Bridgette Mayer started her eponymous gallery in 2001, at the age of 26, right out of college and after she had spent time working in New York galleries and saw how poorly they treated their artists. From that time on, she wanted to work with artists and not against them, and help them achieve success in their careers.
Artblog has followed Bridgette and her gallery from almost its inception, and we have written about her, and about the artists in her gallery stable, like Tim McFarlane, Rebecca Rutstein, Charles Burwell, Eileen Neff — and more.
Right now, I’m excited about two things: Tim McFarlane’s current solo exhibition at the gallery and Bridgette’s “Art MBA” workshop “The Empowered Artist,” taking place online Saturday, Sept. 11, 9 AM – 6 PM. I am one of 7 speakers in the all-day workshop and will be talking with Bridgette at 9:30 AM about all things media-related, and I hope you can join us! There will be a Q&A for participants and I’m always happy to answer questions.
Interested in the workshop? The good news is that Artblog is offering discounted tickets through our special link!
Tickets you buy through our link will be credited to Artblog and we will receive proceeds back from the sales! Yay! So get a discounted ticket through our link and share the link with your friends! Thanks and love.
[00:00:12] Roberta Fallon: Hi, everybody, welcome to Artblog Radio! It’s Roberta. And in this very special episode, sponsored by Bridgette Mayer Gallery, I’m happy to introduce Bridgette Mayer. Welcome Bridgette!
[00:00:25] Bridgette Mayer: Thank you Roberta! So great to be here with you.
[00:00:28] Roberta Fallon: We’re so happy to have you. Thanks for being here. So, Bridgette Mayer is an artist and savvy business woman with a successful gallery, a robust Art Advisory practice, and a program to mentor and educate artists in better practices. That’s amazing. There’s many, many, many things to talk about, but I want to start with what’s going on now in your life, Bridgette. You have this current project– in addition to everything else, you’re a very multi-tasking person– Art MBA.
So, it has online classes, you’ve got a book, and an upcoming workshop on September 11th called “The Empowered Artist.” So you want to talk a little bit about Art MBA and then about the workshop?
[00:01:14] Bridgette Mayer: I would love to, and thank you.
And I just want to also say, I really feel grateful for all the things that you bring to the Philadelphia community. I know so many artists, and myself, and gallery owners feel grateful that there’s a place where they can get press and get people talking about their projects. That seems to be one of the big challenges in Philadelphia, to get press and coverage. And Artblog has been such a leader in the community. So I just want to say thank you for all the hard work that you and your team do to keep promoting the arts in Philadelphia. Cause it really helps all of us. So I just wanted to acknowledge you and I’m so glad to be here.
As you mentioned– I just want to back up– I’ve had a passion for working with artists since I started my gallery in 2001. I came into the industry as a fine artist with an Art History degree. Once I stepped into the industry and started working in galleries, I could quickly see how artists were kind of getting the short end of the stick, often, with galleries. So I really started to pay attention to their challenges and the things that were difficult for them in the industry. And at the time was trying to decide between a career as an Artist, or a career as a Gallery Owner. And I kept leaning towards the Gallery Owner, which I ended up opening a gallery and I’ve done it now for 21 years. So my sensitivities are very much in alignment with artists.
Once I got my business to a really great place, after many years of hard work, I decided to write my first book, which was called “The Art Cure” it was kind of a prelude to the book I wanted to write, which would be a business book for artists called “The Modern Artist’s Way.”
And I wanted people to know my story. People make a lot of assumptions about people in the arts that do well. No, I didn’t come from a wealthy family. I did not have family money to start my gallery. I didn’t have financial backers and private supporters. People like to sometimes think that it’s easier than it is for people.
I literally started with zero money and zero clients. so So I share my story in “The Art Cure.” And I decided for that book to do my first artist’s workshop where I had 50 artists come into my gallery, I did a three and a half hour educational workshop teaching them things that they could start utilizing to grow their career. And their results that evening, and after, were phenomenal.
People were so excited and they felt empowered with the information I shared. And so that evolved to a coaching program where I took a handful of artists and my goal was to see, okay, I don’t represent these artists. I’ve never worked with them. Can I help them have the success that I’ve created in my gallery and with artists that I’ve worked with?
