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Why community plays an important role for artists and gallerists |James Oliver|

Watch & Listen to this podcast Episode.

This week on the Arts to Hearts Podcast, we have James Oliver who is an artist from Philadelphia as well as the owner of the art gallery ‘James Oliver Gallery’ (JOG) in Pennsylvania. James already had a successful career as an artist when he decided to open his own art gallery almost 17 years ago, something that happened quite naturally for him.

Growing up, James had already spent much of his years organizing festivals, etc., and so managing a gallery was something right up his alley. In addition to that, having a spacious art studio meant he didn’t need to hunt for any suitable spaces, and so he trusted his instincts and took this major step in his creative journey.

For James, being an artist never came in the way of his managing his art gallery, and vice versa. Everything that he has done so far has been to sustain himself and generate enough income. For him, starting another business was just another way to support his art career. His secret to managing it all lies in the fact that he is constantly challenging himself and trying to get better at what he does. Without letting the pressure get to him, his motto is to let it all happen slowly and gradually, something that keeps his business steady.

As an artist and an art gallery owner, James’ motivation also comes from the feedback he gets from people, and that pushes him to continue doing what he does. He sees the value of community, as it’s his hard work as well as the community effort that keeps him going. Despite JOG being a commercial gallery, according to James, people do want to help and support to make sure it’s as successful as possible, and that really highlights why we as artists need to come together in support of each other.

To find out more on how James transitioned from his role of an artist to a gallerist, and how he has been managing it so far, tune into this week’s full episode!

[TRANSCRIPT]

**** – (): 00:00.00

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Okay, yeah, please.

**** – (): 00:00.17

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah, so we have the recording on now. Okay, yeah, welcome James welcome to the ask two hearts podcast I am losing you again.

**** – (): 00:07.94

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): The connections have sketchy hello. Really,. It’s rather your connection is one both. Yeah, she back? Ah hello. Are we back now.

**** – (): 00:38.33

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Hello.

**** – (): 00:40.14

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah, we’re back now. Can you hear me I can see her I can see you but I don’t know if you can hear me.

**** – (): 01:01.66

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Hello.

**** – (): 01:16.39

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): But.

**** – (): 01:18.28

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): It’s better. Yeah hello.

**** – (): 01:27.95

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): She’s doing a murder and.

**** – (): 01:37.65

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Stand and all.

**** – (): 01:47.36

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Do Hello Lee and can you hear is out again offline it says Well, it’s not here. It’s not here. Yeah I can hear now can you hear me can you hear me now.

**** – (): 02:07.18

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): But can you hear me? Yes, yes, yeah, but I think that is an intimate issue from some and yes I can hear you.

**** – (): 02:17.97

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Okay, um, no great.

**** – (): 02:26.66

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): I I Still can’t hear you. There’s a lot of like.

**** – (): 02:26.95

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): About here. Let’s try. Let’s try with a mic with this.

**** – (): 02:40.83

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): We’re on try some headphones here.

**** – (): 02:47.26

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah.

**** – (): 02:49.18

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): That better allow.

**** – (): 02:57.30

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Okay, can you hear me? Okay, now.

**** – (): 02:58.63

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): yeah yeah I hope we do not disconnect. Oh there’s no breakage. Let’s try. Yeah, yeah for now yes, um, hi hi James welcome to the podcast.

**** – (): 03:08.58

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Oh thank you for having me did that my pleasure.

**** – (): 03:16.63

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Absolutely su James can you tell this can you tell us a little bit about yourself who we are what you do where you joining us from point. Everyone who’s joining and listening to this episode.

**** – (): 03:24.95

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yes, I’m an artist from Philadelphia and I have an art gallery as well. So I’m a working artist that has an art gallery called James Oliver gallery or J O G here in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and.

**** – (): 03:43.30

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah, yes, yeah.

**** – (): 03:43.75

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): And been doing it for a while.

**** – (): 03:48.63

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yes, yes, ah, yeah, now we have a bigger space. We move from the fourth floor in my building to the second floor and has a much bigger space and it it has a chance. You know we have a chance now to spread our wings a little bit more so to speak and.

**** – (): 03:51.22

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Ah, yeah, you’ve been doing this for over seventeen years right

**** – (): 04:03.66

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Okay.

**** – (): 04:07.88

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Show more work at the space you know? And yeah, we it.

**** – (): 04:12.56

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Amazing. Oh wonderful James tell me something um you hello can you hear me? yeah.

**** – (): 04:21.18

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah, ah I can hear you a bit but hopefully we’re worth.

