David Merrill adds his art to Main Street
Walk past the Main Street Mall later in the week, and you might see an older gentleman sitting in a window, painting. A few weeks ago, local artist David Merrill opened up a new Main Street art establishment, David Merrill Studio & Gallery, and in one corner of the gallery space, he made an area where he can paint, every week, Wednesday through Sunday. That way, he said he can run the gallery and create his art at the same time. "Why not combine the two?" he said. "Multi-tasking."
Located in the space that formerly housed Cowboy Culture, Merrill’s gallery is home to his work and that of several other local artists, including Willie Holdman, of Lindon, and Parkites Peg Bodell, Janet Johnson and Dori Pratt. According to Merrill, while he owns the gallery, the business will work a bit like a co-op, with each of the participating artists putting in shifts on the gallery floor in return for a larger return on their works. By using the artists as staff members and working a significant portion of the time himself, he said he’s reducing his overhead dramatically, while at the same time, putting the people who can best explain the works the artists who make them in charge of the sales. At the same time, with dozens of local connections, the group should be able to create a bit of its own momentum. "I just decided I could take a little bit about what was valuable from the co-ops," said Merrill.
He has some experience with the cooperative concept, first working in Park City Art during its run from July 2003 to April 2004 and then taking part in the newer Local Art Co-op this past summer. In his first cooperative venture, with Park City Art, the gallery sold 43 of his paintings, 41 of which he sold personally, and in addition to his experience there, he brings extensive experience to his new business. Born and raised in Utah with a degree from the Art Center School in Los Angeles, he moved to New York City and from 1971 to 1977 worked as art director for TIME magazine. Then from 1978 to 2001, he owned and ran his own design firm, David Merrill Design. He said he moved to Park City four years ago to pursue his painting. And while he had always been a weekend painter, with his move he decided to intensify his career. When he got to town, he started researching the local gallery business. Now, after refining his painting and learning the ropes, as he opens his own gallery, he said his painting and his new business aren’t simply a pastime. "This is a new career," said Merrill. Right now the gallery is a simple space, with walls full of paintings and photographs and Merrill’s easel in the corner. On Monday afternoon, as Johnson worked on the gallery floor, Van Morrison played on a boom-box sitting along one wall and people were coming into the store from both the mall and Main Street. Standing in the center of the room, one is surrounded by art. Merrill’s and Holdman’s works form the backbone of the new gallery’s offerings filling the walls of the space, with Merrill’s oil paintings on one side and Holdman’s landscape photography on the other. Between the two are Bodell’s modified-batik works, Johnson’s watercolors and Pratt’s jewelry. Merrill said he chose the artists from among the people he knew who were available.
"I wanted good people in there who would sell," he said. But at the same time, he said he was careful not to take too much away from his most recent co-op.
"I’m being very careful not to pluck away at Local Art," he said. He simply said he would have a different emphasis from that group, with the Merrill Gallery & Studio focusing more on paintings, photography and other similar works, while Local Art sells more jewelry, ceramics and sculptures. He did, however, say he wanted to keep his focus mostly on Park City artists. "I’m going to try and keep it local," he said. "I think there’s an advantage to that." Merrill said he took his inspiration for the business, in part, from Jim Wilcox, who opened up his own gallery in Jackson, Wyo. "I was up there in May and I took a workshop with him," said Merrill. There, he heard Wilcox’s story and saw how he had succeeded running his own gallery and selling his own works. Merrill thinks he can do the same thing. "I’m doing it," he said, "because I know I can sell my painting better than anyone else can sell it."
While, at the same time, he noted, he can retain control of his livelihood. So with a co-op-style business plan and some proven artists in hand, he’s returning to the world of entrepreneurship. And he’s hoping for at least one problem not being able to paint enough. "If that becomes a problem," said Merrill, "I’ll be happy."
David Merrill Studio & Gallery is located at the north end of the Main Street Mall and is accessible either from there or from Main Street. For more information, visit http://www.davidmerrill.info or call 647-3737.
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