What’s it like being a part of an artists’ cooperative?

Since we’ve been working on our new website for C’ville Arts Gallery, I’ve been thinking a lot about who we are as an organization.  What attracts artists to join cooperatives and why would we all do just about anything to make sure our co-op not only survives, but that it thrives?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a phone call out of the blue from one of my fellow artist members, Mary Ellen Larkins.  Mary Ellen works in fused glass; she produces unique and beautiful jewelry, as well as some very interesting sculptural pieces and even some items for the home.  So, anyway, Mary Ellen left a message on my voice mail that she had a friend who has a gift shop, and he had received a shipment of depression glass that arrived in pieces.  Pieces?  Well, as an artist who works in mosaic, the word “pieces” makes my heart race!  Mary Ellen had convinced her friend that she knew someone who could put his shards of Depression-era glass to good use, and her message to me was simply “come and get it!”.  And get it I did; what a beautiful haul of broken glass it is!

This sort of thing happens all the time at the Gallery.  One artist will have something they no longer need, and they’ll call one of their fellow artists.  We’re always thinking about each other; we’re there for each other; we’re there for our cooperative, too.

I probably don’t have to tell you that times have been tough, and when people cut back on their buying, often the handmade arts and crafts are considered less essential.  So far, though, we’ve made it; and, we’ve made it because we’ve pulled together, tightened our belts, increased the percentage of sales that goes to the co-op, and generally just focused on providing quality handmade objects, whether traditional crafts or decorative art or fine art, that is well-made and affordable.

We do it together.  We love our Gallery’s location near the Central Place on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, and there’s a true sense of cooperation among our group of artists.  We love our Gallery, and we really love the relationships that we develop with other artists.  There’s a certain camaraderie among our members, and though we each focus on our individual art, the Gallery provides us with a higher purpose for which to work.  It’s a very good thing.

– This article was written by Virginia Gardner, our resident mosaic artist.

 

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