**** – (): 04:28.93

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Tell me something you um you started your gallery being an artist. You’re not only an artist. You’re also a musician an artist, a gallery owner a lot of these creative rules and you started your gallery seventeen years ago um along sight being a painter and before that you also had a career and you still continue I think around your old passion of music as well. Um, how has these roles over the years developed for you like can you take us through your journey of how it started.

**** – (): 05:00.58

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah, well you know when I was a little boy I was I was ah I did some painting and you know I want a couple little contests but you know that’s that was um, a back story but you know I really enjoyed as a.

**** – (): 05:03.89

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): All of it started for you.

**** – (): 05:17.24

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Child and growing up to being an an adult and all I enjoy music and acting and such and you know through the years I did music for a while I studied music in college a voice performance and I ended up being a songwriter in Austin Texas. And that’s how I developed my skills as a songwriter and then over the years I was doing that and then I was also painting on the side and I had some ah success over the years with my music but I started painting a lot and then the pain the pain took over. So then I started painting and I had some early success as a painter and then I started my art gallery and about seventeen years ago and some of my art was in a big movie and it had some early collectors and so that really encouraged me to to. To move further with it and open a gallery start featuring artists primarily local artists at the beginning and then we started showing more regional and national artists and then we brought it in scopes and also include some international artists. At the gallery.

**** – (): 06:42.81

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Wonderful, Wonderful! Um, can you talk a little bit about your experience of you know, evolving from a role of being an artist to evolving a role from someone also being on the other side of the arts. You know, being an art valtry owner running the how has.

**** – (): 06:52.70

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah.

**** – (): 07:00.30

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): And that and that notion in in even today’s time it’s not as common as much as we need more artist. Um, you know, taking ownership and taking creating more opportunities and galleries. But there is something always I feel different about artists who own. Galleries or other creative businesses. How do you think your experience of why did you start an art galleryie. First let’s also speak about that and then we’ll also speak about how it’s differented.

**** – (): 07:20.80

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Well I say um well I started my gallery because for one I had a very big artist studio and the studio was so big that my were saying well you should open a art gallery because you don’t need you know.

**** – (): 07:35.47

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Okay.

**** – (): 07:37.72

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You probably don’t need all this space and I was like you know, yeah it was a huge space you know for for my studio. So and its the beautiful space with beautiful windows and that kind of thing and it’s a good location so I decided early on when I got the space to that open an art gallery but it my.

**** – (): 07:41.99

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): You need all this space. Yeah.

**** – (): 07:57.70

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Experiences through my life. Also I I started a festival when I was younger and I was involved organizing in the ah you know a big festival organizing things working with a lot of people and volunteers and such so. For me to open a gallery was a very very much something that didn’t and didn’t intrude in my confidence in having. Ah, something open to the public. So I decided to have ah you know this art gallery James over gowy.

**** – (): 08:41.42

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Okay, and um, how has your learning curve been ever since you’ve started a gallery. Um, how how has your own relationship been an artist. How have you compartmentalized or just manage that.

**** – (): 08:54.20

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Well, you know I I started off with you know, mainly working with having interns because I didn’t really have you know as many resources at the beginning and also had a you know paid ah assistant and such but things have evolved and you know. As time had gone on I was able to include better and better quality artists you know, over time. So that’s part of the reason why able to have like ah have my gallery have more of a presence in the art world. Not just here in Philadelphia but like.

**** – (): 09:21.41

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah.

**** – (): 09:28.80

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): And the region you know, including like New York city dc so people do recognize my my art gallery throughout the world because of how I reach out to people and want to include ah works that fit in well with certain exhibits that I want to have you know. So that’s how that evolved and and people people spread the word and say hey it’s a great gallery It’s a fun gallery. Beautiful space I want to show there. You know so and that’s how you know so that that manifests that manifests this manifest itself.

**** – (): 09:52.67

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah.

**** – (): 10:03.77

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, my is.

**** – (): 10:04.74

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You know, 2 threefold you know that’s why I like.

**** – (): 10:13.21

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Did you ever ever have any fears of your own while you were starting another business that it would take away. Um the focals and you know the time energyity from your own. Creative practice being an artist being a painter.

**** – (): 10:27.65

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah I have another business too that helps bring in you know some income to help me sustain myself personally and but also help stay in the gallery in slower times and I used to work in the um, the.

**** – (): 10:40.20

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah.

**** – (): 10:45.24

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Food and beverage industry before that and so everything I’ve done is help support what I do for myself as an artist and and in in conclusion also for my space you know for my art gallery and so you know with my businesses. They.

**** – (): 11:03.22

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah.

**** – (): 11:04.52

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You know they help they help support each other and ah, that’s how we can move forward and stay in business. You know.

