Bella Vista Art Gallery, in Biltmore Village, Asheville, closed today. Bella Vista was the only gallery that carried my artworks.
Its closure wasn't a surprise. The owners, Glenn and Christin, had told me several months ago that the gallery would close at the end of July. Unlike most galleries, its closure wasn't due to lack of sales. Christin and Glenn were from New Orleans. They wound up in Asheville after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and destroyed their gallery. They rebounded, opening Bella Vista in the River Arts District and then, later, moving to Biltmore Village. And they turned it into one of the best galleries in Asheville. They had really good artworks, beautifully displayed, and cared very much about presenting the artworks well. Bella Vista survived the economic downturn of 2008 and was still doing well up until today.
Family issues were what drove the decision. Glenn and Christin still have family in Louisiana, and it was time to go back and be near them. So they made their plans and are leaving Asheville on a high note.
For an artist like me, Christin and Glenn were the gold standard for gallery owners. Christin was the artistic director and primary sales person; Glenn provided the back-room support. Christin has a sharp eye for artworks. She educated me about buyers, what different people look for, and how they might respond to my works. She focused on my drawings and etchings. When she took one of my works, she framed it beautifully and presented it in its best light. Even when my sales were slow (meaning more than a year between sales), she never wavered. "I like your work, it's good, and it will sell!" And, eventually, it did. Whenever Christin sold one of my works, she was on the phone to me within ten minutes, excitedly telling me about the person who bought it, and why. When I was deployed overseas, she shot me an email. Christin and Glenn were more excited about the sales than I was! And even though our contract only called for them to pay me after the end of the month, they always sent a check within just a few days. Amazing.
I've been with galleries that just used my work as filler, or forgot who I was even though they had three of my paintings, or tried to tell me what to paint. Glenn and Christin, on the other hand, were my trusted partners. I'm very sad to see them go. It's the best thing for them, but not for me and all their other artists. They will be missed.
And after my experience with Bella Vista, I'm really spoiled when it comes to galleries.