There are franchises in the fast-food business.
And people have franchises in the auto parts business. And don't forget the franchises in sports equipment.Well, why aren't there franchise art galleries?
Former airline pilot Brian Walker believes the time has come for franchise art galleries, and since he has one year of successful experience in his first venture, there is no reason to believe he can't make it become a reality.
For the past 12 months, Brian; his wife, Charlene; and partners Craig and Linda Lee have been operating the Art Masters International Gallery at 592 Main Street in Park City, and the experiment was so successful that sales topped $400,000, something they consider unheard for a beginning art gallery.
Most art galleries are "mom and pop" operations, said Brian, many lacking the strength and exposure to make them viable entities in the art world. That's where Art Masters is different.
Brian has collected art for many years, including the 17 years he spent as a pilot for Western Air Lines, and has been in the gallery business for eight years in Salt Lake City and Park City. The Walkers decided to try the franchise idea a year ago and formed Creative Photography Inc., parent company of Art Masters and Stylecraft, a frame manufacturing company.
Their concept is rather simple. Open a gallery and attract local artists to distribute their works, which, obviously, are for sale. At the same time the gallery is attempting to sell the original works. The artists, if they choose, give Art Masters reproduction rights, allowing the gallery to reproduce paintings by a new process on artists' canvas.
Brian said he doesn't want to detract from the atmosphere of an art gallery with the reproduction business, but that is really where an artist can make money. Brian said the reproductions aren't for art investments, but rather go to decorate offices, businesses, government buildings, hotels and motels.
Art Masters can make any size of reproduction the customer wants. Original art is taken to shows for sale, and the reproductions are sold through brochures, Brian said.
Back to the franchise concept. Brian has advertised in the Wall Street Journal for people interested in area directorships and starting galleries in 50 sections of the country that will include all of the United States. Response so far has been tremendous, he says, and he wants to start in the West and gradually move eastward.
His goal is to have the 50 galleries in place, each attracting its own local artists, within 18 months. That will give Art Masters and the artists the power to market their works in all sections of the country.
A Salt Lake native, Brian is a University of Utah graduate in 1960 with an engineering degree. He was a U.S. Navy pilot for seven years before piloting for Western for 17 years.
Lloyd V. Olsen, an Idaho native, recently signed with Creative Photography as chief executive officer after 15 years with RCA Alaska Communications, his most recent stint as comptroller. Brian is chairman of the board of the parent company.
His wife, Charlene, and the Lees restored an old building on Park City's Main Street and turned it into a 3,000 square-foot multilevel gallery. "It was really thrilling to be a part of the grand opening, exhibiting the work of the very finest artists in the state, attracting a sophisticated and affluent group of collectors and achieving almost instant success," she said.
The exclusive reproductive process has allowed the gallery to develop business with decorators, designers and other commercial accounts. Their goal is $1 million sales by the end of their third year in business.