Interview with James Tucker: How Great Art Benefits Work Culture

Great art can move and inspire. It can offer insights into an unexplored point of view. But while most people can appreciate a work of art, some still hesitate to make a purchase. On the company side, business owners may not realize the impact art can have on their employees.  They’d rather relegate the decision of buying good art to someone else — opting for the commercial or mass-produced choice.

Finding great art is not always easy. Thankfully, Chattanooga is home to a thriving art scene that welcomes newcomers into its doors. As a staple of Chattanooga’s art community, In-Town gallery has featured local artists and craftworkers since 1974. As one of the oldest artist cooperatives in the country, In-Town provides a creative space where artists can flourish. The people who staff the gallery are the same artists whose work decorates the walls.

James Tucker, resident artist at In-Town Gallery shared his opinions on how art shoppers can feel more confident about their purchase, and how great art impacts work culture.

Trend: What makes Chattanooga a good place for working artists?

Tucker: I think the quality of life here is incredible. It’s a small enough place to get around and know people, but big enough to have a symphony orchestra and a real art scene. Chattanooga has always seemed very inclined toward the arts. We’re blessed with AVA and ArtsBuild. The desire to promote the arts is strong.

Trend: How do artist co-ops like In-Town Gallery differ from privately owned galleries?

Tucker: What sets co-ops like In-Town Gallery apart is that they’re naturally much broader in their approach to the market than privately-owned galleries.

In private galleries, the owner decides who’s going to be in the gallery and who isn’t. No matter how broad the owner’s taste is, or how much diversity they want in their offerings, art is still filtered through one person’s taste.

We look at things a little differently here. We have over 30 artists and theirs a jury committee. Jewelers pass through the jury committee, painters and all kinds of fine craft and fine art. The result is that co-ops are much more eclectic and offer a much broader range of artists. As a business model, it’s very sustainable. We pay a modest rent and the gallery takes a much more modest cut on sales. We are a very sustainable format and we can take chances on artists.

Trend: What makes selling art different than selling other products?

Tucker: Art is a luxury good. If you go out and you buy a dining room table, you’re looking for functionality. But — when you buy art that goes on a wall — two things happen. One, you realize it’s not a necessity. And, two, there’s so much divergent art that you don’t know what is right. It’s a scary decision for many people. That’s why there’s Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel selling prints, because someone is telling the buyer ‘this is good taste.’

If you come into this gallery and buy a painting or sculpture, you have made a decision about the aesthetic work of the item. Some people are comfortable with that, but many people are not. I think that’s a hurdle we all have to get over.

Trend: How can shoppers feel more confident about their art gallery purchases?  

Tucker: The way you get comfortable with art is going to receptions and talking with artists. It’s amazing how often I’ll discuss a painting with someone, give them the back story and a few days later that painting sells. The shopper was able to see it through my eyes. We offer a portal into art and why we paint the way we do.

Trend: How does art affect work culture? What do companies lose by not thinking through the art on their walls?

Tucker: If you create a good culture, people will want to be a part of that culture. I have been in offices of professionals, doctors or lawyers. When I see cheap, faded art on the walls it send the message that the business owners don’t care. I’m a visual person, so maybe others wouldn’t see it this way. But good art makes a place look classy and says that the people who work here are competent people.  There’s a reason we wear a jacket and tie. Why not wear sweats? Because we want to send the message that we’re professionals. In the same way, good art creates a statement about its surroundings.

Trend: What can we do to support our local art economy?

Tucker: Get out and use your art community. Go to the receptions, plays, music or the Riverwalk. Participate in the arts. The more you engage, the comfortable you’ll be.

Learn more about In-Town Gallery, here.

Find Tucker’s work by visiting his website, here.

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