**** – (): 11:17.14

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Right? right? And can you talk a little bit about your own um creative patterns you as an artist How how does you being an artist inform you as also being an art galiona. Both.

**** – (): 11:22.28

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Um, yeah.

**** – (): 11:27.29

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Well I tell you um I’ve had yeah you know as an artist as a painter I had an early success like I said mentioned to you and then what I do is I always try to challenge myself to get better and better as a painter.

**** – (): 11:33.36

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): First let’s talk about you as an artist.

**** – (): 11:44.28

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): And I’ve always usually worked in like a larger scale and and sometimes you know with some galleries that when I show my work then want some smaller pieces too to help you know make it to where there’s different price Points. So I have some smaller pieces that I make sometimes too but I usually work on a larger scale and I feel that my work has gotten better and better and they’ve got more attention from different galleries of ah of my own work and I get a lot of feedback from people that you know. How much they like some certain pieces and so on and you know so that you know ah also with some of the work that I show you know might might inform my own work you know and and try to push me further and further to get better. You know as an artist. So.

**** – (): 12:39.89

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, can you talk about a little bit about your own subject. How and what do you paint about what inspires you um, no inspiration.

**** – (): 12:41.56

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah, you yeah, my inspiration is I like Ah, for instance I like a lot I Love Americana type of subject matter like so I’m known for doing ah muscle cars.

**** – (): 12:57.60

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Again.

**** – (): 12:59.45

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You know from the sixty s and 70 s american cars that are like ah like really fast and such and the design I like a lot and also you know before that I used to do more abstract work that was more minimalist in nature. And the work that I do now that I just described doing the muscle cars and the ah vintage motorcycles are also been um, minimalist and in in style and and perspective. But I you know as time has evolved I’ve included more color in my work. You know, besides just doing. You know my line work I’m ah you know I’m also known when you see my work you can recognize that it’s mine by my line work and my. Not just in my drawings but you know the initial drawing but the the way I paint my drawing people my paintings they people know my work.

**** – (): 14:05.93

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, no, um, how does the um, the sense of your own work and the work that you’re showing how did you even navigate being an art gallerygion. It is 1 thing when we make ah you know our own work looking at own own inspiration and suddenly. Ah, then there’s this whole white canvas when you are showing other people’s work and also it’s like developing a sty and voice even as an art gallery owner. How did what does jamess oliver gallery stand about and how did you navigate that.

**** – (): 14:39.29

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Well, it’s just ah, you know what I do is like I see a work that I really love and it feels like it um fits my gallery I get inspired by that and it you know and and I get excited about it. My staff kicks excited about it. So then we. Decide to select artists that will show here but like but like for certain shows sometimes we have solo shows sometimes we have 2 person shows maybe a 5 person show 4 person show. Whatever sometimes we have big group shows. Ah, pertain more to um, not necessarily a subject matter but like a movement or you know a certain ah and like I featured ah to be honest with you. Ah, and you might already know this as well. But I’m one of the first gallery in the in the in the northeast.

**** – (): 15:33.59

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): No.

**** – (): 15:34.24

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Showed a lot of women artists. You know I’m known for that you may have heard about that so I show pretty much I’d say probably 60% female artist and a women artist and about 40% male I don’t know what the percentage is to be honest with you. But.

**** – (): 15:40.23

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yes I I did. Yeah yeah.

**** – (): 15:53.30

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): I show a lot of female artists you know and and I ba off the work really I I you know just so have with most the workup that we like here in my gallery James Oliver Gow a female artist so that’s way it’s and we’ve had like.

**** – (): 16:01.51

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah, no.

**** – (): 16:11.21

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): To celebrate that early on. We had some deliberately had like group shows of like seventeen eighteen female artists showing together and that’s it and 1 was one was called fam one was called what was that international gods was that called.

**** – (): 16:12.72

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah, that.

**** – (): 16:26.10

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, wow.

**** – (): 16:30.51

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Can remember the exact name of the show at the moment but you know help me out here lee anyway, we’ve had I’ve had group shows where I’ve had even had 2 galleries showing just female artists. You know. Yeah, or rush what won’t call snow rush. Yeah.

**** – (): 16:52.24

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Amazing! Amazing! Um, what do you think was what or doing all of these roles in summarize. Okay, um. Being having these multiple roles being a musician being a painter then being a gallery owner now being all of them. What do you think was the hardest part of all these years for you. The most difficult thing.

**** – (): 17:14.29

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): The most difficult thing is um oh probably the pandemic. But anyway that was hard. You know we a lot of gows were closing. You know? Yeah, yeah, then we we we we hung in there. Oh you know.

