We Asked! Vol.4: A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Art Downtown.
We all love art. Whether it’s something we see in a museum, in a shop window or gallery, or spray painted on a wall, great art provokes an emotional response that resonates deep inside us. But what if we want to bring that emotional response home with us so we can enjoy it day in and day out? Is art collecting the sole domain of the super-rich? Or are there affordable ways to bring home the soul-enriching powers of great works of art. We asked five #downtownkelowna experts to give us the lowdown on what it takes to track down an artwork we’ll love, but also one we can afford.
Please tell us who you are, where you work, and what you do here.
Joshua Desnoyers. I work at the Kelowna Art Gallery. I am the Marketing and Events co-ordinator here.
My name is Carrie Mitchell and I run the heART School in Downtown Kelowna. I’m also a mixed-media artist and instructor and creativity facilitator.
I am Joshua Peters and I work at the Hambleton Galleries in Downtown Kelowna. We’re the oldest gallery in the interior of B.C. We’ve been here for 55 years.
What kind of artists does your gallery represent?
Jennelle: We have a wide range, but I like to describe the art in the shop as whimsically dark. A lot of the pieces will make you look a couple of times. They are whimsical, but they do have an edge as well.
Linda: We carry local art. We have about a dozen local artists, plus prints, poster, art cards, Sid Dickens memory tiles and we do custom framing.
Joshua D.: Well, we’re a bit different. We don’t represent artists. It’s more collaborative. We work, or our curator works, directly with artists on exhibitions that can take anywhere from six months to nine years to come together. So rather than representing, we work with artists to showcase facets of their work to the public.
Carrie: HeART School isn’t really a gallery exactly though we do hang work on the walls. HeARt school is a collective of studios and a teaching and gathering space. You can buy art here of all different styles and price points from the artists that actually create here.
Joshua P.: There’s a lot of talent in the Okanagan, so much of our art is from local artists. We have some artists from the Lower Mainland, Calgary and Ontario as well as a historical art corner for Canadian and First Nations’ art.
Big question. Why is art important?
Jennelle: For me, because art makes me think and it makes me feel. In my opinion, if a piece makes you look a couple of times, or evokes an emotion within you, the artist has done their job. It’s really important in our world. There’s lots of struggles and stresses and it’s nice to have a way to focus the mind in a different way.
Linda: Oh, art is very important. You want to have enjoyment around in your life, you want to be able to look at something that brings you pleasure, makes you feel good, stirs a memory. Art is very important.
Joshua D.: Is it important? I think it is. I think an existence without art is kind of a soulless one. I think art can be a communicator that helps us explore different concepts and ideas that hopefully helps us become more whole human beings.
Carrie: That’s a huge question. I believe that art is an emotional experience and decision. It’s often a reflection of the place you live in. If you travel, you can experience how a place and culture is reflected in artwork, and then you come home again and you can more fully appreciate how your own place, the Okanagan, is reflected in the creativity here.
Joshua P.: Everyone will see that differently. If you look back through history, it’s what we look back at from past civilizations. What did they leave behind? They left their art. So that’s what artists do now, they’re creating that future impression. It’s something we’re compelled to do.
Why should I have art in my home?
Jennelle: Home is a haven. To be able to have pieces on walls or shelves that make you smile or bring you back to a memory, it’s really special.
Linda: I can’t imagine not having it in my home. It’s stimulation. It brings good feelings and stirs emotions. It’s good for the heart and mind.
Joshua D.: It feeds your soul. Or it challenges you. Or hopefully, it elicits some kind of response, whether that’s good or warm, or uncomfortable or challenges your personal boundaries. It’s a part of personal growth.
Carrie: I think it’s important to have kind of a 100-mile art diet where you’re really aware of the music and dance and painting and sculpture in your own area and build connections with the people who create it. And it’s a beautiful thing to support artists that live around you.
Joshua P.: It’s beautiful. You can hang it on your wall and appreciate it time and time again. But also supporting artists is important. Artists are compelled to make art, but they need to sell it too. So you’re supporting artists when you put a piece on your wall.
I like the idea of collecting art, but I’m on a budget. What kinds of things might I be able to afford?
