The subjects of portraits displayed in Where Y’Art‘s current show, “Face Forward” gaze unflinchingly into the eyes of the viewer. The images are reflections of the souls of the artists…and of you, assuming you connect with them, said Catherine Todd, the gallery’s creative director and co-founder.
Many people feel uncomfortable selecting artwork for their homes, she mused. But there is a way to become more confident in your artistic tastes. “If you don’t know much about art, you can find a way through the artist.”
“It’s our job to entrust people to trust themselves, to take their memories and experiences to see something different,” Todd said. It is not necessary to know the artist’s intent. “You get it from your own perspective,” she said.
Todd and her business partner Collin Ferguson, Where Y’Art’s managing director, started the artists’ collective several years ago to provide a platform for local artists and a means for buyers to directly communicate with them. Where Y’Art’s website showcases 132 painters, sculptors, photographers, illustrators, metal workers, printmakers and textile artists, whose work can be sorted automatically by price range, category, color, neighborhood and collection.
Each artist is featured on the website in a thumbnail profile photo alongside representative samples of his or her work. Prices are displayed so no guesswork is involved. If customers impulsively see something they want, an online shopping cart enables immediate purchase and delivery options. Artists net 90 percent of the sale price.
The main difference between Where Y’Art and other galleries is accessibility, Todd says. She compares the site to the outdoor art fair held at Palmer Park, beginning in 2004.
“The reason Palmer Park was so successful was that it made art so accessible,” she said. The Arts Market of New Orleans featured more than 100 juried artists, selling original, handmade art under tents in the park at the intersection of Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues one Saturday a month. After Hurricane Katrina, its theme became, “Shop local, Stay local. Buy something unique and help local artists,” said Dottie Taylor, one of the market’s volunteer coordinators.
The format allowed for browsing through dozens of exhibits, while casually chatting one-on-one with creatives. It was a pleasant experience for both artists and customers. That is the personal approach Where Y’Art wants to recreate online.
In addition to individual buyers purchasing special artworks for their homes, Where Y’Art also assists clients in creating uniquely New Orleans themes inside commercial spaces. For the city’s tricentennial, for example, Todd helped select a dozen portrait artists to render 25 contemporary renderings of iconic figures from New Orleans’ history for publication on nola.com. The virtual exhibition was titled “300 for 300.” Where Y’Art also chose paintings for University Medical Center. Other corporate clients include Ochsner Health System, Cambria Hotel New Orleans, Trapolin Peer Architects, City Greens, Tales of the Cocktail and JamNola, among others.
John Price, Vice President, general manager of The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery attests to the value of Where Y’Art’s expertise:
“As a hotel collection that believes that art inspires, our intention was always to bond with the local art scene. Where Y’Art has been invaluable in embracing our mission and has provided us with amazing connections of local artists and makers, each with their own unique story that is at once local and universal.”
Todd admits she’s untrained as a museum curator. Instead, her style and tastes were influenced by an artistic mother and 20-years working in graphic design.
“I live with art, and invest in the artists, not because I am a collector, or because I run an arts business, but because I believe in art the transformative power of art,” she said.