Mike Dominguez is nothing if not optimistic. As the owner of Tucson’s largest fine arts gallery and indefatigable proponent of the creative professions, what he says is worth noting.
“I’m seeing pent up demand,” he says. “The arts market is poised for recovery.”
Mike Dominguez in front of Opportunity Target by Alfred Quiroz
Let’s hope so because the past year has been as hard on artists as on any segment of the community.
To get a sense of the current trend I stopped by several galleries recently to ask how things are going.
At the Paloma Art Gallery on the Northwest side at 4747 E. Sunrise Dr., owner Sylvia Buchanan noted she’s gotten to know her business a lot better – because she’s taken all the jobs including owner, employee, accountant, framer, janitor and odd job specialist. “We have a good customer following,” she says, “and it’s not so much that traffic has been down as the dollar amount of the sales has declined.”
Paloma Art Gallery
She’s adjusted her price point to more affordable items – pieces below $100 are in, decors items in the $35 range move most rapidly – and she’s found that artists “are much more flexible in terms of payments plans and coming down somewhat on prices.”
Over on the Westside, Gertrude Wait, treasurer of Desert Artisans’ Gallery, 6536 E. Tanque Verde Rd., noted that “while sales are down, we will get through it. Before the downturn our customers were typically ready to spend about $500 for a painting, but now that’s down to about $150.”
Desert Artisans' Gallery
The Artisans’ Gallery is a co-op established 18 years ago owned and operated by 30 local artists. They opened a new show earlier this month and plan a sidewalk sale July 18 where prices will be cut by up to 75 percent.
Jewelry by Margaret Shirer at Desert Artisans' Gallery
One complaint I heard was of the occasional “customer” who insistently tries to bargain down the price figuring he or she can gain from others pain. Folks, artists have to earn living, too. It is a livelihood, not a yard sale.
The older galleries that have built up a customer base over the years are better situated to weather the storm. I was told of several start-up galleries that have gone under and that a tsunami of closures has hit Scottsdale where rents are typically much higher than in Tucson.
Dominguez believes “there will be fewer galleries” in the 2009-2010 season, but he sees a turnaround.
Murray Dessner's Cascade (l), Josh Goldberg's Antiphon (c), and Tom Murphy's Figure Fragment (r) at the David Dominguez Gallery
Last year at the Davis Dominguez Gallery, 154 E. 6th St., small paintings show only 25 pieces sold all summer, he says. “So far this year we’ve already sold 25 pieces and most of the summer is still ahead.”
“We’re at the trough of the wave right now,” Dominguez says, “but I’m feeling the pent up demand and we’re ready to ride the wave back up to the top.”
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