So it was kind of an experiment. I coached five artists over six months and their results were phenomenal. So, I decided to take all the content that I was coaching and writing about and put it into an online course called Art MBA. And I wanted to make it accessible to artists from all around the United States, have it be a go at your own pace curriculum.
So, we had some challenges, it was in production, and then COVID hit. And the recording studio, I was working with shutdown, the team that was, creating the programming, everything, for me online, they were based in London and their office shut down because a bunch of people got COVID. So we had a really Rocky start to getting it off the ground because of all the tech challenges around people closing with COVID.
But it finally launched in June of 2020, and I had my first class, and then we had another class come in. And concurrent with that program launching, I wrote another book called “Art MBA Mindset”. I took my interest in my own mindset and how it evolved, and the mindsets that I was seeing in artists that were holding them back. So all of that stuff is on my website.
And Art MBA is an amazing community of several hundred artists that are learning and growing together, they do the material that, you know, they have online, they have their own portals, they can come in and out any time. I have several hundred videos that I teach, all types of topics, like: how to get a gallery, how to grow your finances, how to market yourself in the art world, all of the meat that artists don’t know.
So it’s become this incredible passion project that keeps growing. The thing that I love hearing is when an artist- I get emails every day and people share, “I tried this, I did this in the program, and this happened.” And that’s what really gets me excited when I see people that, might be stuck and they’re trying the content that I’ve written, that is tested. I’ve done this work with many artists over many years, so I know it works. But to see artists that I don’t know get a result from my, my teaching is really exciting to me. And that’s what keeps me going. And I love, I love this program.
[00:06:55] Roberta Fallon: Wow. The way you describe it, it grew rather organically.
Although It did sound a little bit like you may have had a big vision, even as a young woman starting your gallery. You already started seeing a vision.
[00:07:11] Bridgette Mayer: Well, so what’s interesting is my first major gallery job after college was in New York and I was the Gallery Manager. So when artists were having a problem, I was the person they were calling. And they would say, “When’s my next show?” “Nothing’s happening with my show.” “I’m not getting any press.” “There’s no marketing going out.” I would get a lot of calls saying, “Hey, where’s the money? I thought the sale was made several months ago.”
So I started to realize that things were not what they seemed on the surface of this gallery business, and that there was a lot going on in the background where the gallery truly wasn’t operating in service of the artists. It was operating in service of itself. And I started noticing this in the other galleries I was working in. And then I started, you know, talking to artists and, you know, they were telling me what was not happening for them and how they were frustrated.
And so, you know, I made a commitment when I opened my gallery that I would be very artist centric. I essentially would work for my artists, that I would try to help them have whatever financial level they wanted. And that became kind of my north star with my business, which is why I think it’s done so well.
And with that, and being in the Philadelphia community, I would get artists coming in kind of telling me the same stuff I was hearing in New York. “God, my gallery is not doing this.” “I’m not doing well.” “I can’t figure out how to do this on my own.” “I’m not making enough money.” “I can’t find a gallery.” And I started hearing the same things, over and over, from different people.
And I said, well, I’m a problem solver at heart. When you have a business– and you know, this Roberta– when there’s a problem, and you’re at the head of the table, you have to solve the problem, whether it’s financing or just anything you’re trying to do.
So I started asking myself, how can I solve this problem for artists? How can I help them? Because I know a lot, and I know a lot of insider information, and I literally heard a little voice in my head saying, “write a book.” And I was like, well, I don’t want to just, I want to write my story first, so that people know my background.
I came from a horrific childhood. I was abused and neglected for the first nine years of my life. Then I was put in foster care and I was adopted, luckily. It’s very unusual to get adopted when you’re nine years old, but luckily I found a great family. And my life did a total 180, but it wasn’t easy. And I wanted people to know that you can literally start with the worst background, with no foundation in the arts, with no family backing, with no money, have a vision, have purpose, have a dream, and figure out how to move it ahead.
And so that, that became my purpose. And then the next book was to write the business book that I thought artists needed. I think these things should be taught in college and in grad school. I think we’re discovering now that the traditional educational model in many industries is not preparing people for the reality of what they face when they’re in the job market. And the arts is a very challenging, confusing space to be in. And there’s no guidebook, there’s no map. I didn’t have a map when I graduated. So it was like, let me create… Let me create this and give artists a GPS. And basically at any level you can come into Art MBA, whether you’re established, whether you’re emerging, whether you’re just graduating, my hope is that people in college will grab it so that they can start thinking ahead and planning. So it’s really meant to cover everything. It’s a very deep program. I’ve had people tell me that, this is so much information. And I try to over-deliver when I’m doing stuff for artists and make sure that they get more than what they’re paying for.