Jennelle: That’s important. We have items from a few dollars to thousands. You can go a few routes. Prints are a good way to go. They’re easy to frame or you can find clever ways to display them. One of our artists The Poppy Tree, she’s local, does her prints on wood, so they look like they’re on canvas and it’s a good way to go if you want to start a little collection.
Linda: You can start with small pieces, or start with pieces that aren’t limited edition or original. The most important part is that they bring you pleasure. If you’re looking at art as an investment, then you need to look at original works.
Joshua D.: Well, we don’t actually sell any art, but speaking generally, you’re probably not going to be able to get a large work of art, so maybe start with something physically small. An emerging artist will generally be less expensive. I know from personal experience with a few artist friends that if you have a truck and you’re able to help them move, sometimes they’ll trade you a work for helping out.
Carrie: Oh wow. I think it’s really important to not stay away from art because you think you can’t afford it. Here at heART School we have things that range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Most artists nowadays have cards and prints, but if you’re able to visit an artist in their studio and get to know them, they might be able to show you something that’s an earlier work and give you a few options. You’ll see that art, for the most part, can be affordable and really doesn’t have to be out of your range.
Joshua P.: You could start with small pieces like carvings that aren’t as much money. Or start with an artist earlier in their career. Prints are a good choice. If you like an artist, but can’t afford the original, prints look beautiful and you can hang that on your wall until you can afford something different or original.
What’s the most important thing to consider before buying a work of art?
Jennelle: You have to love it. If it doesn’t make you smile, or have some sort of emotion, you might want to think about it a little more.
Linda: If you’re looking for art for investment, you want to know about the artist, the style of work, reputation and then price varies accordingly. If you’re just starting out, you might want to look local. The price might be a little lower, but you’re still looking at original works.
Joshua D.: There are lots of different worlds in art, collecting for investment is one. But for me personally the most important thing is how does this work make me feel? I want to wake up in the morning, look at it and think, “That makes me feel good.”
Carrie: In some ways it’s the opposite to the way the question is worded. It’s more a heart decision than a head decision. Go to places and events where you’re immersed in creativity and you’ll see that there are certain stories expressed in different types of art and when you relate to those stories on an emotional level, you know that piece will be something you’ll be happy with for a long time.
Joshua P.: Be intentional about what you’re buying. Think about the space you have at home and the colours. Or buy for the pure beauty of it, then you don’t have to think about anything like that.
Are emerging artists more affordable than established ones?
Jennelle: That’s a tough one. It’s very subjective. Lots of artists who are starting out sometimes don’t know how to value their work and sometimes they come in with their pieces a little underpriced, so I talk to them about the time and materials that went into their work and make sure they’re getting compensated for all their hard work.
Linda: Generally yes. They’re starting out, so they’re trying to get their work out there and get viewed by as many people as they can. What’s nice is they’re usually working in original, so they’re not producing editions or prints or posters, so you have a nice way of getting in on the ground floor.
Joshua D.: I’d say in general, yes.
Carrie: For the most part, but not necessarily all the time. It depends on the type of art or the materials used. We have an artist who works in very detailed mixed media works and has been working for years, and his work would definitely cost more than a newer artist who is working maybe with a simpler material like paper.
Joshua P.: Sure, but from an affordability perspective it depends largely on the artist. If an emerging artist is popular, their works may cost more. It’s more on a case by case basis.
Where do I find emerging artists?
Jennelle: Kelowna’s great for that. Lots of coffee shops have art on the walls. There’s lots of craft markets and art shows. In our space, as of July 1st, we have a rotating exhibition wall, so I’m hoping we’ll get some emerging artists taking advantage of that space.
Linda: We carry many ourselves. Kelowna is full of emerging artists. Look for group show notices posted, and you can often buy from the artists directly.
Joshua D.: Look around the community. I just joined a Facebook group for Okanagan artists and there are 700 members. They’re all active. Lots of spaces like coffee shops and bookstores showcase work. You just have to keep an eyes open.
Carrie: Great question. There’s so many art spaces locally. The Rotary Centre. The Ellis Art Studios. Karmyc Bazaar. These days though, it’s so fun to go on social media platforms and search for local artists or workshops. It’s a great place to find artists you connect with.
