Studio Visit Book Vol. 1

How to find success as a creative entrepreneur in 2024 | Ki Smith gallery|

Watch & Listen to this podcast Episode.

Welcome to the first episode of season 4 of Arts to Hearts Podcast! This week, our host Charuka Arora has invited Ki Smith where he talks about running a business in the art world and how he managed to open his own gallery. This inspirational episode contains some heartwarming stories that Ki shares with the audience, all of which demonstrate how we must do everything in our power to make things happen!

Ki Smith, who was born in New York, is the owner of Ki Smith Gallery and also the co-founder of Apostrophe NYC. Ki shares with us his childhood and how he was able to choose this career path in the art industry. From working in galleries as a teen to opening his own gallery in 2019, Ki’s journey definitely inspires other artists who want to start their own business. Despite all odds, Ki was able to manifest his dreams into reality by his willpower and determination. Even when he couldn’t afford to rent a place, he constantly found ways and means to make it happen, even if meant selling artwork worth $50000 in five days.

For Ki, being an artist is something he chose, and for that, he is grateful. He was able to become a successful entrepreneur by working for it. He is a strong believer in pushing your limits and taking risks when you can. After all, it is with such a mindset only that an artist can hope to grow, otherwise, s/he can risk being stuck in the same place for years. Something that stands out from Ki’s interview is that he didn’t wait for opportunities to knock on his door, rather, he went and explored any avenue that could be advantageous to him.

Our podcast with Ki was so instructive, that we’ll be releasing it in two parts. So tune in to this week’s episode, and don’t forget to follow up next week to learn more about Ki’s inspirational life as an entrepreneur!  