So, so far it’s going feedback’s been amazing. And I actually, I had some people audit my class that were not in the program and give me feedback. And they asked me to break it down into smaller chunks. So I ended up creating another 53 videos and a hundred- page workbook to make it even more accessible. So that happened, we launched that in January.
[00:11:50] Roberta Fallon: Oh, my God. So when do you eat and sleep? (laughs)
[00:11:56] Bridgette Mayer: (laughs) You know, I think I’m a workaholic. I love the work that I do. I’m realizing I just, I love what I do and I love helping people. And so that really drives me and I’m pretty organized. And I also, over the last probably five years have figured out how to work with a team. Have people around me that are doing the tech stuff, and the stuff that I find challenging, where I can still… I want to write and create, and I need people to help me put it together.
So I’ve created a really awesome team that helps me.
[00:12:31] Roberta Fallon: it’s hard to work with a team!
[00:12:33] Bridgette Mayer: It is!
[00:12:34] Roberta Fallon: After you been a solo practitioner as a gallery owner, well, and an artist, you have a sort of a singular mindset. Which is something that they should teach against in college also. And I’m sure it’s in your course, teamwork is better than solo work.
[00:12:51] Bridgette Mayer: Oh, it’s just… I can’t do anything without a team. And even my gallery artists are a team. Like, all of them. There’s I have a teen artists that I represent. They’re their own team for the business, and individually. And that’s… you know, I think being in a community is so important. And I think that’s one of the wonderful things that has come out of Art MBA, is there’s several hundred artists that I coach live in the group once a month. And we’ll have a hundred people online, and people are asking questions, people are sharing resources in that live chat. And it’s been really connective.
And I think it’s really easy as a artist to be in your studio by yourself, you feel alone, you’re often isolated making your art. You know, in the last two years we’ve lost openings, we’ve lost community events, so I think creatives have been alone even more? My community has served a really wonderful addition to people to have connection during the week.
But that’s vital. Yeah.
[00:13:53] Roberta Fallon: Yeah.
So speaking of teams– and you call your artists in the studio a team, which I really love– who was your first artist and how did your team of artists in the gallery grow? Because there’s a certain organicity to the community of artists that you have. I mean, they’re very interesting people and their art is vibrant and forward and colorful.
So tell us that story, that origin story.
[00:14:25] Bridgette Mayer: Oh, I love it. Well, so I started my gallery, I opened it in may of 2001. I was 26 years old. When I was walking around Philadelphia at that time, and before that, what I wasn’t seeing was young artists coming out of grad school, showing in galleries in a serious way. I was seeing a lot of established galleries that had their roster, and the artists were older.
And so I said to myself, I want young artists literally walking out of grad school, my age, that were young, vibrant, and their work was amazing. I love abstract art. That was my focus in college. And I wanted a gallery with abstraction. That was going to be the primary focus of the program.
So I was starting to look around. I actually remember I did a call to art on, InLiquid, for a corporate project I was helping to curate in 2001. And this was when artists were showing slides. I asked artists, send me a packet with your resume, your bio, your statement, and eight slides.
And I only got one artist that responded to that call to art. And that artist was Rebecca Rutstein. And she literally emailed me and said, “Can I drop this off somewhere?” And I said, “Sure, come to Seventh and Spruce Street.” That’s where my office was at the time. She literally handed me her packet. We met face to face. She was one of the first artists I signed on. I loved her work.
Then I was like, okay, I need a couple of very established artists to set the bar on the other end. So I had a professor at Bucknell, an amazing artist, he had shown at the Whitney, he was in the Guggenheim Collection and I was like, “There’s no way he’s going to sign on with me, but I’m going to ask him.” And that was Neil Anderson. And he taught at Bucknell for almost 30 years. So I called him, I told him I was starting a gallery that I really wanted to represent him, and he said yes.
So those are my first two artists, and then I saw a few artists coming out of Penn, I saw a few artists coming out of Tyler, so it just started growing and then people were saying, “Oh, you should look at this artist, you should look at that artist.” So there was an organicness to it.
