallery owners say the average show opening costs at least $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses before a thing is sold. Thus, at a 40-percent commission, a gallery would have to sell $25,000 worth of art just to break even for opening day. That, of course, doesn’t count rent, electricity, and food on the table for the gallery owner for the rest of the month of the show.

A recent show of works by Richard Beige and Barbara Westerfield at the Leedy-Voulkos Gallery resulted in no sales. And if the $3,000 out-of-pocket monetary drain on the gallery weren’t enough, nation of no sales and a bad review from the Kansas City Star left the artist disconsolate. Beige says, “I don’t be believe in myself – I stopped painting after the show at Leedy-Voulkos because I’m so down and so disheartened.” Like many full-time Kansas City Artists, Beige teaches. And the advice he gives students these days is, “get out of art” and learn about video.

For those artists who think they will be the exception, here’s what gallery owners in the Kansas City area have to say about how they pick who they will represent.

Only one gallery claimed to have an interest in very young artists straight out of school, and that was the not-for-profit Euphrates Gallery. Euphrates emphasizes artists from ethnic minorities, most often blacks. Founder Carol Cooper says her selection committee is “an open bunch,” which will look at work outside the mainstream. Gloria Baker Feinstein of the Baker Gallery says she might exhibit the photos of an artist straight out of school if he or she could show “a consistent body of work – at least 20 things.” She adds that she has no interest in the photographer with two or three great picture.

Cooper advises a young artist to have slides of his/her work (never take the work itself along) and to be self-confident. Susan Lawrence of Westport’s Batz/Lawrence Gallery agrees that an artist need to believe in himself and says it doesn’t hurt to come armed with a recommendation. But even though – like most other gallery owners – she tends to opt for established artists, she says “We look at everybody’s slides because we don’t want to miss the next Rembrandt.” Exclusivity doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite for working with a local gallery. Bob Carlson dismisses the idea with, “We fought a war a hundred years ago about slavery.” Although Euphrates has an artist sign a contract, Carol Cooper says it’s not exclusive and has mostly to do with insurance.

The list of ways an artist can alienate gallery owners is much the same from store to store. Cooper includes taking payment directly from the buyer (whether or not the artist intends to eventually pay the commission) and putting stuff in other galleries while showing at Euphrates. Most gallery owners say they don’t often seek retribution against those who sell behind their backs (although Cooper says she once held an artist’s paintings until the commission was paid), but they all agree the word does get around – and when it does, the artist who works for himself won’t have a glory to show in. According to Bob Carlson, “They only screw your once and then it’s over.”

But cooper doesn’t paint the galleries as white hats against double-dealing artists. On the contrary, she takes issue with the way some galleries are run. Euphrates Gallery operates on a 30-percent commission, and the average at a for-profit gallery is 40-percent. Cooper says she has heard of the cut going as high as 50 percent of a sale. “What is the gallery bringing to the relationship to take this much?” asks cooper, adding “That’s one-half of the artists idea, concept, and work.” And for that sort of arrangement, says Cooper, an artist should expect to be heavily promoted in and out of the local area.

Susan Lawrence is one of the gallery owners who lives off selling art. She uses local artists almost exclusively, saying it’s too expensive to bring artists from out of town. She says she signs artists because they are good and judges their merit by how well they use materials, their style, and her judgement that people will buy the work. She admits that, as a for-profit gallery, she can’t show all the talented local artists, saying “there’s some really good art being made here that we don’t show because it doesn’t sell.” Richard Beige claims to be one of those artists. He says, “I was with Lawrence – at least she had to guts to say she couldn’t sell my stuff.”

Whether an artist’s work sells in a gallery depends on a lot of factors. According to Lennie Berkowitz, who operates one of three (the other two are in Los Angeles and New York) Garth Clark Ceramics Galleries out of her home, “A collector wants what he wants.” She says price is rarely a factor in the habits of her buyers; but she adds, that may have to do with the fact that ceramics sell for a lot less than paintings. The average piece in her gallery goes for $400 to $800, and she finds it easier to sell the more expensive pieces because “it’s easy to see there’s a lot of value there.” At the Adrian Saxe show held recently at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and represented by Berkowitz, pieces went up to $7,500. The problem there, says Berkowitz, was that there weren’t enough masterworks to go around.

