gallery life is over

i walk down the hall of gallery 6 looking at my peers work.  photography. jewelry making. weaving.  i’m thinking how i miss it already.

a few weeks ago i decided to leave the Lorton Arts Foundation Workhouse Photographic Society.  sunday, march 8th was my last day.

i wanted to really mull it over before i decided to write about it.

so why have i left?  some of it was just lack of time.  some of it were for other reasons.

i learned quite a few lessons now having gotten to participate in something like this.  here’s a list of things i was able to immediately think of:

1. be ready to commit.  when i say commit – i mean you have to invest time, money, and patience.

  • time to go take fabulous photos that dont suck. time to build your frames or to go buy your frames.  time to print or order your photos.  time to assemble your photos and frames.  time to go and hang your photos.  time to sit and play studio manager.  time to make all these commitments while maintaining normal life of regular chores; a FT job, running errands, doing laundry, attending to family obligations, and anything and everything else that tests your sanity.
  • spend money on prints, inks, frames, gas to and from the facility, rent, money for benches that the foundation should have bought but made you pay for since they kinda wasted the money elsewhere.
  • patience for not losing it when you accidentally drop your frame on the ground when hanging.  patience for not tossing the frame out the window because you keep making stupid mistakes like forgetting to sign your mat or photo after you just cranked down the last screw.  patience for not getting super angry when you carefully pull the photo out, managed to sign it, put it back together and noticed a huge spec of lint stuck in the middle of the photo.  patience for some of your peers as you may not agree with some of their viewpoints.

2. if you have a FT job, it kinda sucks.

this shindig is a co-op, so there was 15 of us to start.  the setup is that everyone participates in sitting in the gallery to cater to potential clients and answering questions, etc…  if you dont have a tight schedule, thats ideal.  (i mean who doesn’t want to be able to work on what they love all the time?  i’d be ecstatic if i were able to dedicate most of my time to my photography.) but some of us have M-F FT jobs.  others didnt and was able to be flexible during the week.  to be fair, everyone picked a day to work during each 15 (open) business days.

well if the stars aren’t aligned, and you have to work M-F but didn’t get a weekend date – you’re kinda screwed into takin a weekday.  if you can’t cover the day, you have to hope someone will be willing to trade with you or you have to pay someone about $10 hr to cover your shift.  (this was the rules here, so i don’t know if there’s similar rules elsewhere)   i managed to avoid getting stuck with covering a weekday, but it was bound to happen enivitably.

3. in today’s modern world of email – expect to be spammed to death.

i signed up for the google groups set up for the Workhouse (a joint group of artists that are a part of the foundation).  and lots of topics come up.  lots of emails are sent out since you basically get a comment from almost everyone who’s participating.  same thing happened with our smaller group of photographers.  there’s a group email that goes out to everyone whenever a new topic or reply comes up.  the problem with that was some folks fail to look at the reply to header and kick out their replies to everyone instead of just one person. before you know it, you have almost 50% of your inbox inflated with gallery/artist related emails.

4. not everything is a pain in the a$$.

sure, my initial lessons learned might sound like a nightmare to some.  but be mindful that this facility is a brand new establishment, so there’s a lot of rules, procedures, emails, and other small things that fall through the cracks.  many of the things i didn’t agree with will be resolved eventually.  example being that i was paying rent to utilize a studio space which i never got to use because the only time I can use it would be after hours.  the problem was we didn’t have access to the gallery after hours.  there were key faubs set up but never made it to my hands while i was there.  eventually this will be a problem resolved – but not till later.  as with other issues, i’m sure they too will come to some solution in the future.

5. the perks to being involved with a art gallery/foundation.

there are several things that i thought was cool being involved in this environment.

  • the first thing – the other photographers are great.  with the exception of some static between a couple folks, the group was fantastic.  on days i worked as the studio manager, i’d walk thru the gallery and really get a chance to check out my peers work.  there is quite some exceptional work on those walls i’ll say.   being around such a diverse group of photographers really gives perspective on your own work.
  • people walking through and looking at your work.  it’s funny to see peoples reactions and hear what folks have to say.   my Moto Boobies series either fascinated people or offended people.  i remember one lady and her son came in to look. her boy was commenting on my army men pics, “cool – army soldiers mom!”.  then he moved on to the next pic which was one of my Moto Boobies pics.  and he stopped and stared.  mom quickly moved him on while his eyes stayed glued to the image of 2 chicks with “X”s on their boobs. it made me laugh.  overall, its cool to hear peoples thoughts on your work when they don’t even realize its your stuff they’re commenting on.
  • when someone actually buys something of yours – you’ll never forget it.  sure, i’ve “sold” stuff before – but under different circumstances… like to friends or the occasional stranger that liked my work. nothing OFFICIOUS though.  the difference here is that your work is IN A GALLERY.  and you’re asking for a descent wad of loot for that photograph you have hanging up.  remember this is technically a luxury item.  so when someone thinks your work is impressive enough to drop that wad of loot for YOUR PHOTOGRAPH – well, its pretty damn cool.
  • being there when someone wants to buy your work is the best feeling in the world.  sure, it’s great to sell a piece when you’re not there to see the transaction. but its way cooler to actually meet the folks that plan on hanging your work in their home.  i was lucky enough to have that happen to me.  an hour before closing, a couple charged in and made a B-line shot right to my little area of photographs.  when i approached them and asked if i could help with anything – they told me they wanted to buy a photo.  mine.  but they didn’t know it was mine.  for a split second – my heart skipped a beat.  they started talking about how much they liked it and how they’ve been thinking about it and how excited they were to buy it.  needless to say i was beside myself.    this is something that i can never get from interweb sales.  this is a unique experience – one that i wont forget.
  • ***********

the nutshell:

would i do gallery life again?   sure, what the hell.  i tried it out, just to see if i could make it in.  and i did.  i’m good enough.  my work is quality enough to sit amongst other great photographers.  that much i know.  so getting in isn’t the issue… 

it’s the other stuff.  things are complicated now with the job and personal life.  getting out there to do extra stuff on top of regular crap is difficult.  i liked the peers, liked the visitors,  loved the visibility, and wished the shenanigans weren’t so frequent.  but maybe down the road when i have more freedom with my time – i’ll jump back on the artsy fartsy gallery wagon.


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