Local art dealers and Flagler art students react to gallery closings
By Holly Elliott | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Mary Elizabeth Fair
PHOTO CAPTION: Like many local art galleries, Mullet Beach Gallery now offers larger discounts and is open for more hours each week in hopes of picking up business.
Summer 2009 brings the deaths of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. The deaths of their prominently displayed art movement, that is.
During the summer of 2009, one of the leading modern art venues, The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., will permanently close its doors to the public. This means that many of the pieces will be auctioned off to private art collectors.
This is the second time financial struggles have affected the gallery. According to The New York Times, in 1991 the museum announced its plans to sell 14 original pieces of art to help pay for further education and conservation of the works.
Many notable artists and art enthusiasts, including President of the American Association of Art Directors Arnold L. Lehman, were disappointed with the decision.
“It’s like selling one of your children to feed the others,” Lehman had said.
Naturally, many art students at Brandeis University and around the country are upset by the choice.
Donations from primary stakeholders had been down, and, according to The New York Times, several well-known donors had been in financial woes themselves.
With such a large art gallery floundering, many wonder what this means for smaller, individually run galleries.
Aimee Wiles, the owner of Mullet Beach Gallery on Cordova Street, says she would estimate that her sales have been down around 30 percent lately.
“Art is seen as a luxury item, so it’s cut first out of most people’s budgets when times are tight,” Wiles said. “St. Augustine galleries have the added challenge of tourism, which is also currently down.”
To combat the pressures on her gallery and local artists, Wiles has been lowering prices, offering monthly coupons and personally working seven days a week to offer the best service possible.
Art students at Flagler College are aware of the troubling job market for budding artists. Some are anxious about what this means for graduates, while others remain hopeful about future prospects.
Junior Liza Dixon is not worried about her post-college possibilities.
“I am confident that I will be able to get a job when the time comes,” Dixon said. “There will always be a place for graphic arts.”
Fine Arts major Gina Granieri, however, is not so sure.
“Sacrifices will have to made. People have to eat more than they need to see paintings,” Granieri said. “This economy situation is far from being over. It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen.”
One thing that Dixon and Granieri did agree on, though, is that the closing of art museums, whether locally or on a national level, is very unfortunate for aspiring young art students.
“Seeing a work in person is the same, yet completely different,” Granieri said. “Even the senses, like the lighting or the smell, alter your perception of the work. Seeing art work reinforces an artist’s sense of purpose.”
While most galleries in St. Augustine may not currently be closing, they are still trying to remain industrious. Many local galleries are using discounts and coupons during the First Friday Art Walk to promote business.
While businesses around them close their doors, local art galleries will try to use their creativity in other ways to stimulate business, and to help artists succeed despite turbulent times.