Interview with Laurie from Ghost Gallery

What's Ghost Gallery all about?
Ghost Gallery started as a "moving exhibition" project in 2006. I was independently curating venues around Seattle (e.g., Neumos, Pretty Parlor, Solo Bar) with the goal of showing quality, original art to people that may not often venture into traditional art galleries. It was, and is (I still curate off-site exhibits), a very rewarding way to help emerging artists reach a wider audience, and also to foster a growing, dynamic network of artists and designers.
You have wine! It's like you combined all of the things together that I love and put them under one roof. What's your favorite wine of the moment?
We have a small, rotating selection of boutique wines (all "Under $21," our little joke) hand-picked with the help of my amazing wine rep Cheryl (Pacific Rim Wines). All of our wine comes from sustainable, Fair Trade, local and global wineries. Wine is something I love learning about, and it's been said that wine often goes hand in hand with art, so why not offer some here? It also makes a great add-on gift item when purchasing some miniature art or jewelry. My favorite right now is definitely the Six Hats 2011 Pinotage. It has been our best seller by far, along with the Tobin James Dreamweaver Sparkling Champagne. Both are only $9.99!
How long have you been in business?
I founded the Ghost Gallery project in 2006, and we have been in our Capitol Hill location for almost 3 years now (opened in April 2010).
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to open Ghost Gallery?
Yes, it was actually a pretty intense time during the winter of 2010. I was part of a women-run art and music event space called Gossamer Collective, up on 18th and Union. After being there for one year, the block was purchased and we were given some pretty restrictive lease options. So we decided to move out. I was about to find another office job in marketing, then this location on Denny opened up. I knew it was a pretty risky time to try and propel Ghost Gallery into this new direction with a physical gallery space, but sometimes you just can't let certain opportunities pass you by. With the help of a close friend, we were able to nab it!
What is it that attracted you most to starting your own gallery?
I've wanted to develop a gallery space ever since my first internship in college, at Anderson Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. The curator at the time, Amy Moorefield, taught me everything I know, and it was such an amazing experience! She really trusted me and let me have a hand in some very exciting exhibits there, including work by Larry Clark, Gregory Barsamian, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Garry Winogrand, Toulouse-Latrec, and so many more. I'll also never forget the values Amy provided me with; most of all, the importance of treating our peers and artists with integrity and respect. I incorporate this into my daily practice here at the gallery.
Where do you hope to be 5 years from now?
I'm working toward curating more large-scale, public art events here in Seattle and beyond. Collaborating with some East Coast event producers would be a great adventure! I would also love to expand; collaborate with other curators on building a mixed-use art space, while maintaining Ghost's boutique offerings on the hill and online.
What's the most rewarding thing about running your own gallery?
Being my own boss is something I never take for granted. But the most rewarding thing is that I get to discover all the amazing talent that is right here in our city, and pass that on to you! Alongside our main focus, which is of course art, I absolutely love scouting handmade jewelry, paper goods, and vintage goodies to complete the "hybrid" feel of the space.
Do you have any events coming up that you'd like to tell us about?
We have a special live music event coming up this Saturday, March 2nd, featuring new acoustic music by Alicia Amiri and Eric Howk. It's a dress-up affair, and will be free to the public. Then our next art opening will be March 14th, featuring Kelly Clark (aka UmberDove), with brand-new paintings and stunning jewelry work. Very excited about our 2013 calendar!
*I would love to announce that ReRunRoom Vintage is now sharing the gallery space! The owner, Jess Rainbolt, has a fantastic eye and offers a rotating selection of vintage furniture for sale. So visitors can expect the gallery to look a little different each time they come in. It's a blast and a great fit for Ghost.
What’s the most challenging thing about running a small business?
That's a tough one! There are daily challenges, such as keeping up with the books, staying self-motivated, and keeping a fresh eye on what you offer to the community. Obviously the ups and downs of the economy are a major challenge for most of us. But if you believe in what you do and have a great support system, then it's easier to ride out most turbulence.
Any advice you can share to other small business owners just starting out?
Find a business model that works best with your vision and priorities. Stay consistent. Don't compromise quality for a trend you don't quite trust. Always push your ideas a little further and never, ever shy away from asking friends, family, and new guests for honest feedback. One of my favorite things to do is to ask someone what they think of a new display, a new room layout, etc. People love to get involved! Engaging your audience is probably the most valuable thing you can do as a small business owner; it will foster word of mouth advertising which is vital for growth. Other than that, have fun and don't forget to stop working once in a while and take a breath!
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