**** – (): 17:28.11

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): And wassel business lives.

**** – (): 17:32.17

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): And we opened as early as we could during the pandemic and we could allow only a certain amount of people ah per per show what I mean per opening at 1 time. It was like 25 people but I have a big gallery. You know there’s ah, there’s a big space. So. Yeah, having 25 people even during the pandemic wasn’t ah wasn’t ah an issue but so that was one of the big ones. It’s just that allowing yourself the time to dedicate to all, you know my main pursuits are visual art. And my and and my gallery music. Not so much anymore but used to be but not so it so really visual art. You know that keeps that keeps me when it keeps me focused.

**** – (): 18:17.25

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Okay, yes, yeah, yeah, but what was your biggest struggle. We haven’t spoken about that apart from the pandemic.

**** – (): 18:30.36

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Well um, biggest struggle is too is like ah really trying to get people to commit to um to an art gallery as far as purchasing work and getting a collector’s base. You know that’s harder for you know for. People at’s some time the galleries it can be hard. You know we don’t have the support as much in like as some some countries and Europe and such where they support the art so much I don’t get ah any government support. You know I got a little. I got a little bit during the pandemic from my gallery but but other than that it’s just you know it’s hard. We don’t get that support from the government or or public entities. So it’s all up onto us and Mike and the community and ah and my staff to to really.

**** – (): 19:09.41

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah, um.

**** – (): 19:24.73

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You know, keep it going So you know at times it gets a little bit lean, but you know we we hang in there and we have certain shows that do really well sales wise so that helps us helps us continue.

**** – (): 19:43.41

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah, and what about how is it? How was it for you as as an artist during the pandemic if I may ask.

**** – (): 19:47.49

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Well that helped by working a way because that gave me some in the early time of the pandemic. We nobody can work nobody can work so you know in the freedom to to really spend some time and not only think of what I wanted to do but actually do the work.

**** – (): 20:01.48

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Here.

**** – (): 20:06.61

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You know? So I I painted a lot during the early part of the pandemic I painted like 4 or 5 paintings in a row and so that you to do that you know and we know here my gallery we get a lot of ah.

**** – (): 20:11.61

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah.

**** – (): 20:22.31

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, row. Nice yeah.

**** – (): 20:24.52

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Community support and people love the gallery and I get a lot of feedback from people to continue doing what we do and you know it’s just people people I know I reach out to the community I help support the art community here and and in Philadelphia and in this area. They turn back and they know they they help support me too. You know so it’s a community effort. You know, even though it’s an of it’s a it’s a commercial gallery I have a commercial yeah but people do help support and want to make sure that.

**** – (): 20:46.71

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Hello. yeah yeah I read for Thomas this yeah.

**** – (): 21:02.29

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You know that we we’re we’re as successful as possible.

**** – (): 21:11.91

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, and what about you? How does how does a day for you look like now how do compartment lay your time as a painter and then being a business owner now. Um you studio is still where the galgae is.

**** – (): 21:22.22

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah, the gallery is the most important thing for me because you know it’s a um, a minute commitment to do and it’s is like I said it’s commitment to the gallery to the city and my staff.

**** – (): 21:29.32

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Okay.

**** – (): 21:35.60

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): At the same time you know I do find pockets a time to paint so I do paint regularly and then I like I said um, another business too that keeps me busy so you know it’s It’s a you know and you have to allow yourself some downtime too. So it’s ah it’s ah it’s a juggling act.

**** – (): 21:45.60

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, is.

**** – (): 21:54.11

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): It’s a juggling act. But but it’s a good juggling act.

**** – (): 21:54.71

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): And you right that? Yeah, no absolutely I think it it keeps you on your toes but also at the end of the day you get to be a creative in different aspects.

**** – (): 22:08.61

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah I think so yeah, you can probably tell from my tone. Ah.

**** – (): 22:11.81

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): And it still elevates you I think yeah.

**** – (): 22:18.30

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, and what about okay tell me something tell me, um how how have what were the things that you and a lot of times like you know I remember so I open my gallery for the first time pretty much.

**** – (): 22:28.40

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Um, one.

**** – (): 22:34.88

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Similarly as you I was born and brought up in a small town here in India and I’m an artist and I had a big studio and I thought why not use this space because I had it. Um and I also wanted I had lost my mother and I really wanted to do something like you know she? um so like just.

**** – (): 22:39.60

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Um, we have.

**** – (): 22:53.15

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Um, we.