TimestampSummary
00:00.00Introduction
01:30.15Ki Smith’s gratitude for growing up around the arts
08:58.75Work and career choices
10:19.36Importance of education and continuous learning
14:14.31Importance of self-confidence and entrepreneurship
16:01.75Role of gallerist in supporting artists
21:00.83The dedication and patience required to be an artist
25:01.90The time it takes to create a piece
26:09.58Learning to be creative through fashion
29:36.24Unlearning and finding oneself
32:11.44Building a gallery in Manhattan
46:16.60Discussion about partnering on a space
52:07.89Hustling to sell $50,000 worth of artworks
54:04.10Support from clients and family members
[TRANSCRIPT]
**** – (): 00:00.00
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So okay here we go welcome to the podcast key.
**** – (): 00:02.71
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Hi. Thank you so much for having me so excited to be here.
**** – (): 00:05.94
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And thank you so much I’m more than happy finally made it after quite a few movements. Yes, you know I completely get it I I am so terrible.
**** – (): 00:11.40
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I know I’m terrible of time zones and everything I’m such a New York Centric person so everything is New York time for me.
**** – (): 00:25.53
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, here’s the thing that you don’t do you know when I I’m ah I’m terrible at match I sent you a link the day we were meant to schedule and that was my morning and my colleague Ma Allison was coordinating with you regarding the podcast and I read.
**** – (): 00:38.40
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 00:43.39
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So I could see the podcast I could see the booking and it was am it was Pm I kept on reading it as am and I kept on I scheduled my entire day around it I sat here and I was in I was at the galby at that point and I’m ready and I’m so I’m all set. And my colleague Craish She messaged me what are you doing and I’m like I’m just going to go record and she’s like it’s not 10 a M It’s ten P M I’m like oh My. Ah, it’s not you? Ah okay, yes.
**** – (): 01:07.59
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): No, no, no I Also read it as it but wait then where where you based where you be so that’s where you are now.
**** – (): 01:17.60
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So I lived between Delhi and aga that’s I have was 2 3 or so yeah I’m right now as so I it’s it’s a 3 hours gap so I travel too frequent so like in the morning I came here I’m in ah right now and I’m going to go back.
**** – (): 01:30.15
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Are ah amazing.
**** – (): 01:32.95
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): To Cali because they’re working on the studio in gallery right now. So I’m going to go back to mo so I’m born in brought here my parents house my father’s house my mom passed away in Kowa and so I keep keep coming and staying here a bit here and there.
**** – (): 01:42.21
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah, so sorry. Well oh wow.
**** – (): 01:49.48
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Sure.
**** – (): 01:51.77
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Both of the places you tell me this episode is about you. Let’s start with you. Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Ah first the most difficult question introduce yourself? yeah.
**** – (): 01:56.50
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Okay, what do we got? let’s go. What do we got? okay hi I’m Keith Smith I owner and founder of Key Smith gallery I was born a raised in New York City um
**** – (): 02:11.22
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay.
**** – (): 02:11.56
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Have a lot of lot of hometown pride for my city. Um I grew up around the arts which I think was actually I feel incredibly grateful for because growing up around the arts art was always a possibility. So I think that that’s actually incredibly uncommon for most folks so most of the friends that I have and even a lot of the artists that I represent. Um they didn’t you know have parents that were in the Arts artists any of this type of thing like this. So.
**** – (): 02:29.84
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes.
**** – (): 02:42.94
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Even when they chose to go down that profession. There was a lot of the time a lot of pushback from family. Um, a lot of people saying this is not a viable career path a lot of people saying you know you need to get a real job or ah, you know this type of stuff like this. Um I.
**** – (): 02:47.80
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah.
**** – (): 03:01.17
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Feel very grateful that my grandparents um ah to dakiuayama and rakuo naito they moved from Japan in the 1950 s um to pursue their careers as artists. Um, so at the time.
**** – (): 03:07.10
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, okay, wow.
**** – (): 03:20.10
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): The art scene in Japan was very traditional and they um they had gone to the best art school in in Japan but ah, still a very traditional kind of like education in that sense and their um, their art is.
**** – (): 03:20.89
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Done. Yeah.
**** – (): 03:38.24
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Was very modern was very contemporary at the time was very you know very different from what was going on so they moved to New York where a lot of that stuff was happening um and then ah immediately fell into big scenes there and stuff like this and then raised my aunt and my mother in New York um my mother’s an artist.
**** – (): 03:56.69
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, okay, a brother’s alter artist is yes you have you have a lot of letters around you. Yes.
**** – (): 03:58.20
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): We can get into this story late. My brother’s also an artist. Um a lot of artists around um and then my aunt is an architect So a lot of kind of creativity in that sense in the in the family. Um, which I feel very grateful for and then my.
**** – (): 04:08.10
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, okay, this is.
**** – (): 04:16.94
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): My cousins do architecture but they’re also on the the Us National Team Team Usa for field hockey. They’re the they’re the like kind of um smarter more athletic ones of of me and my brothers. So but it’s it’s um, but it’s it’s It’s really great because.
**** – (): 04:20.91
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Team Usa Wow. Ah.
**** – (): 04:28.49
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And.
**** – (): 04:35.58
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Growing up around the arts. There was always this kind of optimism in art and it was actually quite interesting because I think that my brothers and I had kind of an untraditional upbringing at the time that um, when.
**** – (): 04:39.45
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 04:48.97
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): You Okay have what do you mean by that. So.
**** – (): 04:54.69
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Ah, so I was born and raised in the lower East Side east village um downtown and now that’s an incredibly like bougie nice neighborhood. You know little cute restaurants and little cute everything like this. Um when I was little it wasn’t as much like that. Um, you know it was.
**** – (): 04:56.56
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay. Yes, yes, yes.
**** – (): 05:12.42
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Coming out of a very kind of crazy time of it but it was still a little bit um a little bit wild and I at the time my when my brother first was going to go to school. He’s 1 year older than me he went to the local public school for I think a day or 2 and didn’t.
**** – (): 05:29.65
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): A okay.
**** – (): 05:31.42
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Jive with it and then um and the public schools in the neighborhood weren’t that great and um and then we went we ended up my mother decided to homeschool us. So yeah, so we had we had gone to the little like kind of local preschool on second street. Um.
**** – (): 05:40.65
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Oh wow.
**** – (): 05:49.24
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): But then when it came time for school. My mother actually decided to homeschool us and um and it was it and that’s a kind of a very different way to especially in the 90 s to be homeschooled was very alternative or or you know whatever it was and then not mainstream.
**** – (): 06:00.66
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, yeah, it’s not main street. Not an either popular.
**** – (): 06:09.70
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): But it was really funny because actually our next door neighbor. Ah so we were 3 boys or originally 2 and then one came later my little brother zen. Um, and then next door was four girls and they were. They were all homeschooled and their father was an artist.
**** – (): 06:14.53
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, okay oh good with oh my God is like a middle school.
**** – (): 06:28.94
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): So on our block It was weirdly. Yeah it was like a weird like it was ah both of Yay exactly and so it was very normalized in that sense like even my um.
**** – (): 06:33.78
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, the artists Also the typical persona of artists look at the weird ones and the children doing there is definite.
**** – (): 06:45.72
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): My older brother I kind of joke it up sometimes because he said oh yeah, no, no, we we grew up like everyone else like look at our neighbors and then which is true but but it was really just that pocket. Um, just one block exactly.
**** – (): 06:55.26
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Ah, yeah, it was just one knock away. Why don’t you look beyond that Um, that’s that’s it.
**** – (): 07:02.41
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): So if you go 2 doors down. It was very similar kind of like this. Um, but then it was it was interesting because then in um, by you know, middle school um by like sixth grade or so actually my.
**** – (): 07:18.85
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Grandmother from my my father’s side said that they she wanted us to go to the school and stuff like this and um and then we ended up going to the rudolph steiner school which is a.
**** – (): 07:28.71
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, so.
**** – (): 07:32.17
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Ah, private school uptown. That’s very kind of like arts oriented very creative comes from this kind of like Waldorf background. Um, and it’s and it was. It was a very small school so it was like a kind of easy transition of that sort. Um and then. I’ll be honest I was never very good at school. Ah so you know I eventually got ah expelled from the school I got kicked out of that school. Yeah I ah I will say they just didn’t really like me.
**** – (): 07:55.00
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Likewise yes.
**** – (): 07:59.49
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Ah, really and what made them do that. What did you do.
**** – (): 08:06.61
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, so.
**** – (): 08:08.70
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): They didn’t like me I was very like um making a little bit of trouble making the jokes like the I don’t know like a little bit. Um, not a great student only paying attention in the classes that I liked um this kind of stuff like this. So.
**** – (): 08:14.68
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And.
**** – (): 08:24.52
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Was probably a terrible student to to be a teacher for but the um but eventually and I think about halfway through eleventh grade in high school. They asked me to leave the school and it was the middle of the winter and it was actually kind of interesting because at that point.
**** – (): 08:44.10
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): My parents said you know you can either go back to school or go get a job and I didn’t want to go back to school so I actually ended up going and ah walked around the neighborhood and walked into ah a gallery the storefront for art and architecture.
**** – (): 08:47.24
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So work. Yeah.
**** – (): 08:58.75
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, okay, okay, okay.
**** – (): 09:03.21
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And asked if I could work there. Um, which was kind of funny because in my world at that time. The kind of 3 careers that I could imagine were artist ah gallerist art dealer um or architect and.
**** – (): 09:14.16
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, okay, so.
**** – (): 09:22.60
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I ended up for the middle one because I thought that that was the most kind of like business involved in stuff like this and um, no the closest I came to ever like being an artist or something was um.
**** – (): 09:28.90
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, did you never consider being an artist and.
