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This Is Northern New South Wales

The Channon Gallery

Located in the picturesque village of The Channon in the Byron Bay hinterland of northern NSW, The Channon Gallery is committed to the exhibition of fine Australian contemporary art to delight and provoke. I stumbled across this world class gallery on a leisurely Sunday drive shortly after it opened. It is most certainly worth the drive through our beautiful hinterland.

David Corazza and Peter Boyle’s aim is simple “to engage people with the wealth of excellent art that emanates from this region.”  The gallery is eager to embrace an honest discourse about the art, its context and the viewer. Be it joy, rage or indifference, art by definition evokes self-reflection, and this is what we hope you find here.

David said “Art should have an emotional primacy and we believe that all else is secondary … sometimes valid, but always secondary.”

“We are actively seeking a positive and productive relationship between artist, patron, and gallery. The collection is evolving and we are constantly presenting fresh work & ideas. Variety is indeed the spice of life! Our artists are that spice. We have customers globally and are eager to welcome art lovers and collectors from wherever that may live.”

“Our goal is to have a strong point of differentiation, where you, the art lover, will regard us a destination worthy of arriving. We eagerly seek your ideas and suggestions.”

What gets you up in the morning?

The Channon Gallery opened in July 2011, so we are a little over one year old. We’re still young, only 14 months old, but in that time we’ve seen amazing growth in our patronage and following. We think it’s because we always focus on giving people a positive experience, whether in person, online, or over the phone. Our customers are our lifeblood and we welcome them and respect them – always.

Authenticity and engagement are the keys. From a genuine greeting at the door, sharing a coffee or providing worthwhile content online means we give our customers a memorable experience, and a reason to return, both to the gallery and to our online portals.

What circumstances or thought processes led to you opening your own gallery?

I had considered opening a gallery for quite some time, but the actual opening was the culmination of a series of related events and considerations. The collecting bug bit me in the late 90’s, whilst working in the corporate software world.

I fell in love with what art could do to one’s state of mind. It became as important to me as food, sex, and broadband!!

As the years passed, I became increasingly despondent about the many ‘serious’ galleries who claimed to operate in the best interests of artist and collectors, but demonstrably were not. I became tired of hearing stories about shabby treatment of artists, nefarious financial gymnastics, and “taken-for-granted” customers. It puzzled me that galleries selling seriously priced pieces ($10k and up), saw no problem in displaying them under fluorescent light. I could not understand how this lack of understanding of how colour works could serve the artist’s intent, the collector’s enjoyment, or the gallery’s financial health.

It’s worth noting, that I also experienced some spectacular operators who made every visit to their gallery an experience that I wanted to repeat. I became adamant that if I were to open a gallery, I would embrace the good practice displayed by the better exemplars in the business.

I left the corporate world a few years ago and started to plan for a gallery opening. I investigated many locations up and down the eastern seaboard in search of a suitable location. Size, proximity to coast/city, surrounding demography and tourist movements were all parameters in the equation. The Far North Coast of NSW seemed to satisfy most of these requirements; and so, here we are.

At first, many folk considered the venture to be quixotic at best. ‘You’re opening a gallery in the middle of winter, in the middle of a recession, in the middle of nowhere?!!’ However, the response in our first year has been really encouraging. We have an excellent stable of artists, some of whom we represent nationally. And a clientele drawn from Australian and International markets, and solid repeat business, both in the gallery and online.

We are encouraged to build the business over the next 2 – 5 years.

Did you have any business experience or training?

My background is in sales and marketing, and my primary focus is customer service, both in dealings with our artists and our customers. I believe if you can get your customer service right, the rest is made vastly easier. Gallery owners sometime forget that without loyal customers, they do not have a business, and without happy artists, they have nothing to sell.

My art experience spans three decades. An epiphany moment whilst watching “The Shock Of The New” by Robert Hughes changed my outlook on collecting art. What I once had thought of as the province of the smug upper classes or academics was actually available to the masses. I collected avidly and visited galleries around the world. I devoured books, browsed blogs, and subscribed to art journals. I fed my lusty curiosity for art, and still do.

How do you relate to the wider community – and how does this play a part in your strategy for success?

We are keenly aware that we exist as part of the art community, and are certainly not separate to it.

Our involvement and support of artists, government initiatives in the arts and other commercial and noncommercial galleries is essential in lifting the mindshare of all concerned in this region.

We are not simply a “shop” and we are definitely not an island. We work to foster positive local associations with business and community interests.

The Channon Gallery is a commercial gallery, and thus, mainly focuses on presenting the work of fine artists to the public, but it is also about building relationships with our artists, who we admire and respect, and their audience.

This occurs within the physical spaces of the gallery, via our website, which is continually updated with news and photographs, via Common Ground and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

These channels brings us into contact with a host of people involved in all sorts of arts endeavors, local and regional businesses and people who just admire art. They provide all sorts of opportunities to both learn about and contribute to a broader sense of understanding of the arts community and all the ‘cogs in the wheel’ that drive our region and make it such a uniquely rich place.

Authenticity is key for us: we mean what you say and say what we mean!We believe that you will find enthusiasm and passion here – we wear our love of our work on our sleeve and we hope that this  attracts others who share that passion.

We love to meet people and share their engagement with artists and their work.

What have been the greatest challenges in keeping the gallery up and running?

Operating a business is folly, without a deep passion to sustain you. Galleries, like artists, are challenged to make ends meet. These are not the heady days of the early 2000s, so very few galleries see clients converting six/seven figure super funds into art any more. They are more likely to see folks buying smaller, more modest pieces now. So financial sustainability in the current market is our biggest challenge. There is no Maserati parked outside my gallery, and regrettably, I suspect it won’t manifest anytime soon!

But people will always buy art.

As far as art culture goes, we’re not Europe, and many sociological and ideological forces here are at play ensuring that we will never be. To wit: on many occasions, we have witnessed middle class Australians wander in and do the gallery in 2 or 3 minutes – sometimes faster! Almost without exception, young European backpackers (with no money or intent of purchasing), will come in and spend a good 30 minutes or more, actually LOOKING at the art, turning to one another, and discussing the work.  Sadly, there’s no money in European backpackers! If only we could cross breed these two creatures!

What tips would you give to anyone thinking of starting his or her own gallery?

It’s a small, niche business.

There are many better ways to acquire financial wealth (if that’s your thing).

Don’t even think about doing it if you consider it to be a casual affair.

Your time and energy must be dedicated TOTALLY to the success of the gallery.

It’s difficult, but if done right, will bring immense satisfaction to your artists, patrons, and yourself.

The Channon Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday: 10am to 5pm and Public holidays except Christmas Day and Easter Sunday and is located at 52 Terania St – The Channon