Karen Mobley, Arts Director, City of Spokane
When was the last time you stopped to look at a painting, a sculpture or a well-crafted object and got that goosebumpy feeling? Did you want it for your very own? What stopped you from asking if you could buy it and take it home to your house? Was it that you really didn’t have the money in your pocket or was it your mother’s voice in your head saying it is wasteful to buy art because it is merely beautiful or speaks to your soul? Buying art is fun and rewarding. The best reason to buy art is that you like it and because it makes you feel satisfied--I didn’t say good--some really satisfying work is emotionally charged, sad or hard to understand, at first. A rewarding experience with art is like any other relationship. Sometimes it challenges us!
I have heard people say they won’t buy art except when it is an investment. Investment in art is a challenging issue. We know that not all art becomes an "investment quality object" but we also know that if we don’t buy art --take the risk--that the artist’s works will never become "investment-quality."
I’m sure you have heard the stories we all hear about the man who went to Seattle or New York bought a work of art and then discovered that that artist was from Spokane or someplace near. I read the piece in last Saturday's Business section about investment in art and have been thinking about it every day this week. This was a very well-written article about the art-collecting scene in Kansas City (where I was an appraisal assistant/art sales associate for the Morgan Gallery in the early ‘80s). We can build a bigger art market in Spokane and develop a greater art buying destination (district), but it does take the purchase of art for this to happen. Galleries are already here and doing a great job of showing contemporary and traditional art.
Here at the Spokane Arts Commission, I get many calls about where to buy art. And we work through the Visual Arts Tour (the first Fridays in February and October) and with the "Live After 5" (a project of the Downtown Spokane Partnership--this summer June 22, July 27 and August 24) to encourage new audiences and art purchases. A significant investment is being made by artists, for-profit galleries, and arts non-profit organizations to create exhibitions of artwork. Some local galleries and artists are going on-line to create art web sites. But, it doesn’t work if we don’t buy art or only buy it while we are away on vacation or at a fundraising auction (when the artist or gallery has donated it).
You may think that you have to be rich to buy art, but it really isn’t the case. With some careful shopping you can often buy local artists’ original works for less that you can purchase reproductions. And how do you decide what to buy? First, get acquainted. Get on the arts web site (www.spokanecity.org/arts) and get the gallery schedule or pick up the Weekend or In Life sections of the Spokesman-Review, the calendar section or a Visual Arts Tour insert in the Pacific Northwest Inlander, listen to the arts calendar on KPBX, go exploring, find the galleries you like and make a point of going there to see the exhibits. Make friends with an artist or other collectors so you can check out your point of view. Read articles about art and artists. Ask the gallery for information about the artist and for information about other artists whose work might be of interest. Once you find a gallery you like, ask to be added to the mailing list so you can go to the receptions for the artist. Go to talks at the gallery or at the local universities to learn more. Learning about art can be fun! It doesn’t have to be a research project--you have my permission to buy art impulsively!
So, you really like this piece of art but you don’t know where to put it in your house. Most of the galleries will come help you install the art or you can work with an interior designer to hunt down pieces to fit in your house. You can buy art that doesn’t go with your couch! I’ve seen it happen. No one dies. You can also mix styles, time periods, cultures, and media.
So think about it. Do you want to have a better gallery scene in Spokane? Do you want more artists to live here and contribute to the community as artists and as citizens? We can build an art market it here. Risk it. Take the first step. Be selfish and buy art that you like, just for yourself. It will make a difference.