**** – (): 09:37.50
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): After working at the gallery and actually working at an architecture firm after that I did talk my way into college I never got the kind of ged or or graduated high school or anything like this but there was an art school that came to New York to go show off their school and they had the line of of the kids to go. Present the portfolios and stuff like this and I thought well I thought if any if there’s any school I can talk my way into it’s probably the art school so I went and they were the 2 lines and I sell the 2 people and I thought there’s the the 1 kind of older guy this one woman and and I was like if I am in this one line I’m no I’m gonna get into this school and I um. Went to the line I said hey ah I’ve been working with scholar and she said I know that you don’t have the high school diploma or the ged but let me write you a note right now if you send this in with your application. You’ll be in the school. Um, and and I did I went they gave me a half -ried scholarship.
**** – (): 10:19.36
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, any God did so.
**** – (): 10:28.37
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And did you go and.
**** – (): 10:34.89
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And I ah um, ended up going to the school for a year and it was an art school. Um I did some art classes but um also did art history interior design um some other things kind of thinking more about space and um.
**** – (): 10:37.58
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): You? Okay, Okay, okay.
**** – (): 10:53.51
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I I actually remember at school very early on after the first semester they’re asking you to make all this kind of like objects and stuff like this and I just thought this is all junk everything I’m making is just junk and like you know it’s creating storage problems. It’s like a waste of time. It’s waste of thing. So then after that the next. Um, semester and stuff like this I said everything I make is going to be functional so I can actually use it so like and then I think all the kids there hated it and the critiques say why are you making a table for the sculpture final I’m making a table because I want a fucking table like um, you know what? I mean like and so I eventually left that school. Actually left that school because I did a calculation of how much I was paying per hour and I was like this is a no this a and even at a half -righted scholarship I like this is a poor allocation of resources. So like I actually do think about that a lot like um.
**** – (): 11:36.25
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): No no.
**** – (): 11:48.40
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): If You’re not looking to be in a career or profession where you’re going to be showing so in a resume or um or something of that nature I don’t really see it as a um as a great use of time or resources to to kind of go to school I think school is a wonderful thing and Education is very important. Um, but I do I am a strong believer in education being something that is more of a mindset. You can constantly be learning. Yeah.
**** – (): 12:16.26
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Absolutely absolutely in in ah in today’s time I think like in my own in my own career like I said you know I did so I did I always wanted to go in literature and I couldn’t get through it. So i. I was randomly going through like you know there’s this college here in India which is Della University and I was like you know, walking past the door I’m like okay if I’m not getting I wanted to make a read attempt and I wanted to get literature and I couldn’t so at that point I thought okay, let’s let’s just the next door was history and I was like okay, let’s it was just me and my sister and we like.
**** – (): 12:34.83
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah.
**** – (): 12:51.34
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Let’s just take one and we’ll come back and switch by the time we did come back I couldn’t switch so I studied ended up studying history and I felt terrible then I went for did fashion and after that I think fashion was my last education and.
**** – (): 12:52.57
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah.
**** – (): 13:02.45
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Ah.
**** – (): 13:08.92
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Ever since then I’ve worked in branding design. There’s so much that I know today but all of that has always been that I’ve taught myself and not only taught myself I needed to learn because when I started working in order to run a business I needed to know let’s say.
**** – (): 13:24.34
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Sure.
**** – (): 13:24.40
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Development or a web development or a business or sales or marketing I was never taught marketing. Um, but that’s in a work in a time like today like we didn’t know Ai but we’re all teaching ourselves. There’s no um, we are not going back to school to go learn about ai so there’s there’s definitely.
**** – (): 13:38.58
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah, and it does you have to constantly be of the of the mindset to be able to be open to learning and continuing to bring in knowledge and.
**** – (): 13:41.46
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Say that I I truly agree with that that.
**** – (): 13:50.50
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 13:54.71
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Kind of on the go I’m a big believer in kind of like the almost like sink or swim type of situation all the time I’m putting myself in situations where it’s kind of like hey look I don’t know how to do this I’m going to have to figure this out exactly and I think that that’s incredibly important as a.
**** – (): 13:59.18
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah, but I’ll figure it rich out. Yes, but that’s also very entrepreneurial.
**** – (): 14:14.31
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, but I think it’s also it it is entrepreneurial but it’s also a very important kind of like mindset to have as an artist too because as an artist you are a business owner. You are the the owner of your own business.
**** – (): 14:22.60
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): That Yes, absolutely absolutely. But that’s but that is you know that’s what’s strange is that not a lot of people still um I think there’s a percentage who understands that fact today. But.
**** – (): 14:35.47
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah.
**** – (): 14:38.51
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Understanding but also executing there where there’s a very few percentage of artists even at today’s time I think out of a hundred of a py chart I think even not let’s say twenty thirty percent only understands this out of them. It’s a very small percentage who really executes its also like that.
**** – (): 14:42.80
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 14:54.96
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah, it is. It’s it is very difficult and I I mean that’s even something that I say as a as a gallerist I say that the first thing is the artist has to believe in themselves.
**** – (): 14:56.66
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And I’m not saying it’s easy I understand that it’s completely difficult I know that myself.
**** – (): 15:10.33
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Absolutely.
**** – (): 15:12.17
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And they have to be their own business their own company then the gallery can believe in the artist then if the gallery and the artist both believe then the client can believe. But if you don’t have the other two. It makes it very difficult to kind of organically build a market and build a market with a really strong foundation.
**** – (): 15:19.32
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, absolutely.
**** – (): 15:28.36
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 15:30.20
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, so I do think there is a lot of kind of like you know self-confidence of sorts like this that ah an artist does need but it’s also something that can be kind of um, trained a little bit too with with an artist bring that out I think a lot of the time as a.
**** – (): 15:34.36
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah.
**** – (): 15:39.96
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah.
**** – (): 15:45.28
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): As a gallerist I think of myself almost like a Gm or a coach of ah of a sports team or something like this you are you really have to do your part to make sure that you are bringing out the best in the artist and allowing them to kind of.
**** – (): 15:48.97
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, yes, yes.
**** – (): 16:01.75
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Be in position to thrive and be in position to kind of push themselves to explore new territories to take risks. Um, so I think that that’s also really important and I also I very much look at the gallery as um, almost building a roster It’s building a team. So. You know, like any sports team. You’re not going to um, overhaul your whole team year on-year you want to retain players you want to build teams around certain players. You want to? um, be bringing in new free agents when you see the talent you want to? um, you know.
**** – (): 16:23.98
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, yes, yes.
**** – (): 16:33.85
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Be in be in positions to be pushing people and know that they have to be performing to continue to have a starting place. Um, and I think that that’s also all really important and it it also shows character and shows mentality like one of my um, kind of favorites of that is. There’s an artist that I worked with with my old gallery of postrop p nyc that was part of this group um base 12 and he’s a very close friend of mine. Um, and when I first opened my gallery in Harlem I think the assumption was because we’re you know we’re basically you know.
**** – (): 16:53.37
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, yes.
**** – (): 17:10.16
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Best friends like that he was immediately going to have a show and I said you know I said hey Charlie um I haven’t put you in this year’s schedule and at first he was very kind of ah taken aback a little bit upset about it. But I said hey Charlie.
**** – (): 17:18.86
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I do.
**** – (): 17:28.90
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And this is the artist Charlie Hudson who’s um, does incredible for himself now and then and I said you know I didn’t put you in the schedule because I know that you are great and you have the potential to be really um, a real star. So I think yeah so I said I want you to take this year
**** – (): 17:28.58
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, yes, yes, yes.
**** – (): 17:40.93
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So thrive on. Yeah.
**** – (): 17:47.30
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): To go get some other solo shows do some other things get some big projects and make me regret my decision for not putting you in this year and he did all of the above so he kind of um metaphorically it was kind of like.
**** – (): 17:55.97
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 18:04.61
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Putting him on the bench for a year but then staying very much in dialogue with him I kept on visiting the studio where he kept our you know obviously still very good friends and stuff like this and then fast forward. Um year and a half or so like this.
**** – (): 18:08.12
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Do dialogue? Yeah yeah.
**** – (): 18:21.68
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I have the new location down in the east village and he does a big spring show with us and it does incredibly well. Um, you know we sell to a lot of our biggest clients. It’s and it’s ah everyone loves the show. It. It gets written up in some different day like it’s like that’s. That’s amazing that to me is such a big success story of sorts and then of course right? after that. Um we spoke about how can we even further tune things in and what can we do to you know, keep on building and um, he wanted a little bit more time so then we scheduled the new exhibition for. Ah, one and half almost two years from then like this like almost two years from then like and we had a big exhibition this september in my new gallery here. Another huge success. Um, and it’s and it’s great because I think that when you’re working with artists. You’re working with them and. Having that knowing that I’m going to be in this career and this profession. Um till I die makes the timeline really easy. You know it’s not like oh we only have a this I’m not in a hurry. You know I think one of the beautiful things like.
**** – (): 19:28.77
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Ah, yeah, yeah, you’re not in a hurry you yeah.
**** – (): 19:35.21
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I do use a lot of kind of sports analogies and stuff like this but 1 of the beautiful things about the arts is there is no timeline. There is no, you have to you know if you don’t hit the window when you’re between your you know 20 s early 30 s you’re done like no, there’s artists all the time that are quote unquote.
**** – (): 19:40.25
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah. Yeah.
**** – (): 19:52.78
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Discovered in their you know older years and stuff like this. They’ve been making art their whole life. Um, and so like and I think that all the time art is something that continues to kind of evolve and build and um and you do see these very prolific careers where artists are making work from their.
**** – (): 19:53.12
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): We do whatever we are.
**** – (): 20:12.76
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Early 20 s sometimes teenage years all the way until they’re until they pass essentially and and I think that it’s really fun like even my little brother the other day was showing me some different studies of when artists were making the kind of like.
