Walk downtown on the first Friday of any given month, and you’ll find art galleries, local cafes, restaurants and even some bars bustling with art enthusiasts. New shows spring up, old ones come down and the circle of art life continues.
Except, it isn’t so simple. Art costs money — not just to purchase, but to produce as well — and while some artists sell very well in Anchorage, not all of them do.
“Anchorage, with First Fridays, is actually really friendly for places to show your stuff; almost any bar or coffee shop will hang your work,” said Christy Lynn Haughey, both a biology and art alumnus of UAA. “But a lot of people in Anchorage just don’t buy art.”
Haughey recently moved out of a two-story house and, from Friday, July 27 through Sunday, July 29, she turned the entire house into a gallery. After she got the word out to a few friends, she was able to collect over 200 pieces of art by over 20 different artists for the impromptu show.
According to Haughey, the idea for the show sprang from the thought that there aren’t many actual galleries in Anchorage to display art in.
“As far as having a plain white gallery, there aren’t that many in Anchorage,” she said, “And, when you do go to a gallery, normal commission is about 50 percent — sometimes it’s even more than that. So, either you put it in a bar where it’s busy and people aren’t necessarily there for the art, or you put it in a gallery where you have to price it really high and you don’t sell and you don’t make much money.”
To curb this difficulty, artists like Haughey have gotten creative, utilizing previously used materials to create their work and save money.
“I definitely have to keep another job, but I’ve utilized a lot of junk,” she said. “Any time anyone is throwing out house paint, I take house paint. I use a lot of junk boards or scrap wood … you try to cut costs wherever you can. It’s definitely a financial sink for a while, but it’s definitely worth it.”
Devin Deuel Young, a nursing sophomore at UAA, recently quit his job to pursue art as more than a hobby, and knows better than some how much materials cost.
“Definitely, the term ‘starving artist’ is very much apparent here, with me,” he said with a smile. “I get to see the other side of having to sell stuff to pay for canvases and paint — and it’s definitely expensive and it adds up.”
Not all artists feel the need to penny pinch, however.
“I actually don’t spend very much money at all on supplies. I mean, I have in the past, but they to last me a really long time. I haven’t had to buy markers in about five years,” said Alyx Shroy, a UAA anthropology sophomore who produced a combination of drawings and small paintings for Haughey’s house show. “My favorite medium is a combination of watercolor ink and markers; watercolors I just have around, and I’m always gifted them. Everyone that knows me well knows I like drawing, so if there’s a birthday or something, I very often get art supplies.”
Because much of her work is done using gifted materials and her involvement in the art community is more of a hobby, Shroy doesn’t feel the same financial burden as other artists. She does understand it, however.
“Having to price your work because of commission so that you make money back, I mean, it’s already difficult to get people to buy things,” said Shroy. “Actually, it’s a weird thing about art that I’ve noticed … I’ve had conflict with it; it’s this thing that goes on your wall, and it’s hundreds of dollars, more than hundreds of dollars usually, and nobody can really afford anything right now.”
Shroy explains that, despite loving art, it isn’t a practical investment for most people. She says she’s debated exploring clothing design so that she can still do art and have it serve another purpose as well.
“You can have it, and can use it, and I think that people would be more likely to buy it because it’s not just this thing that hangs, I mean, that [art as decoration] is important. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t know how anyone can ever afford art,” she said.
In Haughey’s house show, most of the works were priced much lower than they would be in a regular gallery to make them more affordable to interested buyers, while still offering the artists a chance to profit.
Young was pleased with this. “I’d like it if some of my friends could actually buy my paintings,” he said. “This is a really awesome idea.”
Haughey’s house show may be over, but many of the artists, including Young and Shroy, would like to see the concept utilized more often. Haughey is pleased that her former home could be of service to the greater art community, even if for just one weekend.
“You have to take every opportunity that you can to show your work,” she said.