Joshua P.: You can find emerging artists here. We have some artists that are newer in their career but are exceptionally talented. But you know you can always go to the studios as well. There are lots of artists working in Downtown Kelowna that are making some pretty great stuff.
Is art an investment?
Jennelle: Definitely! You’re investing in the artist and helping them to continue, push forward and pursue their dream. You’re also investing in yourself and your space by finding something that expresses an emotion or evokes a memory. Definitely an investment.
Joshua D.: Speaking personally, it’s a personal investment. It’s an investment in inspiring yourself. Maybe it inspires me to get creative or look at the world differently. From a financial perspective, certainly some works could be a wise investment. If you collect anything that has demand, it will hold its value.
Carrie: Sometimes. If that’s important to someone, then maybe go to some openings at some of the more established commercial galleries like the Hambleton Art Gallery. It takes a bit of time to immerse yourself in that community to get an understanding of which works might hold their value or increase in value. Talk to the owner there. But also learn as much as you can about art. Go up into your search bar online and just type in things you want to learn about.
Joshua P.: It can be. Oftentimes it should be. Even if you like something, you can think about whether or not it might appreciate. There’s a whole investment side to art that you can get really involved in. We offer a glimpse of that in our historic corner with pieces that are important to Canadian art that are very collectible. Robert Genn is a fantastic local artist here. We’ve represented him for 52 years. He’s extremely collectible. Daphne Odjig is probably one of the most important Canadian female First Nations’ artists. We’ve represented her for over 50 years. She passed away last year at 97. When you’re talking about investing, these are artists who are important and whose work is going up in value. It’s important, I think, to appreciate the art and the artist as well as view it as an investment, but I think you can do both.
I just won the lottery. Money is now no object. What should I purchase here? Why?
Jennelle: All of it. Wrap the whole store up, and I’ll get all new work in.
Linda: It really comes down to what’s important to you. If you’re looking for an investment, always go with an original, but even with money as no object, you might love a five dollar work over one worth hundreds of thousands. It’s so personal.
Joshua D.: What kind of works do you like? What makes you happy? What do you want in your space? A public art gallery, like the Kelowna Art Gallery, might be a good place to get an idea of what you like. We have four exhibitions with different works to see. There are 90 works by students in our front space, and a large fort-like installation out front that you maybe wouldn’t put in your home, but maybe it’ll help you figure out what you’re drawn to.
Carrie: Again, I’d encourage you to spend time in some of the artists’ studios. But as far as winning the lottery goes, if you connect with an artist, maybe commission them to do a piece for you or a series of pieces for different places in your home? If you connect with that artist and their process, then that’s something you’re going to want to have around you in your space for a long time.
Joshua P.: What do you like? If money’s no object, buy everything you like. Art is meant to be enjoyed. If you’re not worried about it appreciating it over time, then just buy purely whatever you put your eyes on and think is a super cool and beautiful piece.
Can I touch the art?
Jennelle: Some of it. Definitely not the paintings. I’d have something to kindly say about that. But we love it when people come in and try on our leather masks, for example, and get a feel for them.
Linda: Lol. We’d rather you didn’t.
Joshua D.: You can touch the installation piece, but generally no. We want the art to last and oils and fingerprints don’t work well for that.
Carrie: I’m a big believer in people being able to touch my art, but I know a lot of artists get really offended by that too.
Joshua P.: I’m glad you asked! Some pieces are meant to be touched. We have stone carvings here of bears. It’s serpentine stone which is extremely hard. It won’t be scratched. You’re meant to touch it. The artist wants you to touch it. We have an encaustic artist. Encaustic is hardened beeswax with pigments in it. It has such a beautiful texture when you touch it. It’s just wax and it’s extremely hard, but it has a soft feel to it that’s hard to describe. You need to touch that. Other stuff, we’d just prefer that you ask first.
Armed with all this information, get out there and start your art collection. Whatever your budget, you can find something #downtownkelowna. And your first stop should be these five galleries who gave us their time and answered everything We Asked!
Interviews have been edited and condensed by the Downtown Kelowna Association.