**** – (): 20:17.67
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 20:29.58
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Most daring and most prolific works in their careers and kind of tracking different artists like um, he was tracking different artists like that are more blue chip like William De Kooning and different stuff like this and showing when people were taking more risks in their career but you see these very long careers and.
**** – (): 20:45.10
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): It time stands. Yes, it’s not like this one day one Yeah, it’s a very um, very long investment and I think it does take a lot of courage to be and also I think it does not only does it take.
**** – (): 20:47.73
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah.
**** – (): 20:54.79
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah.
**** – (): 21:00.83
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Courage but it also takes a lot of patience to be an artist. Yeah.
**** – (): 21:02.75
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): It takes a lot of patience and a lot of dedication and I think that I feel so I feel so grateful to have seen that firsthand because my yeah my my grandparents since I was born my memory of them is every single day.
**** – (): 21:10.71
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, and yeah, so.
**** – (): 21:21.53
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): They would wake up go to the studio which was their their loft and work all day every single day and then and then they go and they stop for lunch and then they keep out working and they stop for dinner then they go to bed and they wake up and they work and then like literally every single day.
**** – (): 21:27.10
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Come back, come back? well.
**** – (): 21:40.46
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Working working working and then something my grandfather always used stays is busy is good. Busy is good like being. It’s good and it’s um and it’s amazing because I think that working and staying active is one of the things that you know, um.
**** – (): 21:45.71
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, good. This is.
**** – (): 21:57.10
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah Wow. Wow.
**** – (): 21:57.63
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Keep some so young kept them so young like it’s it’s amazing like even my grandmother is still active. Um, and she’s still making work and even my grandfather who just recently passed was making work into his ninety s you know till till Eva was still making work and stuff like this and um.
**** – (): 22:12.34
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Wow I Think what’ he? what? what’s amazing about this is that and I think I’ve also I’ve also felt this in my own experience and to of of these years. Um I remember when I started.
**** – (): 22:16.17
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And I.
**** – (): 22:27.61
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah.
**** – (): 22:29.28
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, and you know I have always been and I’ve seen this this is a very common pattern amongst a lot of people you know a lot of artists have been just just been creative like I’d always been creative but being born and brought up in India I know I had never seen an artist in my real life I never even knew.
**** – (): 22:44.96
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Right of her.
**** – (): 22:48.31
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): That that could be a profession that could be something that I could do for a living and I I always knew. Okay, this was something that I like you know boys are athletic and you know if it’s a patriarchal country boys are athletic and women are feminine and you know you paint and you color and you so and that’s ah, that’s what I believe is.
**** – (): 23:01.25
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Right.
**** – (): 23:07.61
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, most of my life and then navigating myself. So I think what really made me think that what I had was not just something was you know a gender or like just a hobby is because when I tried my I tried my foot at every little thing so I did like I said I I did history I tried to do literature.
**** – (): 23:17.96
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): The hint.
**** – (): 23:24.50
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Is it.
**** – (): 23:26.57
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And I did advertising like a brief moments like ah, a small score here a small di here and I realized you know what I’m not really good at anything. There’s only 1 thing that I could do was this and I didn’t I didn’t per say need a profession. It was just the way I could only comprehend it this way and when i.
**** – (): 23:42.57
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah.
**** – (): 23:46.35
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): When I actually thought of being an artist the traditional um of you know of having a job or a career. It means that you quickly get into it you quickly like you know this is a typical expectation of artists like they meet their thing like specifically in the age of social media today. We think that everything happens over the night there’s constantly like.
**** – (): 23:54.19
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, sure.
**** – (): 24:02.87
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 24:05.13
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): People want to quit their jobs and then get the gallery shows and get the solo shows and do everything and when I went into it I realized that you know what? it’s not only the world is not ready for me but I’m also maybe not ready for myself and I need to go through those patients and losing my mother in book. There was so many things that have happened.
**** – (): 24:07.68
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Sure.
**** – (): 24:21.89
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, may.
**** – (): 24:24.84
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And it’s given me this really check that I no longer make art today because I need you know it is I think the possibility is that a lot of artists realize that there’s no time pressure in the sense of that you have to make it as as an artist you are an artist and.
**** – (): 24:36.69
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): The good.
**** – (): 24:42.70
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): No matter if you make it not make it in whatever way that means you will still continue to go back to the work that you do sometimes like in a phase of life I am whatever if that means being in the kitchen being in the studio being in the room having 3 studios. Whatever you do to? It’s like you.
**** – (): 24:42.66
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): The heat the heat.
**** – (): 25:01.90
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah I Absolutely and I think that that’s also something that I find really fascinating because if you ask an artist sometimes.
**** – (): 25:01.72
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): If you have to breathe you have to make there’s There’s like there’s no separation.
**** – (): 25:13.81
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): How long it took to take a piece a lot of the time they say just the amount of time that it took to physically do it but they’re not taking into account the hours and days that they thought about the piece and the the sketches and the different things that they were kind of like coming up of the piece conceptualizing it and stuff like this. So.
**** – (): 25:21.18
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 25:30.10
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, so.
**** – (): 25:33.60
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): It is exactly like what you’re saying and artists do really kind of live breathe and and think the think the work and so I also always say to artists even when they’re speaking about that is well when did you first conceive the show and almost always they say oh well, a couple years ago.
**** – (): 25:36.70
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I Love this it? yeah.
**** – (): 25:53.70
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): So when someone asked how long it took to make this piece. You can say a couple years and this is a genuine answer. This is the correct answer because the correct answer is how long has it been that you were thinking about this piece not just how long did it take to apply the one motion. Um, not that things are created overnight. Anyways, there’s a lot of.
**** – (): 26:09.58
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah, but you know even it’s not even that you know it’s not if we you may act overnight. You know it’s a funny story like you know so I did fashion and I I’ve been bought and brought up in India.
**** – (): 26:12.13
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Processes that are and there’s a lot of artists that I know that will go. Yeah.
**** – (): 26:27.66
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And I have always loved craft and my my memory of my mother has always been so she used to love. Um, she was She was a real fashion Enthusiast She would really you know we would go to thrift shops and get fabrics together. We get embroideries together and then we would so so this is how I learned to be creative. Truly.
**** – (): 26:36.10
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah.
**** – (): 26:45.92
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Like I from day one very small and I would go with her and source colors look at colors look at combinations put embroideries and that’s how I learned and when I entered into the arts for so like I said in India it was very traditional and so if you if you’re a painter. You’re an illustrator like.
**** – (): 26:46.45
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, brave.
**** – (): 27:03.21
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Sure sure.
**** – (): 27:05.80
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): It was this box that you had to fit in so I parked who I was outside and I thought okay I had to be a painter and from my years of fashion running the business I had this huge inventory of um, ah embroideries never applied never used and I was I was in my twenty s and I would move a lot.
**** – (): 27:17.60
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Is it.
**** – (): 27:24.78
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And I would stay in smaller apartments and all of that and I would still carry that big box of employees with me from studio to studio little tiny studio never used it never opened it and one day one day what happened I don’t know I opened my sketchbook I did a post it.
**** – (): 27:28.59
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 27:41.63
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And I was like I really want to open this and I opened it and I started applying employees in my work that was day one and ever since then it’s taken but it wasn’t just that day. It was me carrying all of that and never knowing how to make sense of it for all these years and that’s you cannot really like.
**** – (): 27:46.12
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Now.
**** – (): 27:53.67
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, for sure. Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 28:00.30
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I Think sometimes it’s so hard to put. Ah um that if even if you have to track how this happened you look back and you’ll understand Okay when I did this that triggered this and you know it’s It’s so much of reflection.
**** – (): 28:09.28
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, and I think also I I see that all the time that same type of thing of like artists that are constantly collecting things and kind of storing things like there’s an artist I work with.
**** – (): 28:19.59
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I Yes, oh I find this the best thing.
**** – (): 28:26.53
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, it’s like there’s there’s an artist I work with um that I’ve worked with since 2012 Ryan Bach um who twenty fourteen he started picking headboards up off of the street different like headboards that he’d find on the streets and. Always be what are you doing? Oh I’m going to at some point I’m want to make some work but some I’m going to make some work at some point I’m going to make some work and then finally um, in 2018. So after he’s collecting these for 4 years just literally creating a storage nightmare for himself and then we actually end up I put him in a residency in Kentucky boyd station.
**** – (): 28:43.97
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): This item.
**** – (): 29:02.80
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Which is an incredible residency in Kentucky um, and he goes and he goes down there and there was this big barn with all of these actual antique headboards and he goes oh my god now I know what I was supposed to be doing with these.
**** – (): 29:14.64
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): But.
**** – (): 29:17.71
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And he goes and he starts painting all these elaborate paintings on the headboards and stuff like this while he was in the residency. So even the collecting of the of the pieces over those years he ended up throwing most of those out because the ones that he was finding in New York were the 80 s knockoffs of the original antiques.
**** – (): 29:22.39
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I Well I love Thy thought.