**** – (): 22:54.34

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Just to memorize that day and you know all of that. Um, now I’m moving back to the main city since I’ve also spending more time and good moving the location and everything and I’ve taken a halt but I did realize that it it was such an overwhelming experience in the first place itself. And I have I’ve been running a business for I’ve been running several different business for all these 10 years so it’s not that I’m not familiar with the business side of the world or everything but it just you know sometimes you um, you understand? Okay, what you were thinking versus what it turns out to be um. Did you? what was your early days of experience of running this gallery and then navigating your own career as an artist both what what did you expect and you know what you thought and what it felt like or turned out to be.

**** – (): 23:32.99

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah.

**** – (): 23:39.14

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Oh I tell you you know I went into it thinking that I would try it out for like two or three years and see how it goes and then you know and then I continue doing I’m like oh Masa continue doing it then.

**** – (): 23:51.24

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): And yeah.

**** – (): 23:54.54

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You know and then you know you find more artists and you get excited and it just keeps your you know your head in the game and and and you can you know my my have a I have a really good Landlord So The Landlord keep my rent in a stable rent. So that helps a lot too from the business side of it. But you know it’s just like I said it’s like you try to you know, get better as an artist you communicate with people you hear their stories. You know there’s there’s all kinds of things you know mode can motivate you you know I try to also stay on top of the news a bit I like sports too so that helps alleviate some tension or pressure. So I try to find different things that help. Not just motivate me but to calm me down and not get anxiety. You know? Yeah I know it’s hard to be a guy. Yeah.

**** – (): 24:52.70

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah, and you know what you know bitter something extremely. Yeah I think it’s business. You have to like um it does bring a lot of stress and you have to find out ways to make sure you’re monitoring your stress as well.

**** – (): 25:05.18

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): My.

**** – (): 25:11.87

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): But be something. You also spoke about sales sales as a struggle um in any kind of business. A lot of limiting mindsets and a lot of artists do struggle with just selling their own work I think that is we all know that is one of the star question. Um the black sheep and you know all of those things. Um, but when you sign up as an artist I think just as just trying to separate these 2 things in the sense of you know if there’s a regular person who’s a you know who are who who may personally not have had an experience in the creative field as such opening a Galleryley could be a very different date I was speaking to someone the other day. And you know we all have different opinions and the opinion came from that you know as artists shouldn’t be that presenting themselves and you know there are all different kinds of opinions that you know you can focus on your work and you can let someone else do the part of selling. But once you’re. Also responsible for your own sales and you know doing all of that and then opening up a gallery and taking the link the you know the burden of on your shoulder of bringing skills for other artists that’s like adding another layer to your life. How was that and how did you figure out this because if you like it’s.

**** – (): 26:13.30

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Um, that’s what I.

**** – (): 26:25.13

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah, you know like I say you’re juggling things you’re like you know sign my own artwork and be a bit of a struggle So I do have an art dealer that represents me and he helps sell my work. There’s and also another gallery here.

**** – (): 26:26.44

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): It’s the hard part. Not only for you as an artist but as a business itself.

**** – (): 26:43.64

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): And Philadelphia that helps sell my work they’re called paradigm gallery and they’re a great gallery and really we have a very good working work together. You know we we do collaborations together and and one of the owners actually is my photographer for who should he.

**** – (): 26:52.10

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yes, yes, sad I’m yes I love them.

**** – (): 27:02.69

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Jason Chen shoots my work. You know you know I pay him to to shoot my artwork so I can get it out there. You know, commercially and you know and and the that’s presentation representation of my work and so you know i.

**** – (): 27:09.80

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah, did yeah they love friends.

**** – (): 27:15.94

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): This yeah.

**** – (): 27:21.88

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): There’s that you know I mean it’s it’s it’s hard to sell your own work with especially being a gallery owner to a certain extent because I’m always promoting everybody else’s work you know and that’s I know that’s my role. That’s my role So and my staff’s role. You know my staff and myself.

**** – (): 27:38.44

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, right? yes.

**** – (): 27:40.45

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): And they encourage me to they like my artwork. My staff flex my artwork so that helps too. You know so it’s you know, but my my my main objective is this ah other people’s work. Um I don’t mind talking about my own work you know and I do have more work. Ah.

**** – (): 27:49.79

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um.

**** – (): 28:00.40

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Featured in my gallery I have I have a new space now. So it has 2 exhibition spaces not just the gallery. But I also have an art boutique so in the art boutique I show 2 or 3 pieces at the same time you know so I have a very big space. So very.

**** – (): 28:00.42

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah.

**** – (): 28:13.81

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, just oh Wow How is the art which he gets from the gallery. Ah, how is.

**** – (): 28:19.77

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yeah, ah, excuse me here.

