In the spirit of Thanksgiving week, I'd like to show some gratitude for the cooperation that is always icing on the cake when it comes to artistic venture arrangements!
It is often debated that competition is the nature of a free-market economy, but in my experience it is more about how you look at a situation to make it a symbiotic idea rather than a competitive downer. (I personally do not like competitive environments and find myself to have a quite non-competitive spirit...)
Some may argue that a lot of really nice art shops or work all in one place creates too much of an air of competition. I would argue the opposite - that the symbiotic relationships between art forms, artists, and creative ventures is often more mutually beneficial than it is competitive. In fact, there have been many studies on this to show that the economic benefits of attracting symbiotic artistic and creative ventures to the same part of town has a mutually economic benefit to all.
The Artist's Gallery at Virginia Beach Art Center located in the VIBE District of Virginia Beach at 532 Virginia Beach Blvd.
On a macro-level this symbiosis of artistic outlets creates some of the best places and towns to visit. Everyone loves to visit that quaint stretch of town filled with craft shops, artisan galleries, breweries, and cafes. On a micro or more localized level this can also play-out simply with the artistic relationships we share with others of similar creative inclination or with the organizations we as artists choose to become a part of and support as a part of our larger creative community.
The Ceramic Designers Association (CDA) and The Artist's Gallery at Virginia Beach Art Center (VB-AC) exemplify the beneficial relationships that can be fostered between both for-profit and non-profit organizations. The Artist's Gallery sits in the VIBE District of Virginia Beach - a little slice of town where even the city has put effort into fostering a creative mutually beneficial environment for all to thrive. That's 4 organizations - all with a heart for the arts - marketing the arts - and mutually benefitting the larger community through the arts working together towards the same mission.
For those not familiar with the Artist's Gallery at VB-AC - it alone is a partnership by design. The Artist's Gallery and The VB-AC act as separate financial entities but share the same space very symbiotically with an approach that is mutually cooperative. The VB-AC portion facilitates much of the educational outreach, monthly larger gallery shows, and management of the Pottery Studio while the Artist's Gallery promotes events, facilitates resident artists working from the space, and promotes artist work represented for sale in the sales portion of the gallery. Those who work primarily with VB-AC or the Artist's Gallery volunteer to help one another and vice versa. Artists represented in the gallery fall into the categories of 'Resident' or 'Exhibiting' Artists with varying levels of responsibility toward the greater-good of the artistic community at large. The Artist's Gallery represents artists of both 2D and 3D inclinations and everyone plays a part towards the success of the venture.
Monthly themed Gallery Exhibition at the Artist's Gallery featuring things of the earth (like clay!) in 2022.
In 2020 the Artists's Gallery expressed an interest in fostering the growth of representation of the Ceramic Arts in the community in combination with the VB-AC Pottery Studio, and reached out to the CDA (our local SE Virginia guild of mud-slingers) to see how to best achieve this.
Founded in 1967 - the CDA is a group of ceramic artists and potters dedicated to clay. This artistic clay group knows the ins and outs of the clay functional and sculptural community within the local larger artistic community. A subset of artisans from the CDA (me included) expressed interest in achieving the goals of the partnership between the two organizations and began exhibiting our work in the Artist's Gallery as a group exhibition completely managed and funded by the CDA members individually participating (i.e. no funding from CDA and no funding from VB-AC were required to facilitate the partnership - rather the individual artists being on board with the combined mission choose to participate from their own personal funding sources and manage the space separately from these business entities, yet still promote their involvement with these organizations).
Nearly two years into this experience, one of our participating members, Elizabeth "Buzzy" Hamberg, suggested in a recent meeting that I might write an article about this experience both to share with other members of CDA and the arts community as a whole. So, that brings me to today, writing this blog post as a form of article for our CDA newsletter! (again being mutually beneficial since I've been lax on my blog posts lately - write it here - share it in the CDA newsletter and elsewhere!...you get the theme here!)
Several CDA "Shelfies" at The Artist's Gallery to rearrange and spruce things up. Pictured left to right: Elizabeth "Buzzy' Hamberg, Rose Moon, Amy Lee, and Pam Gray.
We started the venture a with a bit smaller footprint then what is represented today as an approximately 32 square foot of retail space in the form of an island shelf in the middle of the main gallery hallway. Our glass shelf group now fondly referred to as the "Shelfies" has currently exhibiting CDA members including: Elizabeth "Buzzy" Hamberg, Robert Hitt (who also teaches at the Virginia Beach Art Center), Pam Gray, Rose Moon, Shelly Clevidence, and me (Amy Lee). Although Shelly will be leaving the group and we will miss her, we will be excited to welcome Sherry White in January 2023 who was next on the waiting list as a CDA member.
Each of us work in clay - right now all being of primarily functional clay inclinations; however, some of us also are sculptural on occasion. Robert's popular shelf Octopus, a beautiful bird house by Pam Gray that can be both decorative and functional, Shelly's horsehair raku, an Ikebana vase by Buzzy, large serving platters by Rose, and decorated porcelains by Amy all compliment and mingle well together on our island. We each have a space on the larger island shelf of glass that is our "own", and we rotate this space monthly to provide every member of the "Shelfies" with equal opportunity for work to be viewed and purchased from any vantage point provided to the visiting public. The very top shelf is a combined area we share that allows us to display some of our taller or wider pieces on occasion in a mingling of works that also promotes our inclusion with CDA.
You might think that all this clay all in one spot creates an air of competition - but in reality it doesn't! Each of pieces look so different from one another, yet fit nicely together on display. No one member benefits more than another is the reality of this experience. Purchasers may buy multiple items but all from different makers all on the same sales transaction and even throw in a painting, jewelry, or sculpture before they leave! Anyone reading this in the business of clay would agree we aren't 'into clay' as any 'get rich quick scheme', but it all works - mutually beneficially. Over time the "Shelfies" found that managing the space with a group of 6 individuals works quite well, and we plan to continue that into 2023. "Shelfies" are required to be CDA members with active paid memberships as well as fulfill the commitments made between the group and Artist's Gallery including working in the gallery.
What I love about the "Shelfies" group is the ability to evolve and change over time. We started with a bit smaller space, a few different members, and we adapt to change. We all contribute to the shelf. Contributions go beyond just creating our clay works for the shelf including: showing up to rearrange and clean monthly, letting each other know if our inventory is getting low, moving things around when updating inventory for each other to make it look great and give visitors a great experience, dusting, sharing of the monthly rent and insurance costs, and sharing of our individual and group hours commitments to work in the Artist's Gallery and VB-AC with all the other Resident and Exhibiting artists committed to showing their work in the space. It is a cooperative effort. We call each other if something comes up that needs a group decision. We keep a list of members with interest in participating as backup and communicate our time served to make sure we honor associated commitments. We contribute to the spirit of artistic community furthering the missions of the Artist's Gallery, the Virginia Beach Art Center, and the Ceramic Designers Association - and for this I am grateful!
The VIBE District and Artist's Gallery at Virginia Beach Art Center promoted Nationally via United's "Hemisphere's" Magazine on every United Flight for November 2022!
532 VIRGINIA BEACH BLVD.
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA 23451
(17th Street between Baltic and Mediterranean Aves.)
Free parking, Free entry