**** – (): 29:36.24
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Then when he came to the Kentucky he found the original you know turn of the century kind of ones like this that we’re getting does this whole body of work. We have an incredible exhibition. Um in our location in Harlem and I that you know and so I think that. That is something that artists are always doing kind of collecting almost aimlessly but there is intention behind it. So it’s like even if yeah, exactly it’s just kind of like keeping in the back of the mind like hey at some point it’s going to click what.
**** – (): 29:58.96
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): It Yeah, it’s not annoying yourself every day a little bit more.
**** – (): 30:10.85
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Is going to make sense of everything but I know that this is important I know that I need to have this.
**** – (): 30:12.37
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, but and and I think it’s also such an amazing journey of self-reflection I remember when I started. Um, yeah just I think a lot of I think when artists claim they want to be an artist or they are an artist. There’s this innate pressure. That we put on ourselves that we need to fit into a traditional or whatever, whatever expectation of the society that we are living into and then it takes the years of unlearning and then you 2 to you try to find yourself and go back I think in my own experience all these years I when I started. Um.
**** – (): 30:30.70
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah, sure.
**** – (): 30:39.97
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, yeah.
**** – (): 30:46.98
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I started just the thought of being an artist I would always say I would never typically paint you know India or just because that that’s what to you know India and and and I would pull myself apart so much and ever since I lost my mom that was my trigger and I figured like you know. I would paint so much about woman home and all of that. But the moment I lost my mom I figured for me, my home is where I Petra have brought up how I’d be born in part and all of that is India and like every day now I’m always thinking about who I was who I am today how I grew up and like.
**** – (): 31:11.47
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, right right.
**** – (): 31:20.66
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, right.
**** – (): 31:23.20
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): It takes so much of self-reflection like you’re always constantly unlearning like layering those things and going back to I think where we came from and I think that’s not particularly to artists I think a lot of creative people have that process.
**** – (): 31:28.42
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): 5
**** – (): 31:37.61
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah I mean even something that I see a little bit of similarity of that in even um, even in in our story is that the gallery that I have right now I saw it and it was the old fish market.
**** – (): 31:51.51
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, oh okay.
**** – (): 31:53.43
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, so it was in terrible condition. Nobody wanted to rent it. It was empty for years but I saw it and immediately felt connected because I was actually born across the street. So it’s this kind of like this. Yeah you feel like this is home like this is this is I worked for.
**** – (): 32:01.64
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So yes and you can place it.
**** – (): 32:11.44
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Before this space I worked for 10 years to make it back to my neighborhood because for me this is my neighborhood. This is this is my home and this is where I wanted to always have the gallery. So it’s like we opened um apostrophe originally in Brooklyn because that’s where what was affordable to us.
**** – (): 32:17.40
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
**** – (): 32:29.51
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes.
**** – (): 32:31.70
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And then even after that we popped up for years in different pop-up locations then we were out in Jersey City um at mana contemporary and then after that I was like I got to end this um to start my own gallery so that I can go and build my vision to where I want to build it. Um, and then and I said the first thing that was very important to me was being in Manhattan because um I was I was born and raised in Manhattan I love the city like there. There’s no place like this place and and I I do feel incredibly fortunate to.
**** – (): 32:55.22
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah I.
**** – (): 33:09.35
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Kind of the origin of starting my gallery is yes conceptually I opened it and decided I’m starting my gallery I’m starting QSmithGallery and then I actually just started kind of like thinking. Okay I’m going to do some different pop-up shows or try to figure some things out and then not.
**** – (): 33:25.90
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, you did a lot of experimental stuff.
**** – (): 33:27.60
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): We did a lot of experimental stuff especially with Apostrophe We did a lot of experimental stuff. Um, but right after I kind of thought about opening my own gallery I got a phone call from a random number and I always pick up and hi hi This is key how you doing like.
**** – (): 33:29.67
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And.
**** – (): 33:45.35
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And it was this woman Lisa and she um she said hey you know, um, my family and I are moving to New York in ah in a couple of months and we’ve read a little bit about different exhibitions that you’ve done um with. Aposthe and stuff like this and and I would love to meet you and I said I’d love to meet great. Let’s meet and so we ended up meeting a couple months later and when we met we hit it off right away. Um, she loved the artist that we were working with I loved her energy and the. And she said you know I I explained that I didn’t have a physical space and that I’m you know, kind of working right now to put ourselves in lane to to do that and she said well you know I just rented a big loft in um, you know in in Manhattan and I’d love to have.
**** – (): 34:26.31
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And stopping.
**** – (): 34:39.27
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): You exhibit some of your artists here for kind of one night popups and I can invite some friends. Um, and then we can kind of show off these artists and um, we did the first one and it was really cool I met a ton of really um, awesome people.
**** – (): 34:46.11
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, oh ah.
**** – (): 34:56.11
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, and was kind of opened up to a new community that I was really excited to kind of be around and and then at the second one we did a couple months later and and um, we were setting up I was setting up all day kind of hanging things and stuff like this kind of staging everything to feature the artist and.
**** – (): 34:57.49
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 35:16.60
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): The second one I was actually featuring my brother’s work and um and I went up to her right before everyone was going to start arriving and I said hey Lisa you know you’ve done many dinner parties and you know how this works a lot better than I do so I said if there’s one piece of advice before.
**** – (): 35:17.36
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 35:35.54
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Everyone starts arriving. Please give me you know a piece of advice to kind of like um how to best operate and she said you know if you ever see someone at a dinner party. That’s um, not in a conversation and kind of like you know, not engaged, go up and and. Introduce yourself and and you know and make a conversation with with her or with him or whoever it ends up being and um and I said okay thank you and then sure enough the party starts and stuff like this and I um I do not too long after I see this woman that’s. Kind of over by the wine setup and not in a conversation and I go up I say hi I’m key you know I’d love to introduce myself. Um I um be the gallery. That’s you know, um, help facilitate the artists and different things like we start chatting and then I’ve always kind of like spoken of things as.
**** – (): 36:14.74
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): C. Excellent.
**** – (): 36:28.84
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Almost as if they’re happening. So then you know I’m speaking about my gallery and then she goes oh well, where’s your location and I said oh well actually you know right now we’re looking for a location and she said one second let me go ask my husband and ah okay and she goes and she comes back over her husband about 2 minutes later and they say hey you know we have a commercial space on 1 twenty fifth street um up in Harlem and and we’re not using it and they said you’re you’re a friend of of Lisa and Nome’s and um and we like you we trust you because you’re friends with them and um.
**** – (): 36:55.59
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, okay.
**** – (): 37:06.36
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Why don’t you take this space for a year and and see what happens and I said yeah I would love this. This would be amazing. Um, so then of course it’s almost like surreal. You’re like what just because especially because I grew up in the city like.
**** – (): 37:07.19
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, weapons. Yeah Wow Real And yeah.
**** – (): 37:24.61
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Manhattan real estate is very like very competitive. It’s not just something like casually kind of I never saw it as something that was kind of casually gifted like this and then um so on Monday that month that was a Saturday night and on Monday I called up. Um I I called up the the guy and I said you know.
**** – (): 37:27.62
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah, you get it like that. Yeah yeah.
**** – (): 37:44.16
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Hey David I don’t know if you remember me but you know we were at Lisas at the dinner and you had said you had this space I 1 twenty thirty s oh yeah, yeah, yeah, come come up, go drive up the highway you’ll find this parking lot. You tell the parking lot guy that you’re friends with me. They know what to do? They’ll let you in when you get in there. Just give me a call if you like it let me know and I go I drive up there and I go into this parking lot way at the end of one twenty fifth all the way on the west side and I say hi um I’m friends with David he said you you know to? um, come see one of the commercial spaces and they said oh yeah, yeah, friend. Yeah, no problem here. You leave your card here. Go.
**** – (): 38:04.70
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And.
**** – (): 38:22.85
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Give me the cus I said here this is space. Go check it out and I give um David a call I said and it was kind of like a half eighty percent built out restaurant that never kind of like things so it was all still empty. Yeah, kind of like it looked like it started the renovation. Never really finished. You know something like you know, whatever.
**** – (): 38:34.81
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Completed so.
**** – (): 38:38.79
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And left an ideal setting for you.
**** – (): 38:42.17
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, and but it was basically just empty perfect and I called him and I said hey yeah you know David this is wonderful like um I love it and he said okay great. It’s yours. Ah, okay. And he said I got to go to a meeting but um, but great. You have the keys awesome be in touch and ah okay and it goes and I’m like ah so I guess I have the keys and then I like and then I sat for a day thinking like and I was like you know what.
**** – (): 39:05.45
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Wow game you have a gal dream.
**** – (): 39:15.82
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I Love business.
**** – (): 39:17.13
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): That’s how it is you know I go and and then I built out the whole space I put in a kind of clip in wood floor put all the walls on wheels at think so that I could I did the build out in a way that I could completely leave it exactly how I found it.
**** – (): 39:26.50
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So yeah, movement it you needed it? Yeah yeah, yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 39:34.42
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): At the end of the year so that I I wasn’t kind of like doing anything intrusive to their space. Um, and I did built it all out. Um, opened the gallery and having that year of um of being able to operate.
**** – (): 39:50.99
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, not making rents. Yeah yeah.
**** – (): 39:52.74
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, not having to be in a financial position to kind of like be constantly thinking about oh the pressure of rent and really just you know, being in a fortunate position where all I had to think about was some utilities and stuff like this. So it’s like you know to have that.
**** – (): 40:06.30
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I and as is like can it takes 5 years for any other business like you know it’s just a simple mats. Um for you to cover three years and then you’re 5 and that is exactly after 5 years is where you can really know the sense in the pulse of your business. But before that we all.
**** – (): 40:10.64
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah.
**** – (): 40:19.96
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Exactly.