So that’s how it grew. And my first show was called “Young and Fun.”
[00:17:00] Roberta Fallon: (laughs) That’s great. In fact, speaking of that title, you’re really good with show titles! When you reopened your gallery after being closed for a little bit during COVID- we should tell this story. You should tell this story. You reopened your gallery and I’ll let you tell the story. And then you can tell the name of the show.
[00:17:22] Bridgette Mayer: Oh, good. All right. So I, I’m a big proponent of evolution, growth and change. I think change is so important in any type of business, change is important for a creative, and evolving your work, evolving your vision, not getting stuck. And that’s one of the challenges in the art world. You get comfortable, you just kind of do the same thing over and over and…. But, it can get a little bit stagnant.
So in 2016, my husband and I decided to expand to California. He got a job offer, we had always wanted to move there. So I decided to be bi-coastal. I kept my gallery, I was commuting back and forth twice a month. I did that for, gosh, almost two years. I had a full staff working for me in Philadelphia. I had five staff in the gallery and then myself running everything.
But what I noticed was that I was working harder than ever, but the results weren’t getting better! They were kind of staying the same. I had a gallery director, they weren’t really doing much, they weren’t selling much. And as a matter of fact, my team started to fall apart a little bit in my absence. And I had to work harder to maintain everything.
So at the end of the financial year, I decided to look at all the sales I’d made that year and see: how are they made; who made them; where did they come from? And what I noticed was that one, I made all the sales. Two, if they were made on the phone, through email, and through presentations. So I looked at that and I said, why the hell do I have this $50,000 overhead staff I’m working harder, I’m remote and not much has happening!
So I’m like, “it’s time to change the model.” So I decided to do a 180, turn into a by-appointment only gallery, I cut my staff down, and I became a remote, by-appointment only gallery. And I did that in 2017. And what happened was my business skyrocketed. I, it skyrocketed!
I… that year I did $2 million dollars in consulting projects. I not only could do it, but I had the time to do it. My sales grew, the sales for the artists maintained consistently, so I wasn’t dropping my artists, I was growing them at the same rate we had been growing financially, so things really flourished.
Flash forward to the last year, I had rented my gallery space to a tenant, it was a very high end suit company. It was an NFL athlete, they were doing custom suits… Their business closed, they went bankrupt because of Covid. Their business was a come in to the shop, get measured, go to events, weddings, all this stuff that stopped. So they basically went bankrupt. They called me they’re like they had two years left on their lease. They said “We have to move out.” And I said, “Okay!”
And then I thought, “Is this my chance to come back in?” And so I decided to reopen! And that’s what I did. Which is interesting. We reopened June 1st, 2021, and my official opening date when I opened was June 1st, in 2001. So I think that’s really interesting.
[00:20:49] Roberta Fallon: Hmm.
[00:20:50] Bridgette Mayer: So I reopened. My uh, show title was “Karmic Joy.” And basically, that is my focus. In my life, and in my business, and the work I’m doing. I want to feel joyful. I want to bring joy to people. I want people to find joy in art, in artists. I want artists to have joy in the work that they’re doing and their careers.
So it’s kind of bringing it full circle: “Karmic Joy.” (laughs)
[00:21:19] Roberta Fallon: Well, it was a perfect title for a show when we thought we were coming out of… you know, the worst of it?
[00:21:27] Bridgette Mayer: Okay. Yeah!
[00:21:28] Roberta Fallon: We had like three weeks, a window where we were all happier, and joyful
[00:21:34] Bridgette Mayer: Yes!
[00:21:35] Roberta Fallon: And joy is so important, and that was the one thing that we were missing. So it was such a delight to have that show come out.
And I saw that show with you! You took me through it, we were wearing masks and whatnot, and it was a joyful show.
[00:21:53] Bridgette Mayer: Yeah. Lots of color. I love color, and… Ah, just, I love being around art that’s… I tend to go for beauty, and process, and uniqueness. But color’s always my starting point. Yeah.
[00:22:08] Roberta Fallon: No, it was great. And it spoke to me of… I guess, exactly what you said, it’s what you strive for in your own life. It felt personal in a way, you know, the title?
