Artist Sheryl Daane Chesnut knows it's hard to make a living as an artist just about anywhere, but especially in San Luis Obispo. People may buy art, but they don't buy it in SLO.
"I have sold work in Boston, and then the people who buy it find out I live like a mile from them," Daane Chesnut said.
That means SLO County artists like Daane Chesnut have to hustle to sell their art locally or seek representation to sell their art in LA, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.
"It's very much a luck of the draw thing," she said. "You send your stuff out to galleries, some of them are wonderful and some of them are awful."
She started out as a working artist after studying art at UC Santa Barbara, switched over to design and marketing for 20 years (including a stint as a New Times designer), and then went back to selling her art. So Daane Chesnut knows the struggle to get art seen and sold is real. The mixed experience with galleries led to a friend suggesting that Daane Chesnut rep her own work, pretending to be someone else with a wig, lipstick, and glasses.
"That actually sounded funny and fun," she said. "It made me think, 'Well, I would like to rep art work, but not just mine.'"
Daane Chesnut also knew she didn't want to spend money on a gallery space or an employee to man the front desk. From there, the idea for Edna Contemporary Gallery, which hosts pop-up art events in intimate settings like homes and wineries, was born, with Daane Chesnut choosing to focus on high quality art, ranging from the $2,000 to $15,000 price points.
The gallery had its first event March 2 at Daane Chesnut's home in the Edna Valley area. Amid sips of wine and nibbles of scrumptious bites, guests looked at the work of out-of-area artists and locals like Daane Chesnut, Carol Paquet, and Tracey Sylvester. Some of the artists even attend the pop-up events in person.
"So they get the connection with the people looking to buy their work, the people get to meet the artist," she said. "I think it makes it warmer and more interesting if you get to meet the person who created it."
Edna Contemporary Gallery will hold pop-up art events every other month, with 10 percent of gross sales going to the charity of the host's choice. For March, Daane Chesnut decided to support the capital campaign for the SLO Museum of Art's new $15 million building. Upcoming events will be hosted at a rustic barn in Edna Valley as well as locales in Morro Bay and Montecito.
While Daane Chesnut knows art can be intimidating, she's hoping to change that for people who come to Edna Contemporary Gallery's pop-up events.
"They'll be fun. It's like a party and you get a chance to meet the artists, and a lot of them are from out of the area. You get a chance to see the art in homes and no one who is showing with me shows near here. You can't see this without going up to San Francisco or down to LA." Δ
Arts Editor Ryah Cooley is all for art in unusual places. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.