**** – (): 40:23.91
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Trick things out experimenting and like it’s it could be so I wish this happens to more and more I’m so glad that that one person’s kindness. Could you know change So many people’s lives because it’s It’s like a circle that happens for everyone and I’m sure it must admit.
**** – (): 40:33.65
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah.
**** – (): 40:42.50
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I I can’t agree more? Yeah, no, it is really amazing and having that kind of like having that time in that space. Um for a year was really what I think allowed us to kind of build the program and the name up.
**** – (): 40:42.92
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Huge difference.
**** – (): 40:58.17
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): In a way where then um, unfortunately at the end of that year kind of ah covid hit right? So that kind of like took everything for a little bit of a spin so this is all of 2019 we’re in Harlem operating this program. Um I had a.
**** – (): 41:06.62
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, okay.
**** – (): 41:15.38
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Incredible team around me. We were doing different publishing different books and stuff with um someone that at the time. Ah a good friend of mine Naomi Falk was um, our our director of the um, editorial director and stuff like this and bringing in books and different stuff like this. Um. And it was like we had this great great. Um, kind of community that started building around the gallery and we were able to kind of take risks with shows. We had an incredible video exhibition. Um with ah Nina Roshason and um, we we would do all these. Exhibitions that I think that if we were thinking about having to kind of make rent in that way. It would have been inhibitive to creativity at the time. Um, and then the you know then covid hit um and.
**** – (): 41:54.66
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): That wouldn’t and absolutely.
**** – (): 42:08.72
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): For a couple months I I you know really had to like whatever lock down in the city. Whatever stuff like this but I’m not good at um, being still I’m not good at it like at immediately like okay, the first thing that hit was like okay, the first thing that happened was.
**** – (): 42:15.78
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I staying back I can feel that bill. Yes I could figure that out. Ah.
**** – (): 42:22.60
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): But but.
**** – (): 42:26.17
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): 1 of the big exhibitions which was a big a group show of the base 12 artists from apostrophe I brought everyone back together to do this big kind of kind of retrospective show showing all the different things and this was supposed to open the weekend that covid hit New York so I found it terrible that none of these pieces got to get actually get shown and stuff like this.
**** – (): 42:39.59
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Had a vote.
**** – (): 42:44.25
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): So immediately even in the next couple weeks I ended up making a deal with some friends. Um, that were um, spearheading a lot of the Christie’s corporate responsibility program and stuff like this and we ended up putting all these works on. Ah um, on an auction with them. Um. And being able to sell the exhibition in that way and then I think we gave a little percentage back to Covid Relief and all this type of stuff like this but it was great because immediately we were able to kind of like pivot take a crazy situation. Go still make good to the artists and stuff like this. Um.
**** – (): 43:02.89
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): See I have.
**** – (): 43:18.80
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And then I didn’t want to lose momentum didn’t want to lose steam and stuff we had so much good momentum and I thought that you know what our year up in Harlem was coming to a close anyways. Um or had kind of technically come to a close anyways and and it was time for us to kind of like.
**** – (): 43:27.17
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes.
**** – (): 43:35.24
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Step out on our own two feet and and make things happen and so um, of course I I turned to Craigslist ah to look at real estate and I found a commercial storefront in the East Village um and it was a very small space maybe two hundred three hundred Square feet tiny tiny tiny. And I remember that first summer of covid I went there and I I went to the the woman that was renting and I said hey look you know? um, um, from the neighborhood blah blah blah ah she wanted to look at the business’s finances or the credit and all these different things like this I said hey look at the end of the day.
**** – (): 44:10.12
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 44:14.25
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I can pay cash I’ll pay you six months upfront in cash like let’s go. Let’s make a deal. Let me go and like do this space. You don’t have anyone you know getting no one’s no one’s trying to get this. You know like and so we made a deal. We made a a deal. Um.
**** – (): 44:20.19
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Do this? yes.
**** – (): 44:27.80
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 44:33.78
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And I got my first storefront in um, downtown and it was a little little storefront and I thought it was actually kind of perfect for the covid time because you really couldn’t fit much more than a couple people in there at the same time anyways.
**** – (): 44:47.30
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, yes.
**** – (): 44:49.15
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): So it felt very like people felt very safe kind of coming in because it wasn’t a big kind of like space that they do a lot of different people were in so they could kind of come in appointment go and see the works and kind of you know, um, and then of course I’m always of the mindset if you need to be expanding so um. one year later ah or even a little less than a year later through a friend of mine actually when we had Charlie show in the spring um a mutual friend of ours said oh you know we have this office on Third Street a few blocks away that we’re looking to get rid of and um, and would you ever be interested in taking it. So I actually you know obviously wasn’t in a position to get another storefront at the time but I called up a friend of mine. Um, Jackie um, who actually recently got married congratulations Jackie like okay I’ll call her Jackie drop now. Um, so.
**** – (): 45:41.54
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Ah, congratulations Iki. Okay, so.
**** – (): 45:47.12
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): So so then she she um has a company Arts club which does really cool like they’re they’re incredible. They do art education and kind of um art classes. So they’ll basically take different artists and teach people about that artist and then.
**** – (): 45:50.65
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, that’s not. Oh wow.
**** – (): 46:05.70
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Do works kind of inspired by um, that artist and so they run workshops now they have a space in Dc as well. But I said Jackie would you ever consider um partnering together on a space and you’ll have space to do the workshops.
**** – (): 46:07.60
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Oh Wow toing.
**** – (): 46:16.60
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Of.
**** – (): 46:22.15
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And I’ll have space to show the work and we can kind of like work out a collaboration like this and she was super into the idea. Um, we’ve been friends for a long time and um and so we built out this space together and we ended up having it where.
**** – (): 46:22.42
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): For the work.
**** – (): 46:34.98
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So amazing.
**** – (): 46:39.20
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): My little space on forest street was our primary location and then we had a larger private location that I shared with Jackie um, so for a year we operated 2 locations in the East Village um and basically at the end of that year I was like we got to expand again. And I will say that there’s a kind of a problem here. The the 1 thing is that what I didn’t like is that our bigger location. Our location that was kind of better in that sense and larger and I could show more ambitious works was the location that I was sharing with her.
**** – (): 47:12.89
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): How yeah.
**** – (): 47:15.15
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): But it was also a little bit further away and I thought you know right now I’m killing myself trying to do operations on 2 physical locations and there was an app. Yeah, it’s exhausting and and then there was ah there was a day that I actually walked back and forth between the places 7 times and i.
**** – (): 47:20.71
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): 2 locations. Yeah, and castings and logistics.
**** – (): 47:32.32
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): God So much sp.
**** – (): 47:34.29
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): At the end of the day I said you know what I can’t um, it’s not advantageous for the business to be spending so much time walking back and forth and trying to show a client this and show in the client this so I have to go back and um, look on Craigslist and so I went to look on Craigslist. Um. Ah, for a new space and I saw this location on a couple weeks later I saw this space that um even maybe a couple months later or a month or so later because also I’ll I’ll also browse on Craigslist just to kind of like calm the mind and stuff like this.
**** – (): 48:09.14
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, just yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 48:13.10
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): There Yeah and then um and so I saw this location and it said it was ah very underpriced. Kind of for the neighborhood and for the size and then I saw the photos and the photos were honestly so terrible.
**** – (): 48:29.43
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): This is terrible That is why this is is like a gym. Yes, this is a gym This is like this is like thrift shopping like you know, um I love that because you know what’s what’s amazing about it.
**** – (): 48:31.75
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): So I was like I was like this couldn’t yeah I said this couldn’t be a scam. Yeah, this is the gem. Yeah.
**** – (): 48:48.25
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, you takes nothing and makes something out of that that is a price that only you can pay. It’s it’s it’s like it’s like you being an artist like it’s It’s like you made something out of nothing that not everybody can do.
**** – (): 48:51.43
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 49:05.33
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, that’s absolutely true and I think that I also like um yeah I saw the possibility in it and I actually even had fun memories as a kid you know, um, there’s a soccer field right across the street that I I spent a lot of time playing at.
**** – (): 49:19.74
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So oh wow.
**** – (): 49:22.31
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, when I was younger and and sometimes before the fountains were turned on in the summer you know I’d I’d go and I’d come across the street to the fish market and go you know drink out of their hose and stuff like this and so the um.
**** – (): 49:37.29
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Ah, you’re also reminiscing about your old days you feel at home.
**** – (): 49:40.46
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, So it’s like kind of like I knew the space I I didn’t um it was crazy. But I Also it was familiar. Um and it was really not in um, good condition. All the walls were rotted because of the moisture of the fish and all the stuff like this and um. And you know the kind of place was very I kind of not ready to move in and of sorts and.
**** – (): 50:03.90
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Now if if a van ever and I do do visit you I’m going to visualize this right and I step in yes and.
**** – (): 50:11.97
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I’ll show you ah a photo of how it was. You would never imagine what I rented and um and we to put into context I I because I had a little bit of an architecture background and I had worked in architecture before.
**** – (): 50:24.80
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, so you could yes yes.
**** – (): 50:27.67
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah I did very the first thing you do when you go to a site is you do? what’s called probing a little bit so you just stick your make a hole and just see what you’re getting into and I saw you know I said do you mind if I like.
**** – (): 50:40.56
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Like yeah this is the yeah there were so many more holes already? Yeah, so.
**** – (): 50:42.54
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Kind of make a hole in your wall a little bit like this when I looked at this no problem. The the walls are in terrible condition. So lookine holds. Anyways I could just look into a wall and I said oh Wow you know I said at the end of the day. This is very interesting to me because past all the rotted drywall and all the rotted Everything is just cinder blocks. It’s just concrete.
**** – (): 50:59.93
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yes, yes.
