Victoria J. Fry is an artist, educator and founder of Visionary Art Collective, an online gallery and arts education platform.
You are an arts coordinator, artist, and arts educator. Has there ever been a time in which you felt doubtful about a stable career in the arts?
I knew from an early age that I was going to pursue a career in the arts. Perhaps it was the naivety that came with being young, but I actually never doubted having a stable career. I did, however, have moments of hesitation before graduating college as a Fine Arts major, and realized that it can be difficult to support yourself as a painter. I decided to delve into art education, which has provided me with stability in terms of income and job security. After teaching for almost 8 years, I began to dream of a platform that celebrated both art and education, which ultimately led me to create Visionary Art Collective.
Were there any specific events that led to your decision to support artists by opening Visionary Art Collective in 2020?
When COVID hit, like many other artists and educators, I felt really disconnected from my community. I had already been dreaming of an online platform that highlighted work by contemporary artists and educators, and finally put these ideas into action in 2020. At the end of the day, I was craving a sense of community, and my desire to connect with fellow artists and educators was the driving force behind this platform.
You run a virtual gallery rather than a physical one. How does this effect the way the exhibitions are received and how have your audience and artists responded to this type of platform?
When many galleries closed their doors due to the pandemic, I began to see online exhibition spaces popping up. I thought this was such a wonderful and creative way to continue to showcase work despite the current circumstances. I decided that each year Visionary Art Collective would present multiple exhibits on our platform, and in doing so, provide artists with the opportunity to share their work. We’ve received really positive responses and great support from our community.
How do you wish to create a shift in the way art education is being taught?
Traditional arts education has often excluded BIPOC artists, as well as women artists. I feel that as educators, we have a responsibility to teach about artists who have historically been overlooked. It’s vital that we teach about diverse artists while also introducing our students to artists they actually can relate to. There needs to be representation in the arts for our students. My goal is for my teenage girls to see a powerful woman painter and think, “I can be like her.” Its powerful and inspiring to teach students about contemporary artists - artists who are creating art in response to issues we collectively face today.
There seem to be mixed feelings expressed by artists about the rise of submission fees required by online galleries. What are your feelings on this and how do you feel this new format is effecting the art world?
When you run a business, whether its physical or online, there are a plethora of out-of-pocket expenses, including: paying guest curators to review work, taking care of legal fees to trademark and copyright material, hiring an SEO team to increase visibility, paying a third party to manage and organize submissions, investing in monthly advertising, and hiring graphic designers or web developers - just to name a few. It is also quite common to hire business coaches and advisors, especially when starting out, to assist with building new platforms. These are just a handful of the costs associated with running an online business. For most businesses, a good portion of the submissions fees assist with covering these costs. I feel that online art platforms are going to continue to rise, because although there are still monthly expenses, it is more cost effective than running brick and mortar store.
What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
For me, it’s incredibly rewarding to showcase work by new and emerging artists. It’s deeply fulfilling to provide artists with opportunities that increase their visibility in the art world. I absolutely love viewing art - it is so inspiring to me. Every time I’m exposed to new work, it motivates me as an artist to get back into the studio and create. There’s also a magical feeling when an exhibit comes together and the work just flows organically.
What are some of the challenges that you face?
My biggest challenge has been balancing my work as an artist, educator, and now founder of Visionary Art Collective. It really comes down to time, and making sure I can manage my time well enough so that I have energy to pour into all three aspects of my life.
Are there certain qualities that you look for in artists in deciding whether they will be pleasurable to work with? And on the contrary, any areas for improvement artists should be aware of?
I always appreciate when an artist is easy to communicate with, follows the submission guidelines, and is respectful in their communication. When I have positive interactions with artists, it definitely makes me want to work them again in the future.
Do you have any specific do’s and don’ts for artists looking to submit their work to you?
The only do’s I have are: please follow the submission guidelines! It’s really important and makes the review process much easier for us. I also don’t want artists to feel discouraged if they don’t make it into an exhibit right away. We receive a lot of submissions and always encourage artists to continue applying if they don’t make it in the first time.
Do you have future plans for Visionary Art Collective beyond what it is today?
We do! We’re currently working behind the scenes on a few surprises which I can’t reveal quite yet. But what I can say is that we are continuing to build up the education branch of our website to provide art educators with more resources. We are also teaming up with handful of amazing curators this year in 2021 to present new exhibits, which we’re super excited about!