Where to buy art: Charleston Artist Collective

Artists collectives are some of my favorite sources for original art. And the Charleston Artist Collective is one of the best. 

In general, an artist collective is a group of artists working together with a shared mission. They help get artists exposure and usually provide some of the business infrastructure for participants. They are often, but not always, location-based, giving collectors an easy way to find local art.

The Charleston Artist Collective is particularly good because it's so well managed. Its founder, Allison Williamson, has done a phenomenal job with this collective. It has as an online-only gallery that's easy to navigate and showcases new art every month. For whatever reason, so many artists' websites are total pain to use. Some of them organize art buy year, which probably makes perfect sense to the artist, but isn't useful for most collectors. A lot of them have tiny thumbnails of each work that have to be individually clicked on to view. Many don't include any prices, so if you're not familiar with the artist you'd have no idea whether the piece you're looking at is in the $200-, $2,000-, or $20,000-range. I could go on about some of my frustrations with many artists' websites, but my point here is that the Charleston Artist Collective online gallery doesn't have any of those issues. It makes buying original art simple.

Williamson's efforts have been so successful that she's opened a brick-and-mortar location for buyers who want to see works in person and expanded her framework to create artists collectives in Atlanta, Nashville and the D.C. Capital Region

Each month, the Charleston collective, which consists of 17 artists, submits pieces related to a theme selected by the group as whole. Don't worry, the themes are broad (think "local color" and "impressionism to expressionism") and the artists' interpretations of them are pretty loose--you don't get a whole bunch of paintings of vaguely similar sunsets or cityscapes or whatever each month. Actually, I don't think I'd be able to guess the theme if it wasn't displayed on the page, which is perfectly fine with me. Additionally, each month, a portion of the sales goes to a local charity, and the tally of proceeds to that charity, as well as a total for all the local charities supported since the collective's inception is displayed at the top of the site. I really like that kind of transparency.

The pieces range in price from less than $100 to around $7,000, with most pieces under $2,500. Sold pieces are clearly marked with a red dot just like you'd see in a gallery--another user-friendly detail I appreciate. The homepage goes to the current month's submissions, but you can always shop All Artwork to have access to (unsold) pieces from prior months too. That page also has filters, so you can look by size, month or artist. I do think a "sort by price" option would be nice, but as of right now, it's manageable without that feature. 

One drawback of the Charleston Artist Collective is that, while there is good variety in the art itself, the artists who make it up are not that diverse. Fifteen of the seventeen artists are female, and it doesn't appear that there are any artists of color. Also, although the artists do have unique styles, most of the work does fit into a particular aesthetic, which obviously won't be for everyone. I'd say that most of the pieces here fall into the bright and cheerful, slightly feminine category that you might associate with brands like Serena & Lily. 

Here are a handful of the kinds of pieces you can get from the Charleston Artist Collective:

1. Lynne Hamontree [$1,600]  2. Janie Ball [Sold]  3. Susie Callahan [$775]
4. Anne Darby Parker [$625]  5. Laura Lloyd Fonaine [$600]  6. Slava Roubanov [$2,500]
7.  Squeaky [Sold]  8. Chelsea Goer [$2,500]  9. Linda Elksnin [$650]

Collectors, are any of you fans of the Charleston Artist Collective? What has your buying experience been like?