**** – (): 51:01.90
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And I thought wow so if I think about this it looks crazy, but there’s actually where I’m just this is a concrete box and I said okay I can make this happen then and they um and I actually made ah made made a deal with them and and you know. My finances that I showed them were very light. Um, it wasn’t really in position to um, rent I wasn’t in a position to have a big commercial storefront. Um, you know this is twenty two hundred Square feet in downtown Manhattan um.
**** – (): 51:29.81
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Because yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 51:38.72
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I didn’t have the finances to back that and um and they looked at it and they said hey you know we love you. But you know you’re just not the um we can’t release in you. We can’t do it at least of you. You know we’d love to but we really can and I said um I said hey.
**** – (): 51:39.33
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 51:48.86
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, lis is li yeah.
**** – (): 51:58.70
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): You know, um, would you be open to making a deal with me and they said what’s the deal and I said you know you’re going away on vacation for five days um so you’re going to be here and you’re not going to be around for five days you’re not going to show the space for five days it’s been on the market for a while anyways and I said.
**** – (): 52:01.26
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay.
**** – (): 52:07.89
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay.
**** – (): 52:17.76
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, if in the five days I’m able to sell $50000 worth of artworks would you be comfortable, understanding that at that point that yes you have someone that can go make things happen that sure I might not have it now.
**** – (): 52:29.62
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Castle. I now but I can make this.
**** – (): 52:36.29
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): But I can go and in it in a timeline I can make something happen. Um and they were very ah, very kind to be open to this idea and they said you know what sure I think they have didn’t believe I could do it but they they said you know what? sure if um.
**** – (): 52:49.40
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Let’s do we have nothing to lose.
**** – (): 52:54.49
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, if you can go and do it and you can pull up your bank and show us the show us the statement that all of a sudden you have you know? ah from a few you know a few thousand all the way up over to over fifty um ah we’re open to signing the lease. Yeah, and I said okay.
**** – (): 53:00.44
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): 50000
**** – (): 53:07.29
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): It only shows the tension. Yeah, it.
**** – (): 53:13.40
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And so I went and that five days I called every client we had and I you know I said hey you know, um, if you’ve bought works. This is the you know this is the time to really like. Kind of solidify your investment and you know this is a huge moment for all of the artists that we work with and for the gallery in general and this will really put us on the map in a way that um will give us longevity to allow us to really build these markets and make things happen and I’m not going to be signing a 1 ne-year lease 2 year lease I’m signing a 10 year lease so I’m in I’m in I’m in if if you’re in I’m in you know and so and then we were incredibly fortunate to be able to um, call on some of our our larger clients ah including um Lisa who is a very early patron of ours and stuff like this.
**** – (): 54:00.20
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 54:04.10
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And also um, incredible people that we um that that we I actually met through her. Yeah that um like the the clothing designer Nicole Miller who’s an ah incredible patron of ours as well and she also bought um you know over.
**** – (): 54:09.30
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): So supported you along the way.
**** – (): 54:16.15
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Yeah.
**** – (): 54:23.41
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): $10000 worth of work at that time multiple pieces from multiple artists her and her husband Kim and and that was that was you know between her um Lisa and then also my grandmother gave me the incredible opportunity to sell 1 of her pieces. So.
**** – (): 54:23.67
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): What.
**** – (): 54:38.84
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Oh oh wow.
**** – (): 54:42.58
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): This was really amazing. So she said you know if you can find a client to sell 1 of the pieces. Um, you can go and take a photo of some of the pieces and this was ah a lot of the units that we were selling at the time were a couple thousand so to sell you know units that are.
**** – (): 54:47.74
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Gus Aled
**** – (): 54:57.81
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): A larger ticket you use a differentff game. Yeah, you had to do a bigger play.
**** – (): 55:00.66
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): 1 2 $3000 um that’s a lot of paintings and a lot of things to have to sell to make that. So um I was I was able to sell 1 of her small pieces. Um, that was the.
**** – (): 55:17.46
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): 1 of the first sales that we had done that was in the kind of low 5 figures and stuff like this. Um and it was really great to be and that was actually the the client that ended up putting that 1 in her collection was was Lisa and her and her husband and her family. Um.
**** – (): 55:31.60
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Oh wow.
**** – (): 55:36.91
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And so they ended up buying this piece and that and that piece had an incredible provenance that piece had been shown at Christie’s before and it was like the um it was. It’s a wonderful piece. Small beautiful. Ah ah piece that she made and and so between that larger sale. The um, the. Nicole’s help and um and then a bunch of other sales that happened from from clients that um even some clients that have been around for a while and I’m very you know close with but had never bought works before um. Ended up buying pieces. We placed. Ah 1 of my mother’s pieces in the castelli’s collection which was an honor and um, we also found a lot of support from even some of our younger clients and everyone kind of like it was this really wonderful moment. Yeah, where everyone kind of like.
**** – (): 56:23.85
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And a page in and like you know you? yeah.
**** – (): 56:31.70
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Pitched in and and really saw the momentum and um and kind of made things happen and and we were able to meet our goal and the very last one that kind of put us over the finish line was um, a piece by Charlie Hudson who was who had we had been.
**** – (): 56:31.82
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And yeah, yeah.
**** – (): 56:39.60
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And.
**** – (): 56:45.28
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay.
**** – (): 56:48.40
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): He had put me in contact with this woman. Um, who is the former Ceo but at the time was the ceo of transit wireless and I had been trying to get ahold of her that whole five days hey you know hi Linda you know what are the leaving messages nothing nothing and then.
**** – (): 56:56.32
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Okay, so.
**** – (): 57:03.73
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I.
**** – (): 57:07.27
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): The morning that I had to go meet him the landlord at 2 pm to go show that I had done this I was still a few thousand dollars short I was still like um you know, ah probably a five six thousand dollars short or something like this and and a man were so close and I thought to myself the night that night the night before I thought. You know what I’m going to wake up early and I know I’m going to go and I’m going to sell a painting before two p m I’m going to go and I know I’m going to sell a painting before 2 pm so I woke up at five forty five in the morning um and I had had a coffee and I got a text message at six zero a m from this woman that said hi um I know you’ve been trying to get in touch. Let me know if you have time later you know or any time today you know for a quick call and I said you know if you have time now now is a great time I said now is a great time and she said actually I just got into a cab.
**** – (): 57:59.82
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Um, let me come um.
**** – (): 58:06.34
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And I can take a call. Ah, right now if you if you have a moment so I immediately I call say hi that I talk and I talk about Charlie’s wearing I talk about the gallery and I talk about what we’re doing and I talk about all things like this and um and she ends up buying. Um.
**** – (): 58:07.10
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Oh all, the.
**** – (): 58:25.15
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): On the phone right? there? um a $7500 penny and this puts us over the finish line like this um and she was able to transfer everything quickly to go and make it and sure enough i.
**** – (): 58:28.15
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): This is amazing.
**** – (): 58:39.20
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): I went to the meeting at 2 pm and we had everything a little bit more than what we said we were going to do in those five days and um and signed the lease and we signed a 10 year lease and um and then I had a little bit of time a couple of months to do the buildout.
**** – (): 58:48.20
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): This is amazing.
**** – (): 58:58.82
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And the buildout was I used to work at architecture. So ah I had seed this space and I said you know a professional team. Yeah, but I said a professional team with everything with a couple of guys. This would be a six month project
**** – (): 59:05.38
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Ah, yeah, you knew what you needed to do we take.
**** – (): 59:17.00
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Um, and I said I need to do it in under three months and I only have me and I can ask for a little bit of help from some of the artists that I work with and but I really just have to be there like this and I thought to myself you know what.
**** – (): 59:25.62
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): A.
**** – (): 59:32.41
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): If a professional team is working 8 hour days and they’re working five days a week I can work 16 hour days and work seven days a week and then I can do what would be done in six months in 2 or 3 and um and I did and I was working just every single day.
**** – (): 59:42.50
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): They did it? Yeah yeah, you did were you all by yourself.
**** – (): 59:51.88
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Ah day in day out. Um I did get especially towards then I got a lot of hope towards then but basically different artists would come in on certain days to help. Um, so you know artists like the likes of and it was amazing. It was all bringing it home together. You know there was.
**** – (): 59:57.80
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): I Yeah none but amazing and that’s such a nice spirit. It’s like building your home together.
**** – (): 01:00:11.63
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): A day that um, the artist James Reyes who’s one of the artists that we represented I’ve been working with for over ten years he saw an Instagram story of me doing something with a crowbar and he comment and he said bro tomorrow I’m coming with the jackhammers and I’m gonna help you.
**** – (): 01:00:21.82
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And coming.
**** – (): 01:00:27.64
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): And.
**** – (): 01:00:28.27
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And he goes comes down from the Bronx with the jackhammers and we and he goes shows me out of you every day we do you know a day together and then he leaves some of the tools there then there was um, you know different days that. Even my my little brother and and one of his best friends Trevor came by and were helping me a few days and um and then you know so different friends kind of coming on sprinkling in on different afternoons from time to time and then there were some days that it was just me but every single day is kind of like go.
**** – (): 01:00:57.42
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): But you made it happen. So.
**** – (): 01:01:00.43
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Make things happen and by the last two weeks um I will say about six weeks in and I to put into context I’ve removed um £26000 of concrete and garbage out of the space. Um, and.
**** – (): 01:01:18.73
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): Goodness.
**** – (): 01:01:19.65
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): And got learned all about um, scrapping metal about taking you know garbage to the dump and the the but but but I learned I learned all about this. Um, so a lot of.
**** – (): 01:01:24.50
**** – (): charukaarora
**** – (): But Race management I Love that being about being an entrepreneur though I it’s and also.
**** – (): 01:01:33.68
**** – (): Ki Smith
**** – (): Yeah, you go you go learn very quickly. Okay, you can get a better deal in Jersey you can go do different things. Um, yeah.


