Carmel Art Association gives local artists a presence in the Carmel art scene.
Thursday, August 26, 1999
There are even more today. And the complaint heard most often from those local artists is that they are shut out of Carmel''s burgeoning art market, because the galleries won''t show their work.
Some local artists try to tackle the problem head-on, by opening their own galleries. But that''s a heady financial risk, and many fail.
Lisa Bryan is one local artist who has managed to open her own studio/gallery and keep it afloat for 10 years. It''s a tiny space in an off-street courtyard on San Carlos Street in Carmel, where she paints and sells her watercolor and oil scenes of local landscapes, streets, horses and florals. Her prices range from $2,000 for a large oil painting to $20 or less for a print.
Bryan couldn''t survive if she limited herself to her original works. Half her income, she admits, comes from marketing her greeting cards, prints and illustrated books to wholesalers. "I''ve had moments where it was very tough," she admits. "I have to diversify to survive."
The major outlet for local artists in Carmel is, certainly, the Carmel Art Association (CAA), an artists'' collective housed in a historic Comstock building on Dolores Street, founded in 1927 as a permanent gallery where local artists can show--and sell--their work.
In 1927, local artists needed the CAA because there were no other galleries in Carmel at all. Today, they still need the association despite the proliferation of art galleries in Carmel, because those galleries--with few exceptions--won''t let them in the door.
Although the CAA is a nonprofit collective, not a commercial gallery, a distinct tension exists between the association and the Carmel gallery world. "Half the time, they don''t even acknowledge we exist," says CAA Director Janet Howell. "It''s really a shame that they have this attitude."
Some CAA members who have had their work accepted by local galleries report that those gallery owners ask them not to show their work concurrently at the CAA. "They see us as competition, and we''re so entirely different," Howell says. "The more the artists sell anywhere, the better it is for everyone."
Crispo is one of the few local, living artists whose paintings grace the walls of a handful of local galleries. It''s kind of ironic, he says. As a teenager in the late ''50s and early ''60s, he learned his craft by apprenticing himself to Carmel and Pacific Grove artists who are now household names, men and women he met through his job at a local art supply store. Today, his paintings hang next to some of those artists in downtown galleries.
"Most of the art you see in local galleries are not by local artists," he notes. "When I was a kid, and there were just three galleries in Carmel, it was much more of an ''arts town.'' There were lots of places to put your art. Now, with more than 100 galleries, it''s hard to make a living."
The Carmel Art Association provides, therefore, a much-needed outlet, but only for those local artists fortunate enough to win membership: Only CAA members may display their artwork there. Today there are 128 member artists, each of whom is a member for life.
Applications for membership are considered usually once a year, says Howell. Applicants must live within a 35-mile radius of Carmel. A 15-member board of directors--all member artists themselves--reviews the applicant pool, which usually numbers about 75, and accepts whomever they wish for that year. Some years, no one is accepted; other years, five or six may be ushered in. Because board members serve just three years, on a rotating basis, personal prejudice is kept to a minimum, Howell says.
The financial arrangements are very favorable: The artist takes home 60 percent of the selling price, with 40 percent going back into maintenance of the association and its building. "But that''s really going back into the artist''s pocket, since each artist is a part-owner of the building," Howell explains.
A major problem plaguing the local artist community is its steady aging. As Carmel and the entire Monterey Peninsula becomes more and more expensive, fewer younger artists are willing to stick around and try to make ends meet.
Howell says there are no CAA members under 30, and less than a handful under 40. "Most are 60 and up," she says, adding, "Of course, in Carmel, 60 is considered young."
Crispo is actively involved in efforts to convince more budding artists to stay in the community. He was a founder of the county-wide Artists in the Schools Program, and has run an apprenticeship program at Carmel High School for the past 10 years, which sponsors one promising young artist each year in the hopes he or she will make a career locally.
Have any of the art students he''s sponsored stayed in town? "We''ve had some go away and come back, but none have stayed, because they can''t afford it," Crispo says. "Honestly, I don''t know how a young artist could make it here."