Dear ASK Harriete,
I would be interested in getting your views on co-op situations. Are they a good option and if so what type of work is best in that environment?
Dear Co-Op Opportunity,
A co-op situation should start with evaluation criteria similar to a gallery.
- Does my work fit within the price range as other work at this location?
- Does the appearance/style of the other work fit or complement my art/craft?
- Is the appearance/style of the space consistent with my art/craft?
- Is the staff knowledgeable about the work and will they be able to promote my work in a professional manner?
- Do they have a contract and insurance that will protect my work from loss, damage, or their creditors?
- Do they seem to be financially stable?
- You don’t want to find out that they can’t pay their rent and close unexpectedly, placing your work in jeopardy.
If you can say “yes” to every one of these questions, then read their contract carefully. While a contract can not fully protect your work, it will give you some idea about their expectations and considerations. Use the Professional Guidelines Consignment Contract as a checklist for appropriate terms and for issues that should be covered in their contract. Then review the contract with their staff to clarify any questions that you may have. You can find it in the Professional Guidelines.
If you can’t say “YES” to every one of the previous questions, then decline to show your work at this venue. It is not worth it.
Trust your intuition. If the co-op or any other venue seems flaky or unreliable in any way, do NOT participate! Some co-ops may require that you pay dues to become a member, make a financial contribution to the sponsoring organization, or spend time at the gallery/store. Are you willing to make this investment with your time and money? The operation of a gallery takes a great deal of time and attention to detail. Unless the venue has professional, paid staff with an established reputation, good organization, and a great location, I am concerned you are courting disaster.
Develop your work. All too often, people are anxious to find a sales outlet for their artwork thinking that selling their artwork establishes its professional quality. Actually, I think it should be the other way around. Focus on your work, get critical and constructive feedback from your peers, mentors, or critique group and take the time to bring your work to its full artistic fruition. It would be better to invest your time in your work and keep searching for a responsible outlet that will invest their time and resources in representing and SELLING your work in a professional manner.
Harriete Estel Berman
This post was updated on December 17, 2021