I had the honor of interviewing one of my favorite people and mentors: the lovely Teresa Roche of Art & Light Gallery. If you have ever met Teresa, you know that she is a jewel and has an amazing eye: her rich marketing, event planning, and business background have helped her mold A&L into a very unique shopping experience. I encourage all to check out her space, Art & Light located at 4 Aberdeen Drive, Greenville SC 29605 - Open Monday - Friday from 10am - 5pm & Saturday from 10am - 3pm.
Where were you born?
What is your professional background?
I graduated from Columbia College with a degree in Dance/Arts, but my first job was Assistant Marketing Director of Haywood Mall in 1980. I was the Assistant M.D. for 2 years and then promoted to Marketing Director where I stayed 4 more years. After that, I was Marketing Director for Modern Office Machines for 2 years. My son was born during that time and this is when I opened The White Room - a bridal boutique on Washington St. With my partner, Laura Baur, we owned and operated The White Room for 8 1/2 years - we sold the store after 8 1/2 years.
Then, I went back to my marketing and event planning roots in a corporate job at ScanSource - I was an event's coodinator and then event's team manager for almost 9 years.
Starry Night Greenville Print
When did you open Art & Light?
I opened A & L 5 years ago in the Flatiron Building on Pendleton St.
What prompted it? You know, it was a total fluke…I retired from ScanSource to explore and figure out what I wanted to do. I had been a part of an art group - friends from ScanSource and we started doing a one time a year art show…I met Paige Caraway, who made hand crafted lamps and pendant lighting - that's where the "Light" of Art & Light originated. My friend, Kathy Harris bought the Flatiron building and asked if our art group wanted to do our annual show there in her building. We took her up on it and once the event was over, she asked me to think about staying. So, I thought about it for about 5 mins. and I stayed - no business plan, no money, nothing but passion and a lot of work ethic!
A small vignette: pottery, paintings, a book necklace
How has the business changed from the initial conception?
Oh goodness - it has changed a lot! When I first opened, I was only open for the First Friday Gallery Crawl event. I featured a couple of different local artists for each First Friday event and then opened by appointment during the month of the show if people wanted to come in after the opening. I discovered that it was such a huge amount of work to do for a one night event - for the artists and for me - so about 6 months later I started opening every Friday and Saturday. I opened on Fridays and Saturdays for 4 years and continued to open by appointment as well. I started adding jewelry, clay, paper artists so that I had a bigger and better mix of merchandise - all local. That really helped the business along - art sales didn't happen that often. So I promoted the smaller items as well. Any time I had a chance to participate in festivals in the art's district or do special events, I always did that to increase traffic. I also rented the space out for product launches, birthday parties, showers, etc. to produce additional income. Luckily I was able to keep expenses to a minimum, so that the business could survive. I am also a designer and I continued with design clients as well and that business certainly helped the cash flow for the gallery business. One thing I had on my side was my strong marketing background. I used every trick I could think of to draw traffic in.
style statements: handmade jewelry
Art & Light is a very unique, niche shopping experience. How did you come up with the concept?
I wish I could say that I had some grand expert plan for A & L, but it really just evolved out of my passion for the arts. Since I'm a Greenville girl, it was very important to me to sell local merchandise - I have stayed true to that plan. I did travel some over the years and I was constantly looking for unique boutiques, home accent and gallery spaces for inspiration. The business side of things came naturally since I had already owned my own business. I adapted some of the things that made The White Room successful to what I was doing with A & L. I felt that changing things up - keeping the merchandise fresh and new was very important, so that when people shopped, they were always seeing something new and different. I did 55 shows in 5 years.
New Work: Diane Kilgore-Condon
What is your all time best seller at A&L?
What, in terms of marketing, has not worked for A&L?
figures in the rain
What has been the best thing that you have implemented to grow your audience at A&L?
How do you find the artists you represent?
Do artists ever approach you to sell their work?
You know, they don't do a lot. They generally drop by without appointments (which is fine most of the time), but when you work in a retail store, it's nice to see artists before or after the store opens or closes. Many times they don't have professional photographs or websites. Many of them can't afford to do those things when they are first getting started. I like to mentor them and help them to become more business like - about 20% of them really have the work ethic to make art as a living. Many of them have loads of talent… yet running a successful art business doesn't seem to be on many curriculums.
What is one of the worst things an artist can do when trying to get their foot in a gallery?
Interrupt to talk about their art while the gallery owner is with a customer
You paint. Does your work at A&L feed your creativity?
Yes - for sure! I am totally inspired by all of the great artists at A & L - I am also a little timid too - since they are all so great!
How do you turn on your ‘creative fire’? How are you inspired?
By visiting other galleries and museums - in Greenville and out of Greenville. And also by the energy and sights and sounds of NYC - that city is my favorite place on earth!
What music do you enjoy listening to while working?
I often listen to show tunes - with my musical theatre background I get so much energy from Broadway tunes. I also love putting Pandora's singer-songwriter station on - love that - also Maroon 5!
Who is your favorite artist?
I have lots of favorites - love the work of Edward Hopper and William deKooning!
What is your favorite color?
All time favorite color is chartreuse
chartreuse = favorite
What would you tell someone trying to get into a career in the arts?
I would tell them first and foremost to work a lot and have a very large body of work before approaching galleries- about 100 pieces. Once they have a large body of good work, if any way possible, archive the work and have professional photos taken.