Being an artist can be a solitary existence, and for most artists, finding a market for their art work can be daunting and sometimes intimidating. An artist co-operative offers artists the opportunity to create a community who share gallery and retail space, and depending on the space available, even studio and classroom options.
What Is an Artist’s Co-operative
An artist’s co-operative is a group of artists who work together to form an organization that provides a space and infrastructure to work, exhibit and sell their art. If there is adequate space, there may be room for art lessons on premises.
There are financial and work responsibilities that are shared equally by the members including time to oversee the gallery/retail space.
Expenses for rent, utilities, and maintenance of the space are shared by the artist members usually through an initial membership fee and an on-going monthly fee. The organization usually also takes a percentage of the sale of art.
Successful Artist’s Co-op Profile
One successful artist co-operative that has been around for more than 25 years is the DeBlois Gallery in Newport, Rhode Island.
It has a great retail location on a busy, tourist-jammed street on Bellevue Avenue just a short walk from the Newport Museum of Art. Within a block of DeBlois Gallery are several other galleries, and another art co-op.
There are currently 15 members working in various media. The member artists have the opportunity to participate in annual members’ shows and curate their own show with other members. There is also a small gallery shop space in the back of the main gallery where members keep a rotating stock of their work available for sale.
Artists can apply to show as a guest artist at the gallery by submitting an application along with samples of their work prior to the monthly member’s meeting. The preference is for art work to be brought in to be screened that is representational of the work of the artist. Potential guest artist’s work is screened by the members for an invitation to exhibit at the gallery with one or two other guest artists.
Before the opening of the show, the participating guest artists discuss their work with the membership in an informal gathering for a two-fold purpose, so members who will be working the gallery hours can intelligently discuss the work with patrons, and also allows the members to become acquainted with the artist for possible membership.
Art Cooperatives are a Community of Artists
Artist’s co-operatives can provide a way to interact with other artists and provide common ground for shared studio, gallery and retail space at an individually reasonable cost. It takes a shared vision and determination to create a successful art co-op that includes gathering like-minded artists together and hammering out the guidelines that will keep things running smoothly.