It’s tough out there for artists. You make a ton of work, you get a gallery show, you bust your hump to get the word out, to get people to come, and—if you’re lucky—you sell a few pieces.
Then the gallery owner takes 50 percent.
What’s a creative type to do? Well, 10 years ago, Terrence Payne said Screw it. He gathered up 12 of his friends, found a hip spot in Northeast, and launched what is now Minneapolis’s oldest artists’ collective: Rosalux.
In exchange for a monthly membership fee, member artists are guaranteed gallery exposure, as well as a budget for promoting their shows. They also get to keep 100 percent of any sales.
The original Rosalux crew: (Top row, left to right) Mary Sullivan, Neil
Rasmussen, David Bowman, Scott Neff, Hallie Bowman (Middle row, left to
right) Reed La Plant, Shawn McNulty, John Stewart (Bottom row, left to
right) Amelia Biewald, Suzy Greenberg, Terrence Payne, David Whannel,
But perhaps the biggest benefit of bonding together in a collective is the pooling of ideas—and not just creative ideas. Like in any other co-op, young artists learn the business end of the gallery scene, from bookkeeping to beer sales.
This Saturday, the now 20-member collective—which in addition to displaying its members’ work also hosts Open Door, consistently the year’s most exciting juried competition—celebrates its 10th Anniversary.
We asked founder Terrence Payne to share some of his secrets to longevity.
What was happening 10 years ago in the art scene? What was the impetus to start a collective?
Ten years ago, a lot of the commercial galleries were closing due to rents going up in the neighborhood around the Wymann Building downtown, which was the center of things back then, so the options for exhibiting work were getting slimmer and fewer. I was also having some problems with a gallery that I had shown with in Chicago, which made me start to question the value of giving 50 percent commission to somebody else to promote my work if I could do it myself.
The idea of the collective came out of that. As a group, we could take the financial burden on of covering the gallery’s overhead, but keep all the proceeds from the sales for ourselves. And working together, we could do a better job of promoting our work.
The risk shifts from the gallery owner to the artist, which was scary, but that also came with the freedom to show what we wanted, how we wanted.
What was that first show like?
The first show was awesome. We had a group show with a live auction emceed by an actress playing a character called Connie the Coke Whore, insulting the art and the audience. We were overwhelmed by the turnout and the positive response we got from the first show, which was really encouraging just starting out.
You decided not to do a retrospective for the anniversary, but rather to do a forward-gazing celebration of some of the collective’s latest talent. What was your reasoning?
A retrospective would have been cool, but there is no way we could fit everyone into a show at the gallery. And really, what is most rewarding to us is not what we have already done, but what challenges lay ahead. So we decided to think of this show as more of a belated grand opening—for both our new group of artists and our new gallery—and give our audience a taste of what is coming for the next 10 years.
How many artists would you say have cycled through the collective over the years?
[Former member] Jennifer Davis and I tried to count a couple of years ago, and we came up with about 60. Since then I would say 70 is a good guess. Some people leave for a while and come back; others come in young and learn some of the business side of being an artist before going on to bigger and better things. And others choose to go in other directions in their lives, away from the arts. We’ve built up a really great community of artists over the years, which is one of the things I value most from my experiences with the gallery.
Rosalux has lived in a number of spaces over the years, but the current space, in the Van Buren Building, is by far the most handsome. Are you guys there to stay?
We plan to stay put for a while. We just finished up with improvements on the space, and I think it is really the best-suited space and location we have had yet.
My Mushroom Clouds Will Look Like
Flowers by Terrence Payne
You guys are 10. That’s old age in local gallery terms. Why do you think Rosalux has managed to stick around while so many other places have faded out?
A couple of things. First of which is adaptability. No one in the gallery claims to know all the answers, and we learn as we go. Some ideas work out, while others we learn to avoid in the future. Open Door: good idea. Meat raffle-themed karaoke show: bad idea. We have had the good fortune with working with so many great artists over the years, each of whom have brought their own ideas and enthusiasm to what we do. We talk about each other’s work and push each other to do new ambitious projects.
What’s the biggest lesson learned from the last decade?
Personally as an artist, the biggest lesson I have learned is not to be afraid of taking risks. If you are open to changing your plans along the way, things eventually have a way of working out. As a gallerist, it is no keg beer and no weddings. They are more trouble than they are worth.
What’s in Rosalux’s future? Are you content to lead the gang or are your ambitions drifting on to something else?
Rosalux’s future looks pretty good at the moment. We have an awesome new space and a roster of exceptionally talented artists and gallery assistants working hard on our exhibitions through the 2013 schedule, which I am eagerly anticipating. We are working on some new ideas for broadening our range through our exhibitions and on the new website. So yes, I would have to say I am content and excited for what is in store for Rosalux in the future.
10th Anniversary Exhibition
Saturday, March 10
7 – 11 p.m.
Rosalux Gallery, 1400 Van Buren Street NE, #195, rosaluxgallery.com
Featuring work from current members:
Dan Buettner, Amelia Biewald, Tara Costello, Jack Dale, John Diebel, Toni Gallo, Nick Howard, Rebecca Krinke, Valerie Jenkins, Shawn McNulty, Terrence Payne, Bob Roscoe, Elaine Rutherford, David Malcom Scott, Laura Stack, Joel Starkey, Amy Toscani, Bart Vargas, Asia Ward, James Wrayge