My good friend who has been a photographer in Atlanta for 25 years tells art students to minor in plumbing. We know it’s possible to make a living as an artist, but unless you’re content to live like Thoreau, you’re gonna have to hustle.
Young Blood Gallery and Boutique is the handiwork of Maggie White and Kelly Teasley, who in 1997 resolved to showcase the “incredibly talented, though unknown” artists of Atlanta when it seemed no one else would. What literally began in two friends’ living rooms has become a niche exhibition space for emerging local and national talent, not to mention a storefront loaded with handcrafted and artist-designed goodies. Young Blood closed its Grant Park location in early 2008, before nesting firmly at its current space on Highland Avenue last summer.
Click below for a sample of images by a few artists featured at Young Blood’s new space (click left and right to cycle through): (1. & 2. = Matt Relkin, 3. = Crystal Morey & Derek Weisberg, 4. & 5. = Sam Parker, and 6. = Patsi Aguero)
Q. So Maggie, how has the economy affected Young Blood?
Selling art is a tough business already and the economy hasn’t helped. But art lovers will always exist. They’re not buying as much, so the trick is to bring in a lot more people. People are always looking for something unique to buy for themselves or as gifts, so the shop is appreciated for that. Lots of people tell us we’re their source for all their gifts, which is always nice to hear!
Q. What is it like to “learn your own way” and then help other people learn theirs?
Learning our own way was definitely the hard way, because we’ve made—and are still making—lots of mistakes. But we’re hard-headed and probably wouldn’t have listened to anyone …. We didn’t feel like traditional business folks were qualified to advise us on how to run an alternative art space …. In some ways it was uncharted territory, but there are some basic business principles that apply to any business. We do like to give young artists input. The day-to-day reality is that if you want to make a living as an artist you’re going to have to prioritize the business side and figure out what approach works best for you. Maybe it’s applying for grants and scholarships; maybe it’s learning to market your work. But it will have to be a priority. It’s unfortunate that art schools don’t focus on this more …. A lot of young artists are under the impression that [their career] will just all work out once they graduate.
Q. What was your favorite show last year?
My favorite show of 2008 was Crystal Morey and Derek Weisberg.
Q. What were the most challenging things you faced last year?
1) Finding our place in Atlanta [in terms of location].
2) Learning about all the things that it takes to run a real business and handling those things. Things like payroll, a million state and federal government forms, inventory and POS systems, marketing and advertising, tax crap, bookkeeping, merchandising, and then the upkeep of all these things. Wheee!!
3) Learning about and doing what it takes to get new customers in so we can stay open and get paid!
Q. Several galleries closed this year. Would you describe your reaction?
My heart goes out to them and I’d like them to know we understand how hard it is and say thanks for all their efforts and contributions to our city. My other reaction is, ‘Shit! I hope we’re not next!’
Q. What is your advice to new galleries?
Get lots of input from other gallery folks and business owners you respect. Go into it with your eyes wide open. If you’re doing it just for the love like we did the first few years, go nuts and have fun!