In the same week I was preparing for the boutique event, I received news that the gallery I had been volunteering to help out with* closed their doors and I learned this from the friend who introduced me to the managing couple. I did not learn it directly from the couple until I emailed them about other matters.
When I first began to meet with the creative couple to discuss the possibility of teaching at their gallery a few months ago, I learned a few things that made me wary of getting too financially involved since I expected to be paid for my time in teaching. However, I could see the possibilities of the space and wanted to help out. I offered to lend my administrative skills in exchange for some recycled garments made by the husband which are pretty cool garments for an artist to wear and luckily, I received my one-of-a-kind dress in time for my birthday!
Me in my fabulous dress photographed by my dear boyfriend - I chose the t-shirts and thread used, which could be considered making art for Art Every Day Month! ;)
Volunteering my time was beneficial for me and not just with a new dress. I got the opportunity to learn how to work with Microsoft 2007 programs and this was a big plus for me in terms of my administrative skills. In the course of working with this creative couple, I learned other lessons that I'll keep in mind as I continue on my path as an Artist. Here is what I learned:
Opening a Space With No Money, No Funding, No Business Plan
I learned early on that this couple had opened the gallery space with no money, funding or business plan in place. They did have someone work with them on creating a business plan, but they were scrambling so much to keep day-to-day operations going that they didn't have time to put the plan into action. Watching this process in action was eye-opening for me.
Lack of Vision or Focus
When the wife talked about conducting an online fundraiser to keep the space open, I worked with her to find out what they hoped the space would be and what the vision was. It was hard for her to focus on that vision when she was constantly looking for the next thing to bring in much needed money.
Because of my recent background with non-profit work, I was able to inform her that she needed a vision because her passion would inspire others to help them with their vision. I began a write-up for their campaign, but when they finalized it, the vision of what they wanted for their space got lost in rhetoric, along with my clear concise writing!
Technology is the Future
Though my previous day job was horrible, I've mentioned that there are some things I'm grateful for and one of them was having the opportunity to learn more on handling a computer and computer programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel. I also had the opportunity to check out blogs and I caught on very quickly that blogs and internet technology is the FUTURE and an amazing tool for artists, if wielded properly. It's a mistake to think otherwise and not take advantage of what can be done to reach so many people through the internet. As an example:
One day I asked the husband, who is the designer/creator of this duo, why he wasn't selling on Etsy. He designs great garments using old t-shirts and his designs are fabulous with a use of color that I admire. I think his designs would sell pretty quickly since recycled/up-cycled garments are pretty hot right now. His response to my question was that "It's too time-consuming". He said the same thing about a blog he has that he never uses.
This mind-set was baffling to me! I could only attribute it to the idea that perhaps a better handle on technology might be needed. I'm sure I don't have to tell many of you how a blog can be a great tool to let people (future customers!) take a look at your process and become interested in what you have to offer and the same goes for online listings whether you use Etsy, Big Cartel or any other online selling venue. And you don't have to leave the comfort of your home!!
I helped by creating an Excel spreadsheet for them to work with to help them figure out their finances. I helped the wife to find out what the vision of the gallery was. I helped by starting the write-up for their fund-raising pitch when money was running low...
I wanted to help because I saw the potential for the space, but you can only do so much. If people are not ready to be successful, there is not much help for that and a few friends I've spoken to about this situation have the view that this couple may not be ready for success.
The couple were grateful for my help and I'm sorry that the space had to close. However, I can say as of this writing that they have found another space nearby. Since I only volunteered few hours one day a week, I might continue to help them out with my administrative skills - getting some fabulous clothes in exchange for my skills is great, but if they chose not to continue with my services that will be fine too as it gives me more time for me to FOCUS on my plans for my future!
I have to say though, that an interesting thing did come up in the course of working with them:
One day while working, the wife asked if I'd ever considered being an "Artist's Manager" - she thought I'd be great at it! When I mentioned this idea to some friends they agreed enthusiastically and one of them also thought I'd be a great gallery owner/curator! After that, I started to look at the space and think about what I could do if I owned it and the ideas that began to come into my head were exciting!
I've thought of working in a gallery but hadn't thought of owning and curating one of my own, but why not?!? If an amazing opportunity presented itself, I wouldn't say no...
It's time for a future as bright as the blue sky! Photo by yours truly =-)
At least I can say that I wouldn't make the same mistakes and I'd certainly learn from my mistakes as I go - but don't we all learn as we go!
* - See #8, 9, 10 on my list