Monday, August 6, 2012

What's it Like to be a Gallery Owner?

Harvey Deselms is the owner of Deslems Fine Art Gallery in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I've been represented by Harvey for a number of years and decided to interview him about being a gallery owner. He was kind enough to indulge me as we chatted over burgers in the gallery kitchen. I hope you learn as much as I did as you read the interview.

Harvey, how long have you owned the gallery?

I just celebrated my 20th anniversary this year.

Congratulations! How did you decide to open a gallery?

I had a degree in archeology and anthropology and was working at the Old West Museum in Cheyenne. I found I was more interested in fund raising events and the art at the museum than the curator was. As I dabbled in some art classes at the community college, I found there were a lot of people with more talent than I. With that knowledge and some business classes it seemed a natural drift into the gallery business. It was a good way to be involved in art and help those with the talent.

Harvey, you do a lot of promotion of the artwork, artists and the gallery. Can you tell us what sort of things you do?

Sure. I keep an online presence through facebook pages and posts, and a website with the artwork, which is going to be updated soon. I do a lot of print advertising and post cards as well as TV a couple times a year. We have A.D.D. here in Cheyenne which stands for Art, Design and Dine, every second Thursday of the month. That always features an artist or designer from the area and involves various restaurants. In the past we've hosted BYOB, bring your own brush, on Thursdays, during which time artists demoed their work. The gallery does a lot of community sponsorship of non art related events also.

Some of the work at Deselms Fine Art Gallery

Can you tell us why artists should seek gallery representation?

So they can have more time to create! If they have to do all the promoting also, their big creative ideas get eaten up with that process of promoting.

Most artists I know aren't comfortable selling their own work.

Yes, sometimes it does take some finesse.

As a gallery owner, what qualities do you look for in an artist?

Reliability - I like to see that an artist is able to furnish the gallery with enough pieces to replace them as they sell. I like to see their work is well done, as well as priced in an affordable range for the market here. I have limited wall space and the work must be priced high enough to meet the artists' needs, but low enough to sell here.    

What advice do you have for artists who are looking for gallery representation?

Check out the gallery first to see if your work will be a good fit, both style wise and price wise. Then make an appointment to show the gallery your work. My pet peeve is when an artist shows up with an armload of paintings and wants me to devote my undivided attention to them and its the first time they've stepped foot in the gallery.

That seems fair. We all have schedules to keep. 

You do a lot of work for us. What can we, as artists, do to help you sell our work?

Be organized! Any organization, such as consignment sheets like you have is a huge help. And if possible, participate in any art events the gallery sponsors. Also, links on your website, facebook page, and things like that are all helpful, as well as word of mouth.

You also do custom framing here. In view of that, is there any thing you like to see as far as framing goes from your artists?

Consistency is nice, but different artists have different ways. Presentable and consistent is good.

One last question. Have you ever had an artist ask you to price their work?

Yes, and I steer clear of that. If I make it too low and it sells too quickly the artist thinks it should have been higher. If I price it too high and it doesn't sell in a timely manner then the artist isn't happy with that. I let artists price their own work. Occasionally I'll give advice to someone who asks and is just starting out - like a high school student.

So there you have it. Interviewing Harvey was a very enjoyable, as well as educational time. We became better friends and I was most surprised by the answer to the question about how I could help him sell my work. Who knew being organized would help my gallery so much?

Harvey and Dot
Thank you, Harvey, for your time and a glimpse into your life as a gallery owner. I'm more determined than ever to do all I can to help my galleries be successful. How about you?

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