Local Artists Face Weak Economy
Making ends meet as an artist in Southwest Minneapolis.
It’s a tough job market for nearly everyone right now, especially those who are self-employed and selling non-essentials. While Minneapolis is an undeniably art-friendly city, many of our artists feel like the buyers are few and far between.
So what’s an artist to do?
“For the most part, our city is really supportive of art and local artists and designers, but there is a sort of break with price point,” Chookiatsirichai said. “This is something I understand, it’s trying to make art for everyday people that’s affordable and also getting your work to where you want it to be. It’s pushed me to want to have things in other cities as well.”
“[Minneapolis] is a seductively easy place to live, aside from the weather,” Lang said. “But in terms of being an artist it’s hard to survive or impossible to survive unless you’re a commercial artist. There’s not enough people buying local art.”
Many artists strive to get their art sold in Southwest's several galleries, but even artists who "make it" in this way face challenges selling their pieces.
Owner of ColorWheel Gallery, and a painter in her own right, Tammy Ortegon said that while money may be tight, there is a healthy appreciation of art in Southwest, but she said she has to keep art prices "accessible."
“With my gallery I really do make an effort to make it art that’s accessible to everyone,” Ortegon said. “So I tell the artists–and being an artist, I understand too– I say, 'I don’t want you to undersell your work (...) but I want you to realize that my goal in this place is to make art accessible to everyone.' So we try to keep prices more accessible.”
Competing with places like Target and Ikea will always be a challenge, Ortegon said, but it’s worth the fight.
“We are known in Minneapolis-St. Paul as being just filled with art,” Ortegon said. “And we are– we have amazing artists. People want this to be an art place and they take it for granted."
"They don’t really realize if you don’t buy it it might not be there," she said.
Some artists, though, are forgoing the galleries all together, at least for now.
Ian Henrikson, the artist profiled last month, was laid off from his job managing a Brugger's about a year ago. Since then, he has dived into his art and working a part time job to help make up the difference.
Painting at home and not yet showing in galleries, Henrikson has been promoting and selling his work online, where he has a growing following. In addition to selling several works, a reporter from Fargo found him on mnartists.org and asked for an interview. A connection on Facebook viewed his paintings and asked him to join the Marcy Arts Partnership Gala at the Soap Factory.
“I just kind of went to work making the art and it’s been well received,” Henrikson said. “I started doing it and going nuts with it and I threw it online about six months ago–and people started noticing.”
It’s not that Henrikson doesn’t want to be a gallery artist. In fact, he said he’d love nothing more. But Henrikson’s first experience approaching an art gallery with his work, as a student who walked in with his portfolio tucked under his arm and encountered a less than friendly gallery associate, left a bad taste in his mouth. And besides, there’s a wide audience in the blogosphere and Facebook world to reach.
“With the way the internet is these days, who needs ‘em?” Henrikson said.