About the Guest(s):

Ki Smith is the owner and founder of Key Smith Gallery. Born and raised in New York City, Ki grew up surrounded by the arts, thanks to his grandparents who were artists themselves. This upbringing instilled in him a deep appreciation for art and a belief in its potential as a viable career path. Ki’s family background in the arts, including his mother and brother being artists, further solidified his passion for the industry. With a strong entrepreneurial mindset, Ki sees himself as a coach or GM of a sports team, working closely with artists to bring out their best and build a strong roster of talent. He believes in the importance of artists believing in themselves and their work, as well as the role of galleries in supporting and promoting artists.

Episode Summary:

In this episode, Ki Smith shares his journey from growing up in a creative family to becoming the owner of Key Smith Gallery. He discusses the importance of having a supportive environment for artists and the challenges they face in pursuing their passion. Ki also emphasizes the role of galleries in helping artists thrive and the need for artists to believe in themselves and their work. He shares stories of working with artists and building a strong community around the gallery. Ki’s insights shed light on the dedication, patience, and self-reflection required to succeed as an artist.

Key Takeaways:

  • Growing up in a creative environment can provide a unique perspective and a sense of possibility for pursuing a career in the arts.
  • Artists often face pushback from society and even their own families when choosing a career in the arts, but having a supportive environment can make a significant difference.
  • Galleries play a crucial role in supporting and promoting artists, and gallerists should act as coaches or GMs, helping artists thrive and building a strong roster of talent.
  • Artists need to believe in themselves and their work, as self-confidence is essential in navigating the art world and building a successful career.
  • The journey of an artist is a lifelong process, and there is no timeline for success. Artists can continue to evolve and create throughout their lives, with many artists being discovered later in their careers.

Notable Quotes:

  • “If you don’t have the belief in yourself, it makes it very difficult to organically build a market with a strong foundation.” – Ki Smith
  • “Artists are constantly collecting things and storing things, and there is intention behind it. Even if it seems aimless, there is a belief that at some point it will all make sense.” – Ki Smith
  • “The correct answer to how long it took to make a piece is not just the time it took to physically create it, but also the hours and days spent conceptualizing and thinking about the piece.” – Ki Smith

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.

Ki Smith

Ki Smith
Image taken from Soraa’s official website

Ki Smith is a native New Yorker and the owner/founder of Ki Smith Gallery in the Lower East Side. He began working in local art galleries at the Agee of 16. At 21, he co-founded Apostrophe NYC, which gained recognition for its innovative pop-up exhibitions at venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA PS1, and NYC subway stations.

Smith founded Ki Smith Gallery in 2018 and opened the gallery’s first physical location in 2019. Since then, Ki Smith Gallery has been featured at art fairs in New York and Miami 

Smith is deeply dedicated to the arts and his contemporaries “drawing inspiration from dealers of the 1970s—like Richard Bellamy or Paula Cooper—who were often the same age or not much older than the artists they represented,” (Abby Schultz for Barron’s, 2019). Ki is passionate about promoting the arts in New York City and creating enduring relationships with artists.

Ki Smith was born and raised in New York City. Ki’s grandparents moved from Japan in the 50’s to pursue their careers as artists, and having grown up around the arts is something that he is truly grateful for. In Ki’s case, creativity runs in the family. With a brother who is also an artist, and an aunt who is an architect, for Ki, choosing this line of work was not a difficult decision to make as he always associated a sense of optimism with the art world.

Image taken from Shoutout LA’s  website

Having a growth mindset

Ki admits that he was never very good at school, and in his 11th grade he was asked to leave high school. He was given the option by his parents to either return to school or get a job, and he opted for the latter. And so he went for a walk in the neighborhood, and ended up getting a job at a gallery.

Ki did manage to go to an art school for a year, but ended up leaving after 2 semesters. For Ki, education is something more of a mindset, and as long as you are willing to constantly learn and re-learn, you can make it work. Even at the time, Ki had a very experimental approach towards life where he was not scared to try out new things, even if he had no clue how he would be able to manage that. But this is something that Ki highlights as an important aspect of being an entrepreneur or an artist, to have a mindset where you are open to any possibility that can provide you with growth.

Being confident

Another things that Ki highlights is an artist’s ability to have confidence in themselves. Once an artist has self-confidence in their skills, the gallery will start believing in the artist as well. The result? It will make it much more likely for the client to believe in that artist’s work as well, and you can then begin to organically build a ‘market with strong foundation’.

I say as a gallerist, that the first thing is the artist has to believe in themselves.

Ki Smith – Arts to Hearts Podcast s04e01

Ki thinks of himself as more of a coach, someone who has to bring out the best in his artists. He believes that it’s his job to allow the artists to thrive and push their boundaries, and so with such an attitude, he considers his job as more of a coach building his ‘team around certain players’.  

Working for what you want

An advantage artists have over other careers is that they have no limits, they can choose to make art at any age. Unlike an athlete, they don’t have the disadvantage of the waning youth that could negatively affect their performance. An artist can begin as a child, or s/he can choose to start making art in his/her forty’s, there are no rules to it. And that Is what is so beautiful about art, it doesn’t care who you are or at what stage of life you are at, it will embrace you with open arms always!

Art is something that continues to kind of evolve and build.

Ki Smith – Arts to Hearts Podcast s04e01

As an artist, all you need is patience and dedication, and leave the rest up to the universe. For Ki, a perfect example of this was his grandparents’ life, both of who went to work every single day and kept going back to their loft. In his grandfather’s words, “busy is good”. After all, it is staying active that keeps the mind young!

For an artist, a piece of art is not made in the span of a few days or a few hours, but rather years. An artist spends months thinking about an idea, before s/he brings it to life on a canvas. And that’s why, an artist is someone who has no choice but to work constantly, even if it’s not manifested physically at times, and they must be credited for it.

Artists do really kind of live, breathe and think the work.

Ki Smith – Arts to Hearts Podcast s04e01

If you are someone who wants to start their own business, but don’t have the means to do it, we can all learn a thing or two from Ki’s experience. Ki’s story of how he acquired a space, which was previously a fish market, and turned it into a gallery is inspirational to say the least.

As a gallerist, Ki had the vision, but he was not sure how to achieve his dream of opening a gallery. One of his first exhibitions in Manhattan was the result of a collaboration, where he exhibited some of his artists at a friend’s place, and invited over some guests. That’s where he got a great piece of advice that would benefit all the artists out there, which was to always introduce yourself to people who are not in a conversation or engaged, and that’s how you can make sure that you are actively expanding your network.

It was this approach that ultimately led Ki to his final destination, a site whose potential he saw at that time. Even though he did not have the amount necessary to lease the place, he was able to sell artwork worth $50000 in five days and was able to seal the deal. And that’s how Ki Smith Gallery came into being!

Image taken from official website of Ki Smith Gallery

Stay tuned as our conversation with Ki Smith is done! Watch this space as we’ll release the second part of our podcast, which will details Ki’s journey as a gallerist. Meanwhile, you can check out Ki’s work on his Gallery’s website and Instagram.

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


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