And it’s something that, I think most people don’t think of striving for? Joy? They think “I want to be happy.” Well, happiness is sort of a different thing than joy, but I, I like your emphasis on joy.
That feels right.
[00:22:38] Bridgette Mayer: It does. And I think, what I’ve noticed for myself and other artists is that, the best part of, I think what many of us do is being in the art. Like, being around the art, making the art, (for artists)… for me, hanging it, showing it, sharing it, and selling it. That’s the joy for me. A lot of what I came out of when I shifted my model was… it was a lot of stress.
There was a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot just on my shoulders. I made a commitment that I’m not doing it like that. We’re going to be driven by a different purpose, and joy is my guiding word right now.
Is this making me feel joyful? Is this joyful? (laughs) And If it’s not, then I don’t need to deal with it. (laughs)
[00:23:23] Roberta Fallon: You know, that’s really a good way to sort of triage your to-do list.
[00:23:29] Bridgette Mayer: Yeah! Absolutely. ( laughs)
[00:23:32] Roberta Fallon: So let’s get to some specifics here of Art MBA.
How do people sign up for it, if they’re very interested in seeing what you have to offer? Because you do not offer what is being offered in art school. You offer what should be offered in art school.
[00:23:50] Bridgette Mayer: Yeah. Thank you! So you can go to my website,
BridgetteMayer.com, the info’s on there. I also have a blog on there, I write about a lot of business topics for artists and creatives. It’s on my blog on that website. I also have a YouTube page, Bridgette Mayer- if you go on YouTube and just put in “Bridgette Mayer” my page comes up. I just posted several videos. What I ended up doing is, I get a lot of emails with artists saying, “Hey, I’m having this challenge” and I turn it into a coaching video.
And so for example, I just had an artist who she was having a museum show, the museum basically totally mishandled her show. And she was incredibly frustrated. She said she was thinking about not making a certain type of art anymore that was really beautiful, because of her experience with this museum… So I ended up doing a coaching intervention, I created a video about how to handle unprofessionalism in the arts, as an artist. It’s on that page, my YouTube page.
When I was coming through the industry, I couldn’t get anyone to share anything with me. I would ask a gallery owner, “How do you do well financially?” and people looked at me like I was crazy! They didn’t want to share. There’s, it’s this interesting thing in our industry where people just kind of… information is secretive.
I’ve taken the opposite approach. If I can put out a video and it helps one person… This artist was so depressed and I could see that she wasn’t thinking beyond, how to leverage her museum show opportunity. So for me, it’s what information can I share from my experience of works that can help someone? And so anyway, all of it’s there.
And then if people want a taste of what our Art MBA is, as you know, I’m doing a workshop on Saturday, September 11th. It’s online, it’s on zoom. So it’s an all day event.
I have seven experts in the arts and Roberta’s one of them. They’re going to be sharing information that’s going to be incredibly helpful for artists. I have a museum curator that’s going to share how to present your art to museum curators, what to do, what not to do. I have Jane Golden from mural arts. She’s going to talk about how to get a mural, how to, how to prepare your portfolio, and what to do and what not to do to get a mural project or a large commission project.
I have all kinds of information on this event that– I like sharing what people don’t know and what they need to know. So this event’s going to be, it’s a taste of Art MBA.
[00:26:35] Roberta Fallon: Cool. Yeah. Speaking of murals, you’ve placed a number of murals. Some of your artists have murals around Philadelphia- Charles Burwell, Rebecca Rutstein,
[00:26:48] Bridgette Mayer: Yeah.
[00:26:48] Roberta Fallon: Tim MacFarlane, who else? Anybody else?
[00:26:52] Bridgette Mayer: Well, so… rebecca is about to do another mural.
[00:26:55] Roberta Fallon: Oh!
[00:26:56] Bridgette Mayer: Tim’s about to do another indoor mural. And then a big one that’s coming up that we’re going to announce in two weeks is Arden Bendler Browning is doing a major public mural with Mural Arts in Philadelphia. And that’s really exciting. So I think… I haven’t counted, I think we’re up to close to 10 murals..
And the reason I like doing murals is because it’s a giant billboard.
[00:27:23] Roberta Fallon: Yeah.
