In her 23 years as director and curator for a few of Chicago’s top art galleries, Emily Watson-Rice ’96 met a lot of artists and collectors. She loved meeting them—and often left those meetings concerned.
“I would meet artists and be shocked that they had all kinds of training in how to paint and no training in how to sell those paintings—no communication skills, no business skills,” she said.
Watson-Rice graduated from Calvin with a bachelor’s of fine arts and recognized something of herself in these artists. Before and during her gallery career, she read psychology books and took business classes to learn what she didn’t know. “Calvin helped me learn how to learn and how to problem-solve,” she said.
On the other side of the transaction, Watson-Rice met art collectors—often corporate CEOs and accomplished professionals—insecure and afraid about their art choices.
“With them, I often felt like a life coach. I’d try to help them trust their own emotional responses—for example, telling men it was OK to like landscapes with lots of flowers.”
She also found herself advising collectors on how to appraise the value of a work in the secretive world of art pricing and to recognize that value is different for each person.
After years of these conversations around the edges of her job, Watson-Rice decided to make them her job. Her art consulting business, Gossamer Arts, offers workshops and one-on-one mentoring sessions. She helps artists learn sales, marketing, and communication skills necessary for selling their art—whether to a gallery or online. Collectors learn how to determine whether the price of an artwork is right for them, how to negotiate price, and how to sell art.
“I want the art business to work for everybody,” Watson-Rice said, “and the way to do that, I believe, is through transparency, access to information, and education. Because art is for everyone.”
Learn more about Gossamer Arts at gosamerarts.com.