Owner/Founder, Artêria Gallery
Micro Business Award, EAST
Artêria Gallery was founded independently in Quebec in 2007 by Geneviève Lévesque. Since that time, the gallery has grown to five full-time employees who manage over forty professional artists from Canada, the United States, and Europe. The gallery also houses a boutique and art supply store. Geneviève and her collaborators, including her partner, artist and curator Christian Dorey, take as their mandate simply “to create employment for artists.” Geneviève’s interest in supporting artists was at first personal. Having begun her professional life in the creative fields of fashion and film, she found herself perpetually surrounded by artists, including her eventual life partner. She was struck by the frequent inability of talented artists to promote their own work. So, she decided to start planning modest events in cafes and shared exhibition spaces in her free time. Her initiative started out as fun, as a way of helping her friends, but eventually she began to forge connections among artists and clients, and the artists under her care began to generate income from her work.
I wasn’t prepared for the realization that managing growth is much more difficult than starting a new project. Starting a new company is of course hard work — there is a tremendous amount of risk involved, and you can feel dwarfed by all that you need to learn — and it’s also fun and exhilarating. You can afford to be bold, because the consequences of your mistakes don’t necessarily affect anyone besides you. It’s gratifying to watch the company grow each year, and yet that growth creates complexity that can be confusing to navigate. It requires discipline to remain committed to honing the structure while responding to the increase in daily tasks. The needs of a successful business change constantly; it can be tricky to remain attuned to that.
I began my career by responding to a need in my community: I knew a lot of artists, and it was clear that they needed help promoting their work. I worked on a voluntary basis; I didn’t initially have the idea of starting a business. My “side project” began to demand so much of my time that it was difficult to balance with my paying job, and it brought me so much more pleasure and satisfaction. By the time I realized, “Oh, I can do this,” the pivot to representing artists full time wasn’t so drastic. By the time I incorporated, I had already gained enough experience and support to get started with a fair bit of confidence. Now my days are filled by what I’m passionate about. It was the best decision of my life!