Academy Center of the Arts Unveils Artistica.Shop
By Emily Mook / Photos Courtesy of Artistica.Shop
The Academy Center of the Arts (ACOA) consistently proves that maintaining a rich and longstanding history of serving a particular community while also coming up with innovative ways to increase that community’s visibility is possible—and one of the organization’s newest endeavors, Artistica.Shop, epitomizes this dual ability. Launched in July 2023, this online gallery and art sales website spotlights the work of local artists for audiences near and far and allows the artists to focus on their work rather than on the many logistics associated with selling their work.
“The focus for Artistica is incorporating a way for our organization to support artists with their creative endeavors here by providing them an online platform that connects them with a larger audience,” says Michelline Hall, Chief Programming Officer of ACOA. “With Artistica, the artists don’t have to worry about the overhead of trying to advertise, sell, and ship their work, so they can focus on being creative.”
The Academy’s desire to expand and evolve while still honoring its grassroots-inspired origins led to Artistica’s creation.
“One of the biggest roles of an arts center that distinguishes it from a museum or gallery is that arts centers are reflective of their communities,” she notes. “We kind of walk hand-in-hand with artists from our regions and serve as beacons of support for them. The pandemic taught us how to think outside the box about how we can provide that support, and a 21st century mindset also lends itself to this sort of online presence.”
Whether an artist is just beginning to embark on their career or is already well-established, they are encouraged to submit their work for consideration for inclusion in the Artistica gallery.
“We want to feature work from and give a platform to emerging artists all the way through very established artists who are already touring in prestigious spaces,” remarks Hall. “Of course, as an artist’s portfolio grows, they may get picked up by larger entities. That’s something we love to see.”
Several ACOA staff members work together to make Artistica the pioneering project it is. The point person for the site is Online Curator and Art Sales Manager, A’Nyeja Adams. Adams and Ted Batt, ACOA’s Director of Visual Arts, work together to select the artwork that will be featured on and set for sale through the site.
“A’Nyeja and Ted work closely to review artist submissions, which are submitted online,” Hall says. “They engage in discussions with artists about their work, and they’re the ones who make the final decisions. Our focus is on artists from Central Virginia and Virginia as a whole, but artists from other areas are welcome to submit their work as well. All mediums are encouraged! We feature oil paintings, pottery, photography, and much more. The key requirement is that the work must be original and created entirely by the artist.”
Hall notes that ACOA’s Assistant Director of Programming, Mele Thompson, and Director of Marketing, Joel Williams, also play integral roles in the development and maintenance of the project. Artistica is sponsored by Moore & Giles.
“It definitely takes a community to keep Artistica running!” Hall exclaims.
Indeed, community is at the heart of all of ACOA’s programs and initiatives, including Artistica. The Academy’s official mission is “cultivating a healthier and more interconnected populace through cultural infrastructure and community-building arts programs.”
“Artistica highlights the cultural infrastructure piece of our mission statement in that it allows us to provide a foundation for artists to be artists and not businesspeople,” states Hall. “They are able to generate sales and income through their work without having to deal with the associated logistics. The gallery also creates a more interconnected populace because we understand how art has the power to bring people together and break down barriers.”
One of the most common barriers is a steep price point, and, as such, the Artistica team strives for more accessible pricing on the website.
“We want art to be accessible to people from all walks of life, and for that reason, the art featured on Artistica represents a wide range of price points,” Hall notes. “We want people to be able to think, ‘Before I go to a random box store for art, I should check Artistica to find something original and support a local artist.’”
Although Artistica has a wide reach, it simultaneously maintains and highlights local touchpoints by featuring artwork that can be found at the Academy itself or at one of its three satellite locations.
“Among the art featured on Artistica is art that is currently showcased in our physical galleries,” remarks Hall. “In addition to our on-campus gallery, we have three satellite galleries: one at Westminster Canterbury, one at the Virginian, and one at Magnolia Foods. If someone sees a piece of art they love in passing at one of these locations, they can visit Artistica.Shop to learn more about the artist, look at their other work, and make a purchase if they so desire. The reverse is also true: if someone sees one of these pieces they like on the website and wants to view it in person, they can do so. As such, the online gallery allows us to serve our First Friday and other local audiences in a greater way.”
Local performing arts enthusiasts will also notice that a wall in the lobby of the Historic Academy Theatre has been converted into an interactive Artistica.Shop gallery, complete with a touch screen panel and a featured artist display that changes each month.
ACOA hopes to continue to raise awareness of the site and expand its reach and accessibility, and Hall personally hopes to continue to challenge people’s perceptions about what art is and who it’s for.
“Art is truly for everyone,” she says. “I love helping people discover the healing aspects of art and learn that they can communicate things through the arts that are hard to communicate through conversation. And I think it’s beautiful that art can then actually lead to conversations, even about really tough topics.”
In this fast-paced and sometimes isolating world we live in, it’s nice to know that the beginning of some of those meaningful, community-building conversations could be a mere click away.