But Susan Lawrence says, “People in Kansas City have a hard time spending more than $1,000 on a work of art.” A show she held this year for Jim Sajovic who’s giant paintings had price tags of $9,000, resulted in no sales. And Gloria Baker Feinstein advises artists to keep prices reasonable as well, because in photography one can buy the work of a well known artist for $350 and up.

Feinstein also lives off sales from her gallery. This is the Baker Gallery’s sixth year, and Feinstein says sales have increased steadily each year. She says her goal is “to show that (artwork) that other wise wouldn’t be seen.” She admits she rarely promotes her artists out of town but says, “so much of what I give to them is support.” That support extends to giving feedback, taking the work to corporate clients and including it in shows such as the ones she recently put together for Saks Fifth Avenue and Johnson County Community College.

Feinstien says determining whether to take on a photographer is a subjective thing, but the final test is whether the photos can “make the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up.” She represents about seven local photographers; most of her artists are from out-of-town.

Carol Cooper plans to take advantage of out-of-town talent in the future as well. Referring t6o the success of the Gordon Parks show at the Euphrates Gallery she says, “Kansas City will support big name artists over locals – so we’re doing major shows.” One such show will include a film series on the Harlem Renaissance.

Cooper acknowledges that a sense of despair over the future of artists and galleries exists in Kansas City, but says “it’s not just galleries, it’s also farmers and steel companies.” She goes on, “To survive, people have to set up certain priorities and art is not one of them.” She says modern people have to learn to take the same approach to art as primitive people and see it as integral and useful to their daily lives. Asked why she would open a gallery in such a strained economy, she answers, “It’s strained in terms of money, but in terms of consciousness, it’s the right time.”

Bob Carlson says that resources are exhausted, and he now must depend on making a living bartering art. “Something only comes from nothing, and we have nothing in art right now,” he says.

Other gallery owners agree, as Lennie Berkowitz says, the art business “will swing back up – but not in the next couple of years.” Berkowitz admits that her optimism has to do with the fact that “I’m not eating off art.”

Tips for approaching a gallery about a show

  • If you’re fresh out of school, try to get in some juried shows before trying galleries
  • Have a professional looking portfolio with at least 20 pieces of work in it
  • Don’t rely on one or two good pieces. Show your range.
  • Be confident and sure of yourself and your talent.
  • Know what the gallery is all about. Visit it a couple of times before peddling your wares.

Once you get in the show

  • Sell only through the gallery while your work is there
  • Any sales that come as a result of the show (even afterward) should be handled by the gallery
  • Don’t put work in more than one local gallery at a time
  • Find out what the gallery owner will do to promote you:
    • Do they have contacts outside Kansas City?
    • Can they show your work to corporate clients?
  • Expect to pay a 40 percent commission. If it’s more, find out why.
  • Look for a teaching job

patricia bordallo dibildox

We are jumping right back in this week on KC Artist Lifestyle with Kansas City based photographer, Patricia Bordallo Dibildox (@pat.paya)! Patricia’s edgy and bold photography caught our eye a little over a year ago and we have been trying to get her on the account ever since. The planet’s have finally aligned and here we go…

Patricia is a Mexican-born artist living in Kansas City. She obtained her BFA in Photography from the Kansas City Art Institute and has worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy and at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City. Her work has been exhibited in a wide range of spaces including local galleries such as City Ice Arts and 50/50. Patricia is currently working as the Director of the Pre-College ArtLab at the Kansas City Art Institute. Alongside her studio practice, she is managing editor of Informality Blog (KC) and a partner of Sight Review (NYC).

We are looking forward to seeing what a week in the life of Patricia (@patpaya) is all about, but since we just can’t wait, here are a few images of Patricia’s work and past Instagram images…

Bordallo-Dibildox_Patricia_Image-1_AL_4_16      Bordallo-Dibildox_Patricia_Image-2_AL_4_16      Bordallo-Dibildox_Patricia_Image-3_AL_4_16

Be sure to follow Patricia on her KCAC Instagram journey Thursday, April 28th – Tuesday, May 3rd!

If you missed any of our previous Artist Lifestyle Artists you can always catch up on the KCAC Instagram (@kcartistscoalition) to see what has been happening or search social media with the hashtags: #kcartistlifestyle #kcacartistlifestyle

Throwback Thursday – KCAC Forum Nov 1985

KCAC Forum Magazine November 1985

by Frankie Jo Anderson Coleman

For a visual artist to be able to “purchase time” to be creative can be crucial to maintaining an artistic career. Awards, grants, fellowships and prizes are available to practicing professional visual artist in the areas of painting, print making, drawing, photography, sculpture, crafts, artists’ books and new genres. Specific qualifications and requirements vary for each granting organizations, but the procedures and guidelines are usually standard.

