Marketer trains sights on local artists

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE: "Artists are not respected," says Louise Glickman, co-founder of Artsville USA. Based in Biltmore Lake, Glickman hopes to change that narrative through her nonprofit's mission and work. Photo courtesy of Glickman

Without question, Louise Glickman is a marketer. She started in her native New Orleans, eventually getting into cultural tourism and helping the city evolve from its reputation as a large drinking establishment into a mecca for the arts, food and architecture.

When she moved in 2001 to Biltmore Forest, she tapped into the artist community there. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Glickman wanted to help local makers survive the economic difficulties associated with the lockdowns. She came up with an online portal, the Artsville Collective, where she interviewed creatives, launched podcasts and posted monthly newsletters. Her mission was to keep artists on the community’s radar. (And in front of buyers’ eyes, too, of course.)

She later met performance-based creative Scott Power, who was doing similar work in California. Soon, they were bouncing ideas off each other and eventually joined forces, transforming Asheville Collective into Artsville USA

Early on, Glickman and Power independently funded the work. But in January, they formed a nonprofit to create money streams for artists, who Glickman says are renowned for being terrible at self-promotion. 

Xpress spoke with Glickman, a mixed-media artist herself, about her efforts to sustain the arts, including plans for a reality television show.

Xpress: How did you end up in Asheville?

Glickman: I came because I’m interested in the arts. And I came because I wanted to be in a progressive environment where I felt I could make a difference. I was asked to do some cultural tourism development work for AdvantageWest … and did some workshops in places like Winston-Salem to help bring their arts and business communities together. 

But at that time, which was 2001, so much of the economy of the region was suffering. No more tobacco farming, and jobs were being shifted to Asia. They were looking for an alternate economic development resource that would serve the smaller communities. I went to 23 counties in the region and put together one- and two-day workshops that put artists, business leadership and government leadership together in one room for one day to teach them how to talk to each other and how to communicate what the future might look like if they used their culture to create more travel opportunities. 

Why did you start Artsville?

This started rather naively. I live in Biltmore Lake near Candler. This is a semirural area, and there are no art galleries out here. This is where our artists are moving because they can’t afford to live in Asheville anymore. So they come here to sleep and maybe exercise at the YMCA. But they work downtown. And they play downtown. And they spend their money downtown. So it’s an interesting dynamic. 

I decided to see if there were any other artists in my community and started a discussion group. Very, very simple. We would show and tell about our work in my neighborhood, in my community. When COVID came, I decided to go digital with this. … I started doing short interviews and putting them in Sand Hill Artists Collective, which is what we were originally called. We looked for artists who lived down Sand Hill Road into West Asheville. And during COVID, it was very successful. I was amazed at the interest. Then we created a gallery space in the Marquee, and that allowed us to expand to more artists. 

What’s your strategy to promote local artists?

The whole purpose is to drive the economy of Western North Carolina to arts and crafts. You do that two ways. One is you get them exposure. Artists hate to market their work. They don’t know how to do it. So we’re showing them how to market, how to sell, how to build a business virtually. 

There are lots of artists and not enough buyers and collectors. So we want to democratize it. We want people to understand that if you like it, it’s art. It doesn’t have to be snooty or elitist, or anything. It doesn’t have to be an investment. You don’t have to be rich to buy art. So a lot of what we’re doing is educating both the artist and the audience through Artsville. 

The second part of this is that my friend Sherry Masters has a company here called Art Connections. She came to me for advice on how to create a touring company that would take people to meet the artists in their studios. Take them to Burnsville, take them to Spruce Pine, take them south to Brasstown, take them to Cherokee. We provide exposure for our Western North Carolina artists all over the world. We actively promote our art and our craft to people who want to visit here. 

Tell me about the California connection.

Through a friendship, I met this really amazing man from California named Scott Power. He had exactly the same vision I have here. But he had it with connections into the art scene and also the entertainment scene in California. And he was patterning exactly what I was patterning, starting with podcasts, interviews and Q&As. 

He’s published several books about the importance of art and how to motivate people to get involved in the arts and how artists need to learn to market their work. He had conferences in places all over the country. And he found out about Artsville and asked if he could partner with us. 

Now we have a model on two sides of the country. He was interested in our exhibit space in Marquee, but Marquee was a heavy lift, and you have to understand I’m not the youngest person you’ll ever meet. I needed to get other people to assist in this. I went back to my initial thought: Let’s do this digitally. And let’s have some live, pop-up exhibits and go to festivals and really give artists a leg up. 

We have the virtual gallery of artists. We select from applications. In this case in the spring, it’s 15 artists in various mediums … who are interested in truly building their practice. They have decided that they want to sell. Not all artists care about selling their work. They are of various ages and stages of careers. Artists work in a very isolated environment for the most part. And marketing is a lot about networking, talking to people going places — all these things that they are not very interested in doing.

So we mentor them for three months. We do free marketing for them. We show them how to interview somebody, [how to] write their story. 

How do you track sales?

We ask [artists] to tell us when they sell from something that we have produced together because we do not take a commission. There’s nobody else who sells online that doesn’t take a commission. So my commitment to this is that the artists should be able to hold onto their money and reinvest into their own business. 

How are you funding this?

I did this out of my pocket for a number of years. Now it has gotten too large, and I’ve gotten too old to be able to continue to do that forever. So that’s where Scott Power came in. He was in the same situation; except whatever I’m doing, he’s doing on steroids because he has all these worldwide connections. And whatever I was spending, he was spending five times more to do it. We needed to create a nonprofit. It was a business decision. 

What’s next?

We’re involved in developing a television program that is sort of similar to [HGTV’s] “House Hunters.” After you’ve renovated the house and moved into the house, what do you put on your walls? 

So we will bring people here to Asheville, they will go to … the River Arts District … [and] hopefully out to Penland [School of Craft]. And they will select what they like for their house. We shot some of the pilot and sizzle reel in Chicago just this month.

If an artist joins you and works with Artsville USA, what kind of results can they expect to see?

Well, because we do not take a commission, some of this is very hard to gauge. And we are working on some evaluation mechanisms. What we gauge right now is growth in their website — who’s looking at our website, social media numbers. As the tour starts to grow, we will have numbers from that. I have cataloged how many artists we have written about, talked about and shown their work. And since Artsville began … it’s over 150. We also have a subscriber base that is above 10,000.

So what we’re doing now is raising money. We had one donor give us $40,000. But we run on an absolute shoestring. I don’t make any money. And I have a very small part-time staff. 

I have not asked the Chamber of Commerce, Explore Asheville or [ArtsAVL] for money yet. I am still cultivating all of that, but I do not want to get into the competitive grants-writing business. Grants are very time-consuming, and the return is very small. And it requires a lot of administration and everything else. 

What drives you?

Artists are not respected. People think that this is an easy thing to do, to be an artist, and that they’re supposed to be impoverished and suffering and all … that old baloney. But if you read and look and analyze what’s going on in the world, art is the one thing that people turned to during COVID. They took art classes online. It made them happy to go outside and look at the beauty of the world and paint it. And they started there. And they’ve been working their way up. 


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