Banner for my new online shop, StudioCassandra
As I wrote a while back, I've been musing about what to do with some of my artwork. Back in the U.S., I was associated for just about thirty years with AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, NH, a non-profit exhibition and educational institution, first as an exhibiting artist and then, for many years, as a board member, board chairman, and member of the education committee. It was an important part of my life, and something I really believed in. Over the decades I saw AVA (that stands for Alliance for the Visual Arts) grow from a small local gallery to an arts institution known and respected throughout northern New England, with a vibrant year-round educational program for children and adults, ongoing exhibitions of very high quality, showing the work of the best contemporary regional artists and often taking risks; most recently, AVA bought and renovated their own building, full of exhibition and teaching spaces and artist studios, in the most environmentally sound way.
Early on, I was still doing a lot of art, but during the years when I was working hardest at our design and communication business, I didn't do much art myself but I always cared about it - and AVA was one way I could, and did, stay involved. After moving up here, though, I haven't been thrilled about the gallery scene; for all its strengths in music and film, I don't find Montreal very strong in the visual arts or crafts, though we do have a very good contemporary museum. There are the predictable galleries catering to tourists in the Old City, but a lot of the work shown elsewhere is very conceptual and intellectual -- the kind of thing where the artist's statement seems more important than the work on the walls. And there is also the problem of money: Montreal doesn't have the sort of individual wealth you still find in America, and while Canada and Quebec have always strongly supported the arts, the Harper government is busy cutting arts funding right and left.
As in publishing, artists have the freedom now to market their own work, and some do quite well on the internet. So I've decided to open a virtual "shop" -- I'll give it six months or a year -- hoping that this will also be an incentive for me to keep producing new work, especially prints which are affordable, and also that it might add to our income. I have no desire to go backward artistically; I want to keep growing and pushing myself forward, but I do have a number of paintings and drawings in my flat file drawers and on my shelves that I'd rather know that people are enjoying in their homes, so I'll be listing some of those as well, and may in the future produce some high-quality, archival giclée prints of certain pieces, such as oil paintings and large works like the Iceland drawings.
I think all of us artists and writers are uncomfortable promoting our own work, but unfortunately this is the present-day reality unless we are well-established, with agents and sellers who are representing us - and who, of course, share in the profits, as they deserve to do. Making a living as an artist (and here I mean all the literary, fine, and performing arts) is becoming harder and harder, precisely at a time when -- I feel -- society needs art, and artists the most.
I don't want The Cassandra Pages to be commercial, so I've taken the "shop" offsite. I'll mention and show new artwork here, and continue to talk about the process, because you've been so interested, supportive and helpful with your comments and suggestions, but, as with Phoenicia Publishing, the transaction space will be over there for now. Of course I'm glad to hear any comments, suggestions, or stories of personal experience you've got relating to this venture, too!