Art matters — no matter what.
Artist, entrepreneur and all-around force of nature Patti Curtis owns Fogue Studios & Gallery, a flourishing, supportive workspace for Seattle artists over 50. Located in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood, Patti opened Fogue after talking with fellow older artists about the difficulties of placing their work in area galleries. Three years on, the space is the creative home for 40 culturally diverse, talented painters, sculptors, writers and mixed-media creators. When circumstances took an unexpected turn, Patti pivoted to adapt her business and protect her peers.
New colors in her marketing palette.
Patti’s not just the owner of Fogue — she’s part of the higher-risk artistic community her business serves. “The average age of the artist at Fogue is about 64 or 65,” she says. “So we were really kind of on the front end when our governor recommended that we stay at home.” By late February she’d spun up an online store, so while she couldn’t have Fogue’s doors open, she could still showcase the artists’ work. “I put everything that was in my gallery on our website,” she says, “and then I created a simple shopping experience. It was pretty easy, and I think it looks very professional.”
As part of Fogue’s new online store, Patti created a section called Art Under $100. “I photographed a lot of the work in the gallery that fell into this price range,” she says, “so that people that wanted to support the arts but couldn’t spend a lot of money had a lot of choices.” Then, she placed ads on Instagram and Facebook that showcases these affordable pieces.
Lights. Camera. YouTube!
With the online store in place, Patti started a YouTube channel with content about the studio and its artists. “I put my ego aside to try something new,” she laughs. “I mean, I don’t love seeing my face on video. I’m 56 years old, let’s be real.” In addition to a virtual tour of the studio, the channel has short interviews conducted by Kerry James, the studio’s operations director, with Fogue artists who go in-depth into their backgrounds, inspirations and methods. “It’s a simple, cool way to get content out there that lets people into the gallery to hear from the artists,” Patti says. “We had a lot of fun and followed social distancing guidelines.”
One standout interview profiles painter Dave Johansson as he transforms the plywood boards that temporarily adorn Fogue into a mural. “The Georgetown Merchants Association gave Dave a grant to get the murals up,” Patti says. “What he’s doing is so inspiring and really encapsulates the resilience of the Fogue community.” Kerry also interviews Patti herself about Art Under $100 —Patti gives details about some of the pieces and pitches art as an inexpensive, lasting investment with real social impact.
It’s really important to stay engaged with your customers. People don’t want to see the small businesses in their neighborhoods fail, so give them ways to support you.Patti Curtis
Staying tenacious and compassionate.
Like all entrepreneurs, Patti knows there’s no going back to the way things were, and she’s taking this opportunity to learn new skills that will strengthen her business over the long haul. She suggests that others follow suit. “To small businesspeople I would say, ‘Create an Etsy store, create an eBay store, do an Instagram store, do an online store, do all the new things you can to connect.’” When Fogue does re-open its physical doors, she plans to celebrate by auctioning off Johansson’s murals. “I think that’ll be a really fun thing to do! Moving forward, I hope there’ll be a greater appreciation of art, that people are going to want to go out and see pretty things and be together.”