The juried process varies from the local level through the regional or national arena. As stated by Richard Andrews, director of the National Endowment for the Arts visual arts program, more artists apply for fellowships through their regional program than on a national basis. Part of the reason is that local organizations establish mailing lists and direct contact, which would be impossible on a national scale.

Whether national or local, juried panelists are professional peers and are selected for their artistic background and their time availability. Some panelists also include museum personnel, art teachers, gallery owners, trustees or foundation officers. Some national competitions use reference numbers on entries to minimize subtle pre-judgments based on geographic location, title, medium or the artist’s name.

For most competitions, the first round of jurying eliminates the most unacceptable entries. The National Endowment for the Arts utilizes a point system and five rounds of scoring. During the first two rounds, the panelists view all of the submitted slides from the entries, marking their votes on a computer print-out without any discussion or conversation. Not until the third round is information about each artist introduced, including the name of the piece, its size, the artist’s background and statement.

The NEA currently uses six jurors on its fellowship panel; and they can dole out $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 or $25,000 fellowships as they see fit. However, Mr. Andrews points out that no one receives a $25,000 fellowship without a unanimous vote. Given the number of categories within the visual arts field, the NEA alternates years for certain categories. In fiscal year 1984, the NEA received a total of 5,022 applicants in photography, sculpture and crafts and handed out $2.7 million to 207 artists.

Romalyn Tilghman, regional representative for the nine-state central states area of the NEA, says that in her region, 49 applications were received and 15 were recommended for funding. “Although the numbers are lower than in other areas of the country,” she says, “the percentages of funded applications tends to be about the same as in New York or California.”

Since 1983, Mid-America Arts Alliance has sponsored, with the NEA, annual fellowships for artists in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. This is the first program in a projected series of regional fellowships designed to complement the NEA’s national fellowship program.

During 1983 and 1984, nearly 500 artists in Mid-America applied for the M-AAA fellowships; 40 were chosen, receiving $3,500 grants; and many will show their work in a touring exhibition called “Winners.” The exhibit will be at the Kansas City Artists Coalition space from Nov. 8 to Dec. 7, 1985.

Applications for the next round of M-AAA/NEA fellowships (in painting, prints, drawing and artists’ books) must be postmarked by Jan. 14, 1986. Contact the M-AAA at (816) 421-1388.

jen fontanella

KC Artist Lifestyle is back this week with local Kansas City artist, Jen Fontanella (@artbyjenf). Jen is doing double duty in the arts world with her time split between creating ceramic works inspired by the nature around her, and producing gorgeous jewelry by way of her metalsmithing skills.

Jen received a B.S. Degree in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. After college, Jen pursued a career in Advertising and worked in the industry for 7 years. In 2006-2007 she traveled to Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy to experience a formal arts education, live abroad and immerse herself in other cultures first hand. In 2013, Jen struck out on her own in the arts world and began to pursue her arts career one hundred percent. She hasn’t looked back since and we know we are particularly thrilled that she and her works are here to stay.

Here are a few thoughts from Jen on her work and artistic inspiration in her own words…

“I love how art has the ability to evoke emotion in everyone. Throughout my work, you’ll find nature is an underlying theme. I have a ton of respect for our earth and our surroundings, which is why I make pieces that all nod to nature in one way or another. My mission is simple, I want you to feel joy, beauty, and happiness. I strive for my pieces to make you smile during your day.”

We are thrilled to see what a week in the life of Jen (@artbyjenf) is all about, but since we just can’t wait, here are a few images of Jen’s work and past Instagram images…

Fontanella_Jen_Image-1_WEB_AL_4_16     Fontanella_Jen_Image-2_WEB_AL_4_16      Fontanella_Jen_Image-3_WEB_AL_4_16

Be sure to follow Jen on her KCAC Instagram journey Thursday, April 21st – Tuesday, April 26th!

If you missed any of our previous Artist Lifestyle Artists you can always catch up on the KCAC Instagram (@kcartistscoalition) to see what has been happening or search social media with the hashtags: #kcartistlifestyle #kcacartistlifestyle