Before 2011, I never saw myself running an art gallery. I was happily painting, but sales could have been happier. My wife Sarah and I had been trying to find a way for her to be a stay-at-home mom for our kids. Even with six galleries carrying my work, I began to consider opening my own gallery in hopes that sales of my artwork could alone support my growing family.
Thanks to three artists in particular, I was inspired to strike out on my own. Carl Ortman had the most impact, but I also took advice from Josh Been and Carl Bork. (Each of the three in fact has his own gallery in Salida, Colorado.) I began looking for a storefront location, first in Colorado Springs, Colorado (where we lived at the time), then in other locations throughout the Southwest. We liked the idea of a California location and found an available shop that we liked in downtown Ojai.
Four months (and a lot of work) later we had moved to Ojai and opened Dan Schultz Fine Art Gallery & Studio. Our family and friends were very supportive and a great help to us in preparing for and making the move. We couldn’t have done it without them.
We didn’t know what to expect when we opened, but we’re thankful that we’ve already celebrated four years in business. I still see the value of working with other established galleries and continue to do so, but opening my own storefront has made it possible for me to make a living as an artist. And I’ve noticed some other advantages as well:
1. I get to have my own show all the time and choose how to present it.
2. I’m able to interact in person with gallery visitors, receive ongoing feedback about my work and maintain relationships with those who make purchases.
3. I don’t have to pay another gallery a portion (40% – 50%) of each sale.
4. I get to provide a valuable cultural service for my community and those who visit, helping to educate them about art and showing them that quality work is being done by living artists. (Especially important for kids who may eventually decide to collect art or pursue art as a profession.)
5. The reputation I develop (hopefully positive!) in my community has the potential to spread to a larger area.
I think more and more artists have been opening their own storefront galleries in order to keep doing what they love. Any of you want to chime in with other advantages?
Yes ,I agree and glad you are doing well in Ojai! I always enjoy going to your gallery when I drive up the hill. I have now had my gallery, En Plein Air in Carpinteria for three years now. I have made lovely friends who started as patrons, from all over the world, young and old! I love it when I can enable young people to start collecting.
I have a fantastic opportunity to move my gallery right next door., much larger, lots of light and a great garden patio for events and classes.
I look forward to many more years of doing what I love and also showcasing great other artists of our community .
I absolutely agree. I now live in California in Sunland, an L. A. fringe community. Several years ago, when I lived in another state, I had a storefront studio/gallery that did well for about 3-1/2 years before I moved to follow my wife’s career opportunity. The building I was in featured two big north-facing windows on either side of a central entry door; I painted in front of one and displayed the latest creation in the other. Interior walls displayed earlier works. Welk-in traffic, art classes, constant display. What could be better? Difficulties in my area of SoCal have prevented a repeat of that experience, mostly due to high rents and poor locations,…so far.
Thanks for that info. I haven’t taken that step yet, although it is always in the back of my mind. Glad to hear that things are going well. Sounds like an excellent move for you!
Thanks for the update! I’m happy to hear how well you are doing, and what a positive move having your own gallery has been. (I do miss seeing you and Sarah in Colorado, though!!) I’m currently in a co-op gallery and enjoying it. I feel like it’s a good way to get my feet wet, I get the opportunity to interact with visitors (although not on a daily basis), and the opportunity to hang with fellow artists as we participate together in making the gallery a success. Maybe someday I’ll be able to step out on my own!!
Leigh, I’m glad to hear about your opportunity to move to a larger space — awesome! I’ll have to come check it out if you do end up moving.
William, your gallery space sounds like it was nice. I hope you get the chance to open another, although I understand about the high rents and poor locations. For it to work, it has to be the right space for sure.
I bet you’d be good at running a gallery, Rita, if you ever decide to try one. You think Victor would get enough traffic? Maybe Cripple Creek?
We miss all of you Colorado friends too, Julie. Glad to hear that you’re enjoying your co-op experience and getting your work out there. Hopefully we can get back for a visit before too long….
Such a timely article, Dan! I was recently wondering how you were liking your new gallery arrangement! I’m so happy to hear it’s such a positive experience for your family. Until a few years ago I had a large studio space which I used to run classes and workshops but not a gallery space. I was there for 10 years. I often think of you and wonder about doing the same thing myself. Could you tell us what you consider key things you’d look for in a location and do you hang a “Gone Fishin” sign on your door when you take time away? Thank you for sharing this!
Thanks for chiming in, Bobbi. Your large studio space sounds great. I bet you loved it. I’m glad to try to answer your questions too — I’ll try to cover them in my next article….
That would be wonderful, Dan …. I look forward to it! Thank you!
i have been looking for space for over a year! It is difficult finding affordable store front property around Denver. I am envious- your studio gallery looks perfect!
Like you Dan, I opened my own gallery in Manitou Springs 4 years ago. Now I sell my work along with other artists in my genre. Best move I have made! Glad to hear if your success, I remember when you were at Cottonwood!
Carol, I noticed too that larger cities can have pretty high rent prices for commercial space, especially in good locations. It’s tough to find the right space!
Tracy, I’m glad your Manitou gallery is working well — thanks for commenting!
I was reading your reflections about having your own gallery and I am totally blown away. I can’t believe it has been 4 years since you left Colorado Springs….it seems like just last year. Time sure has flown. I am delighted that you and your family are happy in California and that your endeavor has been successful. Congratulations.
I know, the time has gone fast, Linda. Thank you for your nice comments!
My Gallery Criteria
[…] my post about the advantages of a studio gallery, a few folks asked if I could share some of the criteria I […]