- by Kelly Skeen
- May 25th, 2016
This weekend is the highly anticipated Grand Opening of our new location and Fifth Anniversary Celebration at Pippin Contemporary. We moved into our new gallery space at 409 Canyon Road back in March after weeks of preparations (see the work in progress here), and now we’re gearing up for the season in the heart of Santa Fe’s historic art district. This permanent space is the culmination of a dream that started when Aleta Pippin opened her namesake gallery on Lincoln Avenue back in 2011. Since the original opening of Pippin Contemporary, the business has moved twice and now rests permanently at 409 Canyon Road in a space that is more than double the size of any previous location.
From selling her own work in a parking lot in downtown Santa Fe to owning a gallery space on Canyon Road that exhibits the work of 19 painters and sculptors, Aleta Pippin shares her journey as an artist and gallery owner in a city known as one of the top art markets in the country.
Q&A: Aleta Pippin
I started painting in 1992, landscapes and portraiture. It seemed that most art in SF was Native American or Western. As I progressed in my ability I moved toward abstraction. It wasn’t until 2004 that I committed to painting as a career (third) and proceeded to sell my work. I juried into the Santa Fe Society of Artists and began showing my work every weekend from the end of April through mid-October. The shows, though challenging to be out at 5:30 a.m. Saturday mornings to set up the tent, display panels, etc. were fun and a real learning experience. The first painting I sold was $4000. That couple bought two more paintings over the next few months and I still stay in touch with them. That painting signified a life-changing time for this couple and they remember it fondly as a celebration.
I met many artists, including Barbara Meikle and Guilloume, whose sculpture we show. Barbara eventually became my business partner and in 2006 we opened Pippin Meikle Fine Art. I’m thrilled to say that this is the 10th year celebration for Barbara’s gallery, Barbara Meikle Fine Art, which she continued after we decided to move forward on our own.
You’ve moved the gallery three times in the past five years. How did Pippin Contemporary evolve into what it is today?
In 2011, I asked Barbara whether she’d be interested in opening a gallery downtown. When she wanted to focus on her work and the Delgado location, I decided to go ahead and form Pippin Contemporary and sublet space on Lincoln Avenue. It was fun and we did fairly well, however the space was small and the location didn’t have near the foot traffic as what I’d experienced on Delgado, just off Canyon Road. Gallery space came available on the corner of Canyon Road and Paseo de Peralta in 2013. I decided to lease it and move back to Canyon Road. It actually ended up being a fortuitous move as there was room for outdoor sculpture and I ended up showing the work of a few amazing sculptors.
I have a habit of following my intuition in business. I believe I have an advantage that most people don’t have in that I’ve always been entrepreneurial, starting my business in 1984 in Houston during a terrible recession. I sold that business in 2008, not because I was looking to sell, but because I was given the opportunity by a large company who was buying. Since I no longer lived in Houston and wasn’t as directly involved in the business, it seemed that the timing was right.
Since I’d been focused on art and making a career in it, owning my gallery was a no-brainer. Shortly after Barbara and I opened our gallery on Delgado, we purchased the building, which Barbara bought out in 2013.
Did you ever dream you would own your own gallery on Canyon Road? How does it feel?
No, I didn’t anticipate owning a building on Canyon Road. However, as a result of some events that occurred during my lease, owning my building seemed like a practical option. It had to be the right building though as most buildings on Canyon Road don’t have large space for sculpture. Then the building at 409 Canyon Road came on the market and it seemed like the perfect fit.
I think the building is wonderful. It’s beautiful, the location is outstanding, and it’s one of the largest gallery spaces on Canyon Road.
What do you envision for the future of Pippin Contemporary?
My vision is that we grow the current business via those collectors who come to Santa Fe. My broader view is that we move beyond to focus on the corporate and public art markets. Most of the artists represented by Pippin Contemporary could easily provide artwork for corporate clients, as well as site-specific work. Developing that client base will take time and effort. I realize it won’t happen overnight. There is so much happening right now with technology and the changes it has caused in how retail business is accomplished. We embrace the opportunities that technology provides and as it becomes more refined, we will continue to adapt our business style to it.
I believe just as one step led to another with my art career, that one step will lead to another growing the gallery.