Recently my wife and I decided to stop by an art gallery located not too far off from where she works. It was during a weekend when folks were just beginning to get their shopping in for the holiday season, and it was already starting to get a little crazy out there. Kris was getting back into painting once again and heard about some paintings on exhibit at this art gallery, just down the road, so what better way to escape the consumer-driven insanity than getting lost in a little art.
I had been to this gallery only once before, last summer, when they had a photo exhibit. The woman who ran the gallery was as kind and accomodating as can be, and made me want to stop by again. At that time, we had just bought our first house and didn't have too much spare money to drop on art, or for much of anything else for that matter, and for me, personally, I'm more into collecting drawings and paintings, so it was enough for me to simply browse and look at the photos. On my second visit though, Kris was with me, and we actually had a few spare bucks, and we were somewhat on the lookout for some new work to hang in the house.
When we arrived, the place was relatively quiet, with some pleasant jazz music playing at low volume. We walked in and there was an older gentleman who I had seen the first time I visited, sitting at the front desk, near the entrance way. The man didn't look up at all. Not even once. In fact, I wasn't too sure what he was so immersed in that it took away his time and energy from saying a simple "welcome" or "hello". Shortly after we entered, Kris, in a reasonably quiet voice, said how cool it was that the gallery had classrooms, and upon looking at a room near the entrance door, hosting an adult watercolor class, mentioned how she wouldn't mind a refresher course in watercolor painting. A few seconds later, an older woman who was teaching the class, gave us both a sharp, smug glance and closed the door, I'm assuming to shield her five or six students from the deafening wall of noise emanating from our mouths. At that point, I was ready to turn around and walk out the door, and I later discovered that was also the case with Kris. But, as lovers of art, and there were some fine works hanging on those walls, we decided to stick around some.
After a brief survey of the work on display, many of it consisting of scenic paintings in oils, acrylics and watercolor, we both had found a couple of pieces and even verbally expressed interest in the work. Our conversation about what we would possibly buy that day, could have easily been heard by the man sitting at the front desk, considering the place was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. We slowly made our way towards the exit, checking out some postcards and flyers for upcoming shows and events, yet not a single acknowledgement by the man at the desk. That was when we decided to walk out the door and most likely not ever return.
The kind woman who used to work there had unfortunately moved on to bigger and better things. The man at the desk was also present the first time I visited, exuding the same sour, silent, sombre mood. Nothing against silence or quiet people, however there was a certain "aura", if you will about this man, as if he was annoyed to have anyone even present in the very space that employs him. I heard the gallery was experiencing some problems staying afloat, and they were trying to shake things up and make some major changes, however, I think the changes to be made were quite simple and glaringly obvious to Kris and I upon our last (and LAST) visit.
It's not rocket science to assume that the work hanging on the walls won't simply sell itself, at least in most cases. When folks take out a moment of their precious time to visit an art gallery and consider dropping a few hundred dollars of their hard-earned money on a piece, it just may take some coaxing and convincing on the other end. It's that simple, and as an artist who was put in quite a few positions to sell my own work to the public, if done right, and with a little kindness and sincerety, it usually works. The couple of people who were working the gallery that day did everything you possibly could do to drive away visitors, which would lead to potential customers, which could very well lead to the aquisition of some of their biggest supporters, cheerleaders and allies. While my wife and I are relatively easy-going people who aren't looking for a song-and-dance, at least do your part - do your job, no matter what kind of day, month or year you may be having. It's not about you. This can also pertain to restaurants, vineyards and retail spaces, where we've had similar experiences (however far and few) ending with similar results. Customers, not sales, will go flying out the door, and not always so gracefully or quietly. In the end, it's all about the product, in this case the art, and the artists, and ultimately the gallery, who survives and thrives from visits and sales.