**** – (): 28:25.93

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): I didn’t understand I didn’t hear that last part I’m sorry.

**** – (): 28:28.50

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): How is that which from the gallery. And I think I said I’m saying how is the art bootie different from the art calies.

**** – (): 28:36.66

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Oh you know it’s just ah I get to paint them I paint in my gallery too. So that helps me it I don’t need much space to paint. So um, you know I I take out the the colors that I want and I have ah. You know I work an acrylic on canvas and you know you know I Just really enjoy Ah and also when I paint in my gallery it. Um it sparks a conversation with people when they come in the gallery they go going on. You know. So it. He keeps the for them. They see an artist’s painting in an art Gallery. You know you don’t see that too often either Actually no no I just paint myself. Ah.

**** – (): 29:14.11

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yes, yeah yeah.

**** – (): 29:25.35

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, do you often bring other artists. No, but do you bring other artists do other people join you.

**** – (): 29:30.48

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): You know that’s good. Yeah yeah, and I have a I have a space too where I have a well people can gather I have a big kitchen and and it has ah has a lot of artwork in the kitchen.

**** – (): 29:33.19

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Your range but that could be a party too. Yeah.

**** – (): 29:47.64

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah.

**** – (): 29:49.70

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): And like knickknacks so they call like different little stuff shelves and great interesting looking I don’t know if you can see behind me but I have some interesting behind me. That’s just part. There’s a lot. There’s a lot more than that.

**** – (): 29:53.40

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): The of the.

**** – (): 29:58.99

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): So Thanks to each. Okay, yes I can I.

**** – (): 30:08.36

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): But you know it keeps people like you can entertain a little bit too. You you can enter? Yeah, this is partly to having a gallery too is a lifestyle entertain a little bit have conversation with other artists get inspire each other you know.

**** – (): 30:19.51

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, okay, and.

**** – (): 30:24.70

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah.

**** – (): 30:26.52

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Always a good thing is to inspire by conversation. It might spark an idea you know to do something here. Do something there. You know.

**** – (): 30:27.23

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah, right? yeah.

**** – (): 30:41.10

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, now how do you look for new artists for your work. Let’s say what does that look like for you. What are the things in mind for you when you’re looking for an artist.

**** – (): 30:46.24

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Well, you know I find your well I tell you what first of all, the artwork has to be what I well contemporary for one two the work has to be ah the way I look at it has to be timeless, you know where can. Stand the test of time because you know people will be purchasing the work and you know and it’s some of it’s expensive. Some of it’s not so expensive but you know for anybody you know they want a like to like it and they want to like it for a long time. So timeless I look for quality. Ah, the work. You know that’s something we we we show works of all media anywhere from you know, a lot of paintings but we do photography sculpture and mixed media installation work.

**** – (): 31:39.72

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): So we we’ve we we we fill a gamut of things you know and that it keeps it interesting and exciting. You know.

**** – (): 31:48.40

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah, right right? No that is very interesting. What is on the list of from your goals for 2024 now

**** – (): 32:00.63

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Well we have well 1 more sales of course to um, yeah, more sales is always good. Um to.

**** – (): 32:04.78

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Both for you personally and professionally and.

**** – (): 32:15.10

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, yeah, going to be was yes.

**** – (): 32:18.27

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Promoting and and ah more and more the artists that we show and supporting them as any as any way that we can increasing our social media presence. Also that’s always a ah thing with art Gallies. You always want to do that. You want to and ah expand your your audience. You know you want to get the word out there about what you’re about and and be very clear about that and you want to make sure that people continue supporting you. You know that’s that’s very important. So with that. You want to make sure that you have really good exhibits and that’s very Consistent. You know, consistently good and you know you don’t want to like with a gallery too. You don’t want to put too much pressure in yourself and like.

**** – (): 33:04.86

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Yeah, yeah.

**** – (): 33:10.25

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Push it push it too hard. You know you know you don’t you know ah has to come with that gallery has to come like more natural and and and very small increments. You know you don’t want to go like this like high you know you want to make it.

**** – (): 33:16.59

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): So without.

**** – (): 33:27.38

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Night.

**** – (): 33:28.90

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Slowly grow slowly grow slowly grow more and more more and more like that you know that’s a good row that’s ah, that’s the road. Recommend Yeah meaning know people want to hear it sometimes they don’t want to hear it but you know that’s I so have ah.

**** – (): 33:36.46

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Anti takeque that growth. Yeah yeah, slow and steady win The race.

**** – (): 33:47.57

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): ve helped me in the past with things and you know and I felt like that was a natural way and the way it’s going now is seems to be very natural too. So we try to keep we I try to stay with that. Keep us steady keep it steady. Ah.

