The center's new website, Artsite, is helping expand the reach of its artists and the center itself.
Long gone are the days of artists selling most of their work in-person.
Sure, there are plenty of galleries in Sarasota, but it’s impossible to deny the lure of online shopping. Why leave the house when you can stay in your sweatpants and binge “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” while daydreaming about the joy that a new painting could bring?
Art Center Sarasota understands that the future of art sales is headed in a digital direction, which is evident in a major step taken by Exhibitions and Marketing Coordinator Danielle Dygert this summer. In late June she launched Artsite, the center’s new art sales platform, which features work in a variety of mediums by 10 local artists — and growing.
In mid-August, Artsite sold its first work: a limited edition archival print by John Pirman that was purchased by a New Jersey man.
“The most rewarding [aspect] is seeing the artists excited that I was able to help them better market their work.”
— Danielle Dygert, exhibitions and marketing coordinator
“Making the first sale really felt like a validation — A) that it worked and B) that someone was interested in what we’re doing in Sarasota,” Dygert says. “But the most rewarding [aspect] is seeing the artists excited that I was able to help them better market their work.”
Elaine Charney, an attorney-turned-watercolor painter, is one such artist. The center put out an open call at the beginning of June that invited artists in the Suncoast region who had exhibited with the center in the past two years to have their own section of the site. Those interested had to submit several examples of their work, a bio and an artist statement.
Dygert says those with a body of work robust enough and ready to be sold were then given a page.
Charney, like most artists, was never taught how to market herself. The opportunity to have Art Center Sarasota as a middle man was exactly what she needed — especially after losing a great deal of business lately.
“I’d had three galleries close in the past two months,” Charney says, noting the perfect timing of her first Artsite conversation with Dygert. “All of a sudden I had all my art back.”
Charney is 14 years into her career, and she wants to expand her reach without having to worry about platforms she doesn’t enjoy, like social media.
“It’s not hard at all,” she assures. “We ship [pieces] to Danielle, and frankly, she does the work.”
That work started this past winter when Dygert started researching how to build a digital art sales platform. It had only been about six months since she was promoted from administrative assistant, but since day one of her new position, her goal had been to revamp Art Center Sarasota’s digital presence. This was just the next piece in the puzzle.
Executive Director Lisa Berger says she’s been talking about creating a site like this for 10 years, but nobody could figure it out until Dygert came along.
But she had no idea how to build the new platform. Dygert spent most of the winter and all of the spring learning about other online art sellers, such as the nationally known Artsy, and how they operate.
Her efforts paid off. Now Artsite ships to every state and hopes to eventually ship internationally.
“We’re keeping it local right now because we have so much talent here that needs to go national,” Berger says. “We also stay the middle person in between the buyer and the seller. ... We’re doing a lot behind the scenes to make sure it’s a good transaction.”
That behind-the-scenes work includes a thorough inspection of every piece before it ships. The photos used on each artist’s page also go through intense scrutiny because something as small as the frame being cut off could make a difference in whether someone purchases that piece or not.
Dygert and Berger agree that the ability to pull up a quality photo of artwork on a smartphone or tablet in the space it would be hanging is invaluable — it’s what differentiates Artsite from galleries.
“It feels almost more personal shopping online and thinking about what would look good in their home,” Dygert says. “Looking at it on their own time and in their own space.”
Although sales clearly help artists financially, Dygert adds that it’s learning about elements including photography that are beneficial long-term.
“It’s a way of establishing standards for artists, especially the ones who don’t quite know how to sell their work,” she says. “That’s where we come in and say, ‘Hey you shouldn’t have flash on in this photo, and maybe you should market it as a ceramic rather than a clay piece.’”