The Kennedy Gallery
In 2000 Michael Kennedy traded the rain soaked streets of Portland for the sun baked breeze that blows through Midtown Sacramento. He’s spent sixteen years building his brand and has grown his gallery through three different locations – a major recession and a decade of changes.
Michael Kennedy: I’ve invested in this gallery. I’ve invested in my community. It’s been tough at times. I’ve had to make sacrifices for the betterment of the artists in the gallery. But here we are, ten years later. We’re the only gallery that’s expanded. It’s because we listen to our customers – our audience and we let that drive the business.
Ryan: What drew you to Sacramento?
I had friends in Sacramento. TJ Bruce (owner of the Depot) had seen a show I did in Portland and had me coming to Sacramento to help with shows at the Depot. Plus I got tired of the rain in Portland.
What was the Sacramento art scene like in 2000?
It was a lot different than Portland. There wasn’t any gallery representation, agents or brokers. So I thought: ‘If Amy Caplan did that for me in Portland – I could do that here for other artists.’
Amy Caplan represented you?
Right. So, I thought I could do it and I started my ‘Art Space’ Business to fill the need in Sacramento. It was the brand I created for myself and the artists I represented. I would find space in and around the city where I could hang art and manage the spaces.
I really worked hard to familiarize myself with gallery owners and build lasting, positive relationships with them. They would send people my way at the same time I had work hanging in their galleries. Joanie Ferry at the 20th street gallery was amazing! And Ed Matalon was a great artist I had secured. He did a lot of public art and worked with the metropolitan arts commission a lot. I met a lot of people through Ed and he became my best friend.
Where and when was your first location?
In 2006 I secured a space in the Art Complex on K St. I was one of the first artists to get in. I took a spot in the back next to a hypnotherapist who wasn’t too happy about having a bunch of artists banging around next door. Six months later she was gone. I acquired her space and the size of my business doubled.
How long were you in the Complex?
I was there for about a year when I was offered the spot at 1930 K St. (Mango’s now). I was thinking of doing a solo gallery there but it quickly turned into a collaborative with other artists who were interested in leaving the complex.
That’s a bold move. Were you scared?
Yeah. Taking on thousands of dollars in overhead was really scary. And shortly after I did it the economy tanked. Who buys art in a recession? 70% of the galleries in Sacramento closed. The only upside to an economic downturn is: The best business models tend to survive. We’ve always offered a variety of artists and price points while maintaining the highest level of quality to our customers.
Do you have a best year or memory?
Oh, 2006 was Fantastic! The best day was New Years. Although everyone else at the complex thought I was wasting my time I trusted my instinct and stayed open on the holiday. I was the only one. A couple came in from Reno. They declared It was my lucky night and spent $9,000.00 – It was amazing! I paid three months’ rent and took a vacation.
Great story! Hard work and sacrifice pays off again. What do you think the Sacramento art scene needs more of?
We need some new fresh leadership. And we need people on our city council that say YES! If it’s a building project say YES! We need the jobs – we need the growth.
The Kennedy Gallery Art Center stands majestically in the heart of midtown and is well appointed start to finish. From its regal blue and white coat to its sunlight filled rooms. It’s 3,500 square feet of beautiful art work and truly is “The Jewel of Midtown”.
Join Michael and some of the other nineteen exhibiting artists this Saturday the 28th of May for their 10th anniversary party. 11am-6pm