**** – (): 34:02.61

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Amazing. Thank you? No no, no you you doing connection and I Absolutely love the space because I’ve not seen in it in person of course. But I’ve seen it through the shows and.

**** – (): 34:06.17

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Okay.

**** – (): 34:17.58

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Yet and.

**** – (): 34:20.20

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): The native and I love the old vintage windows the lot style and like how a and beautiful it looks I think it’s in. It’s truly an inspiring space.

**** – (): 34:24.50

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Thank you, Thank you very much. Yeah, appreciate that and well good talking to you and these any more questions you have for me or okay I would like to say that there was he who.

**** – (): 34:37.34

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Um, same here anything more that you want to share. We’re always happy to hear. But um.

**** – (): 34:43.53

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Was a really pleasure talking to you tonight and thank you for reaching out to me and hoping would just spread the very good word about ah good artwork and good galleries in a and a good city and and.

**** – (): 34:50.27

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): I vi here. Absolutely yes, yes, yes, yes, oh sure for sure I think there is we have a lot of listeners other Philly.

**** – (): 35:01.90

**** – (): James Oliver

**** – (): Supporting good women artists because women artists are just tend to be depressed. Okay, yeah, all right I pleasure have a good night.

**** – (): 35:10.70

**** – (): charukaarora

**** – (): Hey. Ah, absolutely thank you so much. Oliver, thank you Thank you same you one second 1 se one trick.


About the Guest(s):

James Oliver is an artist, musician, and the owner of James Oliver Gallery (JOG) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With over 17 years of experience, James has established himself as a prominent figure in the art world. He started his career as a songwriter in Austin, Texas, before transitioning to painting. James is known for his contemporary artwork, particularly his paintings of muscle cars and vintage motorcycles. He has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, and his gallery showcases a diverse range of artists, with a focus on supporting women artists.

Episode Summary:

In this episode of the Ask Two Hearts podcast, host Charuka Arora interviews James Oliver, an artist and the owner of James Oliver Gallery. James shares his journey as an artist and gallery owner, discussing how he balances his roles and navigates the art world. He talks about the challenges he has faced, including the impact of the pandemic on the art industry. James also highlights the importance of community support and the role of his gallery in promoting and supporting artists. Throughout the conversation, he emphasizes the need for artists to continuously challenge themselves and strive for improvement.

Key Takeaways:

  • James Oliver Gallery (JOG) is a prominent art gallery in Philadelphia, known for showcasing contemporary artwork, particularly by women artists.
  • James Oliver is an artist and musician who started his career as a songwriter before transitioning to painting.
  • Balancing the roles of an artist and gallery owner can be challenging, but James finds inspiration in promoting other artists and engaging with the art community.
  • The pandemic has posed significant challenges for the art industry, but James and his gallery have adapted by implementing safety measures and finding innovative ways to showcase artwork.
  • Building a collector base and selling artwork can be a struggle for artists and galleries, but community support and a consistent exhibition schedule can help sustain the business.

Notable Quotes:

  • “I started my gallery because I had a very big artist studio… and it was a huge space… so I decided early on when I got the space to open an art gallery.” – James Oliver
  • “I show primarily female artists… I’m one of the first galleries in the northeast to show a lot of women artists.” – James Oliver
  • “I find inspiration in the work that I show… it sparks a conversation with people when they come into the gallery.” – James Oliver
  • “You want to make sure that you have really good exhibits… and that it’s consistently good.” – James Oliver
  • “You don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself… you want to make it a natural growth.” – James Oliver

Charuka Arora is the founder of the Arts to Hearts Project and Host of the Arts to Hearts Podcast. She is also an acclaimed Indian artist known for her contemporary embellished paintings. Her unique blend of gouache, collage, embroidery, painting, and drawing explores the intersection of art, culture, heritage, and womanhood. Through her work, she tells stories of female strength and encapsulates them in pieces that can be treasured for generations.

 Arts to Hearts Project Gallery + Studio

Charuka’s work draws inspiration from Hindu mythology, recognizing women as vessels of Shakti, the cosmic energy. She beautifully portrays powerful goddesses like Durga Maa riding a tiger or lion, symbolizing their unlimited power to protect virtue and combat evil.

Through her art, Charuka invites us into the world of women, showcasing their beauty, strength, and resilience. Her creations not only exhibit exceptional talent but also serve as an inspiration and a symbol of hope for those challenging societal norms.

About Arts to Hearts Project Gallery + Studio

Arts to Hearts Podcast is a show delving into the lives and passions of renowned artists. From running creative businesses and studio art practices to cultivating a successful mindset, Charuka Arora engages in heartfelt conversations with her guests. Experience your personal happy hour with your favorite artists, right in your studio.