[00:27:24] Bridgette Mayer: You know, I just had, for example, I had a client that was not aware of Tim’s art. She saw his mural every day she walked home. She fell in love with the mural, and she would chat with Tim. She emailed me, hey, I really like his art. Can you send me information? I wouldn’t have known her. She wouldn’t would not have known us. Had she not seen this mural going up? Guess what? She just bought paintings. So comes giant billboard for the artists and community.
[00:27:55] Roberta Fallon: What I love about these particular murals is it it’s abstract art
[00:28:02] Bridgette Mayer: Yes.
[00:28:03] Roberta Fallon: Because people say, “oh, abstract art, my kid could do it,” or don’t like it…
They’re lovable. And your kid could not do this, and you could not do this. And I think it gives people an appreciation, right, something new.
[00:28:21] Bridgette Mayer: Yeah. I agree, Roberta and Philadelphia has a tradition of figurative murals and now, I know Jane Golden and other people are really trying to create more innovation. There’s been a big shift in the last several years with mural projects. I think we’re going to see more of that.
So I think some of these abstract artists that never had a chance to do a mural are now getting their chance.
[00:28:48] Roberta Fallon: It’s great.
So what’s coming up on your gallery? I know you have a new show opening in September with Tim McFarlane, right?
[00:28:55] Bridgette Mayer: Yeah! So Tim McFarlane is our seasoner opening show and it’s going to run September through the end of October. Then we have Eileen Neff coming in, she has an amazing Philadelphia photographer, I know Roberta, I think you’ve interviewed her on your program before, too,
[00:29:12] Roberta Fallon: Yes. Yes. We have a podcast, uh-huh! Eileen’s great.
[00:29:16] Bridgette Mayer: I just saw Eileen’s incredible, she’s brilliant. I just feel really grateful that I get to work with her. She’s a Philadelphia treasure.
So that’s coming up and then actually, our benefit show! We do a benefit show every two years to benefit Philadelphia nonprofits. That’s been curated and that’s happening in October. That’s opening at 990 Spring Garden Street, October 7th. And we’ll have the show online and many of your audience are probably in the exhibition.
[00:29:46] Roberta Fallon: Wow. That’s great.
[00:29:47] Bridgette Mayer: My workshop is Saturday, September 11th. We’ve been working on that for the last several months and making sure it’s going to be incredible for all the audience and the artists.
So yeah. A lot!
[00:29:59] Roberta Fallon: Total lot. Well, Bridget, it’s been such a pleasure talking to you, and hearing your joy kind of pour out of you the way it always does. I mean, I’ve known you for a long time now and every conversation we have, it’s sort of upbeat and joyful.
I have say, we look at art, but you’re a total art wonk! So you great, great art talk. And always enjoyed talking with you and this morning it was a special pleasure to talk with you. So Thank you much!
And we will see you around. We’ll see your people’s murals around and I’ll see you at the workshop on September 11th. Looking forward to that.
[00:30:40] Bridgette Mayer: Yeah, you’re, you’re always a crowd favorite. Interviewed Roberta in Art MBA. She gave tips on how to handle getting press. And I know a few people tried what you taught, and they got press. They got results. So they were so excited to have heard you talk.
[00:30:58] Roberta Fallon: I’ll have to bone up on that. I’ll look at that old video!
[00:31:01] Bridgette Mayer: I have questions that send you,
[00:31:03] Roberta Fallon: (laughs)
[00:31:03] Bridgette Mayer: But you know, I just want to end by telling your audience, there are a lot of artists out there that are stuck, or struggling, or not where they want to be. I’ve been there. I’ve worked with many artists that have been there.
I do believe– and you know, I’ve worked on this over many years– that you can have a dream and a vision and you can get there.
You need the information, you need the mentorship, you need the knowledge to kind of shortcut it for you. To make it easier. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Get around people like me and Roberta, mentors that can help you. And I do believe that all artists can have the career that they want.
I truly believe that. I’ve watched it happen over many years, so…
[00:31:49] Roberta Fallon: All right. That’s a great note to end on. Thank you, Bridgette.
[00:31:54] Bridgette Mayer: Thanks Roberta! Have a good September coming up.
[00:31:56] Roberta Fallon: Thank you, you as well! See you soon. Thank you everybody for listening. We’ve been on Artblog Radio with Bridgette Mayer, sponsored by Bridgette Mayer Gallery. See you next time. Bye bye.