The primary reason I write for The Leader is my connection to the community through my art market. This is the 15th anniversary of the First Saturday Arts Market, and I love sharing the people I’ve met through the market with you.
One of the first fine artists to attend the market all those years ago was Liz Conces Spencer, a Heights-area artist. Probably because Spencer was the first fine artist to attend, I’ve always referred to her as a Heights celebrity.
I was starstruck perhaps.
I remember trying to figure out how to get more artists like her to attend my markets. In answering my questions this week, she answered my long-ago thoughts of turning my market into what it’s become, a fine arts market.
Spencer is known most for her colorful figures. She also works in other mediums like glass.
AV: What do you recall about that first market?
LCS: “There was an easy and friendly setup, a neighborly feel, with everyone in sync. This was at the old space. By the time I first did your market, I had traveled nationally to big shows in New Orleans, Chicago, Madison, Santa Fe, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Kansas City, Flagstaff and many Texas locations.”
The market started in March 2004. At the time Spencer was attending festivals based on easy routes where she could bring her children along, or where childcare could be arranged. Opting for shows that were only a one-day trip for a quick turnaround were optimal.
LCS: “It was nice to have a small local show to participate in, one that did not require all the hotels and travel and time finagling. After the demise of the Houston International Festival, the inner city needed another event that was well-managed and artist-friendly.”
A couple of years ago, Spencer made a return to the art market and made an effort to be there on a regular basis until things started happening elsewhere, too. Sometimes, when you get busy working, the unexpected happens.
LCS: “My recent irregularity in participation has been because my career has blossomed with a friendly gallery, the seeds of clients nurtured over the years and commissioned works, mainly in architectural glass. I met Gene Hester at outdoor events and we have developed a working relationship that continues to spawn opportunities.”
AV: Do you have advice for today’s emerging artist?
LCS: “Whenever you pay to play, at a market or in a cooperative gallery, there is always a desire to sell and make money, not just get ‘exposure.’ In the end, both are important. The danger for artists of all skills and experience is to attach sales to their personal worth as an artist because except for commissions, art is not about pleasing others. If you are not pleased with doing the work for its own sake, you ought to be in another business. I’m lucky to have this career and even with ups and downs, I would not trade it for any other.”
AV: Any significant change in the art market from then to now?
LCS: “I think outdoor markets have always been a good way for artists to participate in a self-selling venture. Nothing’s changed there. It’s always been a competitive business, and getting into and doing the large shows is difficult if you are not set up with equipment and of course the work. It really all starts there: the work.”
Read that, artists? Get busy!
Spencer is one of the artists behind the annual Heights Artisan Market that takes place each December. She has a studio at Mother Dog and has been a part of Archway Gallery since 2005.
Archway Gallery, one of Houston’s and the nation’s oldest artist-owned and operated galleries, is located at 2305 Dunlavy St. and is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Since 1976, Archway Gallery has been exhibiting the work of the area’s finest artists, providing a great selection of affordable, high-quality art including sculpture, pottery and painting in a variety of media and styles.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com