Through candid discussions, Charuka and her guests reveal the joys and challenges of a vibrant creative life, both within and beyond our studios. Get ready to be inspired and uplifted as you tune in.

James Oliver

James Oliver
Image taken from Create! magazine

James Oliver is an art gallery owner and a painter whose precise visual language pushes the tradition of twentieth century abstraction into a contemporary context. Oliver is a conceptually driven formalist whose work is inspired by his dreams and emotional states, which he abstracts into an undetermined and subjective viewing experience by emphasizing line, color, and form. Even as Oliver turns to a figurative practice in recent series, rendering cultural icons like chopper bikes, Pontiac Firebirds, and his childhood poodle in detailed line drawings, these representations similarly evoke broadly accessible affects abstracted from his mental landscape.

As a boy, James had multiple interests. Apart from painting, he also enjoyed music and acting growing up. He ended up studying music in college and became a songwriter in Texas. However, over the years his passion for painting took over and he had an early success. Once he opened his gallery, he started by featuring local artists. Then slowly and gradually, he moved to regional and national artists, and eventually, he was able to get international artists for his exhibitions. 

James picked up on things as he went along, and without any prior experience in the gallery business, he was able to take this leap because of confidence in himself. For him, his learning curve involved navigating through the art world without having many resources. In the beginning, he worked with interns as his business was not established yet, and over the years, he expanded his team. With time, he was able to get better artists and that’s how he managed to have his gallery have more presence in the art world.

As artists and entrepreneurs, we often hear about people having second doubts or the fear of the unknown. As he was opening his gallery, James didn’t really have any fears that his new business would compromise his creative practice. In fact, for him, starting a new endeavor meant having something support him in what he does best; painting.

Image taken from JOG’s Instagram

What inspires James and his art?

For James, his biggest source of motivation comes from the attention and praise his work gets. As his art career soured, and he gained attention and feedback from multiple galleries, it all worked towards informing his work in a positive way. Moreover, his subject matter can be described as Americana as he likes to draw muscle cars from the 70s. However, all his art is minimalist in nature and perspective, and with time he has introduced more color in his paintings, something that makes his work stand out instantly. 

Artworks by James Oliver – Images taken from his official website

Wearing multiple hats and managing his time

For James, his gallery is the most important thing. He does manage to find pockets of time to paint, but he makes sure that he has some downtime as well.

It’s a juggling act.

James Oliver – Arts to Hearts Podcast s04e07

When James opened his gallery, he thought that it was something he would try for 2 or 3 years, but he continued to find artists and art that excited him, and it helped keep his head in the game. Being a gallery owner means that you get to listen to different people’s stories and look at the world from their perspective, and that is something that keeps James’ inspiration alive. Apart from spending time on his ventures, he makes sure to watch news and sports to alleviate the tension and spends time doing stuff that not only motivates him but also keeps the anxiety at bay. 

James realizes that he cannot do it all alone, and so he has other people who help him out. For artists, it’s hard enough to sell their own work, and James is not only responsible for his own art, but he also has to promote other people’s work. And so he has an art dealer as well as a gallery that helps him sell his work. Other artists can also take a leaf out of James’ book, and if they can, they should definitely take help from the people around them, as that will only help them grow their business/career. 

The biggest struggle for James is to try to get people to commit. For him, getting a collector’s base is a hard task, especially when his gallery does not have any government support. In the end, it all comes down to James and his team to keep it going. At times, sales do get low and it can be a bit lean, but James tries his best to hang in there and have art shows that help his gallery continue. 

James has solo shows as well as group shows, and JOG is also one of the first galleries in the northeast where most of the art exhibits are by female artists. For James, the criteria for choosing art is simple. Firstly, the artwork needs to be contemporary. The second criterion is that it should be timeless, as people will be purchasing work that is expensive, and that means that they would want to like their art for a very long time. Thirdly, JOG not only shows paintings, but also shows photography, sculptures, and mixed media installation work, something that keeps the exhibitions exciting. In the end, James likes to feel inspired by the artwork, and that’s how he and his team decide on which pieces to add to their gallery.

Image taken from JOG’s official website

For the year 2024, James is looking to increase his sales, promote more artists, and increase his gallery’s social media presence. For him, expanding his audience and getting the word out there is definitely a priority. It is only through these measures, that a gallery can garner support and have consistent exhibits, and that’s how James plans on growing his business in a slow and gradual manner! You can check out James’ gallery on his website and Instagram.

To read up more about Arts to Hearts Podcast and its episodes, click here.


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