A few years ago, during the annual Artist at Work Studio Tour, I had a family from Long Lake come to visit my studio. Mom, Dad, and if I remember correctly, “Lily”, who must have been around 8-9 years old. They looked, we chatted, and then the Mom offered Lily the opportunity to pick out a small piece of art that she would like! I was truly astounded – parents offering to let a child purchase art! What a wonderful way to cultivate a life-long love and respect for original, hand-made items. I was very honored to have been a part of that.
Well, it’s now that time of year when we (the artists) hope that you (the readers) get in the gift giving spirit and consider enriching lives by making presents of art. But as I sit on duty at the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery in Saranac Lake and watch people browse, I began to reflect on what it might mean to “collect art” and how that impacts daily lives of both the buyers and the sellers.
Is it only the wealthy who collect art? No – I know a young girl in Long Lake who is an art collector! It’s true that art has always been one of the luxuries that wealth allows, but art is created across the lines of income and is available to all. Take a look in your local galleries. The ones that feature the original art of local artists – they are really hidden treasures that have much more of an economic impact than just providing someone with an investment or an object to hang on the wall. Plus, you can often meet and converse with the artist, finding out where they got their inspiration from and how they create their art.
How do you collect art? Art will reach out and grab you! You can buy what everyone else is buying, because it’s popular, you can buy something because the colors will match your couch, or you can buy something because when you walked by and looked at it, it made you turn around and come back for a second look. Maybe you are puzzled. Or sad. Or you feel a sense of great peace. It might actually just be the colors that appeal to you, or it could be the intriguing subject matter, but it’s likely viewing the art brought out some feeling in you. A remembered moment or place. That’s how you know if you like a specific piece of art – it has made you feel something! And how you feel about a work of art can be entirely different than how the artist felt or what they intended to communicate through their work. That’s perfectly fine! If you’re going to spend money on something original, as opposed to a manufactured piece available in a store, it should speak to you in some way. I think most artists fully understand that’s how this works. A lot of artists really aren’t very good sales people anyway – we are uncomfortable trying to dish out a sales pitch to convince someone to make a purchase that they may not particularly want or need. So don’t be afraid to come into our local galleries – you won’t be getting the “boy, have I got a deal for you” talk. We much prefer to let you walk around and look, happy to answer your questions and provide some insights, but you really have to give the art a chance to reach out to you.
Do you need to be able to explain or understand art in order to collect it? You ought to be able to tell why you like it. Not all art is direct and easy to understand. It won’t embarrass us if you say “I really like it but I don’t understand it…” Or “could you explain why you chose to create this….” We love to talk about our work, so ask questions.
Why collect art? Strictly for personal enjoyment! Your collection can start with just one piece – one piece that somebody created and you liked. If it’s a one of a kind piece, you won’t find it in your neighbors house or advertised on TV. Original art is a little touch of humanity, a little bit of uniqueness that can be all yours. Start small. You don’t need a lot of wall space and something small could even just sit on a shelf or dresser. It could be something functional like a piece of pottery. Put it somewhere you will see it every day so it becomes a part of your life.
What will collecting art accomplish? The Adirondack region has a healthy population of artists and craftspeople – many of whom have chosen to live here for the reasons we all love this place – the scenic beauty, the abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, and the peace and quiet of a more rural life style. It also means they have consciously chosen to live on much less income that they would likely have if living in a more urban area. So buying something that is produced locally, is actually helping someone earn a living, pay their taxes, and spend their money in other local businesses. This “Buy Local” phenomenon applies to all the products grown, raised, and created locally – the proceeds do not go to support corporate executives or Wall Street. The money comes right back into our communities and spreads out many times over to help a lot of individuals and businesses.
So this holiday season – actually any season of the year – consider shopping at the Farmer’s Markets, the Craft Fairs, the locally owned shops and Art Galleries. We all make it really easy for people of all income levels to have the opportunity to 1) collect art, by providing an abundance of top quality, locally made items at reasonable prices, and 2) to help us help our own economy by keeping the money local and reinvesting it into businesses run by your friends and neighbors. Maybe start someone else on a lifetime of collecting art! But the biggest bonus is you’re likely to bring home, or give as a gift, something that is truly unique and handmade. You might have even seen the artist working on it, or know the exact place that was their inspiration. Maybe you even got to meet the artist and hear in their own words how and why they created what they did. What a great experience!
Here are the Holiday season exhibits and sales I am aware of. If you know of others in your area, please post a comment and share the information.
Nov 14 – Dec 28: “Off the Wall at Bluseed Studios”, all art under $100! 1 – 5, Mon – Fri., 10 – 5 on Saturday and by appointment. 24 Cedar St., Saranac Lake. 518-891-3799
Nov 21 – Dec 22: “The Big Little Show”, at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, 17 Algonquin Ave., Lake Placid. Invitational exhibit of small works by area artists – no piece larger than 64 square inches, including frame.
Nov 23: North Country Community College Annual Craft Fair, NCCC Gym, Saranac Lake, 10:30 – 3, 518-891-2915.
Dec 2 – Jan 19: “Winter Wonders Show & Sale”, invitational, winter-themed works by local artists. Paul Smith’s College VIC, 9 – 5 Tues – Sun, 518-327-6241.
Dec 5 – 27: “Wood Carvings by Rachel Lamb” and small works by gallery members. Northwind Fine Art Gallery, 11 Woodruff St., Saranac Lake. 518-354-1875
Dec 5 – Jan 6: “Ceramics” by Mary Lou Reid, Adirondack Artists Guild, 52 Main St., Saranac Lake, NY, 518-891-2615.
Dec 5-6: Sparkle Village Craft Far, Town Hall, 39 Main St., Saranac Lake. More info at the Chamber, 518-891-1990.
Check http://saranaclakeartworks.com/events.htm for all the individual artist open studios.
Artwork shown, starting at the top: miniature painting by Meg Bernstein; small lidded jar by Marylou Reid; small oil painting by Nancy Brossard.