Arts cooperatives

Two other artists and I are forming a cooperative group here in the
Pasadena area of Southern California. We are thinking of a group of
about 12 or so artists from various disciplines. The main goal is
group marketing such as a shared website and group shows, both
private and for non-profit organizations. We would keep it pretty
simple, each maintaining our own sales and gallery associations. I
know this isn’t a new idea and some of you may be or have been
involved in similar groups. If you would share your experiences,
both good and regrettable, it would help us avoid a few pitfalls.
I’m guessing there may be other Orchid members thinking of this as


I was involved in two formal co-ops and a few group shows in Chicago
in 97, but they were very different from what you are doing. One was
a clothing boutique geared towards promoting the work of new local
designers who customized their clothing to give a couture feel at
non-couture prices. The second was a gallery space that sold a broad
range of work from local artists, including jewelry to funky lamps
made from old household tools and toasters and such to paintings,
etc. The group events I organized with local artists and clothing
designers at various locations around town.

Couple of thoughts – everyone will have a different level of
personal investment in the project. Not everyone will have equal
marketing skills or website experience – but may have other skills
that could be equally useful if tapped into by the group. It would be
good to understand what everyone brings to the table really well
before getting started, and put it in writing so there are no
misunderstandings later.

When one person was leading the group and the main contact, etc it
worked much better than if the responsibilities were too much of a
guiding by consensus. This makes it easier for outside sources to
know who to contact and to feel confident in your group’s
cohesiveness of vision and purpose, too.

Also – make financial obligations really clear, and put something
in writing so everyone is on the same page. I joined one of the
co-ops right before a major store renovation, paid for that along
with other members who’d been there longer, only to have the co-op
sold to yet another owner with a new vision and renovation goals just
three months later. I left.

Hope that helps–


In my experience, this sort of arrangement usually resolves itself
into a situation where one or two people end up doing all the work,
while an equal number argue that they’re doing it all wrong. The rest
wait passively for something good to happen, and gradually drift away
when it doesn’t. Maybe you’ll have better luck, though…

Andrew Werby

My experience with a crafts co-op in Maryland was not so good. They
allowed two of each craft in, and with jewelry, it was myself and a
family that bought in cheap jewelry settings and glued in paua shell
inserts. Guess who sold the most? Make sure that the crafters you let
in fit a general quality criteria before you let them in. If you have
someone assembling rather than doing artistry, the artists will loose
out to the assemblists.

Kristiansand, Norway

Hi Beverly, A similar arrangement has been formed in the town I live
near. It’s called “The Route 66 Society for the Arts”. It was formed
to promote the artists in our area that otherwise may not get a lot
of attention. There are quite a few artists in this part of New
Mexico but the actual neighborhood doesn’t get a lot of focus
because everyone is looking so hard at Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque
and so on. Our group is giving us a place to get together for shows,
social events, and also promotes the showing of works by local
artisis in the local businesses. The “arts” cover not only the
visual arts but dramatic presentations, musicians, poets, writers
and the like. It’s only a couple of years old but has, so far at
least, raised awareness in the local community about the talent
available in the area and has even started Chapters in other
communities. We hope it will get the attention of even more folks
willing to buys our works.

I only recently joined this group myself so I’m not totally involved
yet but I can say with some certainty that more of us are shifting
from being unknown artists to someone with quite a bit more
exposure. I have high hopes for this to continue.