Whit Geary is a seasoned art dealer, a stretch beyond the 10 year anniversary she is celebrating this month as owner of VIEW GALLERY in Canton Mart Square in LeFleur East.
“I peddled prior to that,” she said with a laugh on a recent afternoon.
“When I started installing art (in a client’s home)… the way it woke up a space, it just changed everything for me.”
At the beginning of her 25-year career as an interior designer, Geary was always discovering artists who weren’t yet established in the area, selling their work, informally representing their talents.
When interior designer Lisa Palmer opened SummerHouse at The Township in Ridgeland in 2003, Geary was on staff.
“We funneled several artists I had been selling into her store. (The experience) propelled me to think, ‘Maybe I could do something on my own.’ When the smallest space became available at The Township (in 2009), I decided to (open VIEW GALLERY).”
Geary’s run in Ridgeland lasted six years. With school-aged children still at home, wanted a space that allowed her shorter hours, lower rents and the ability to provide more personal attention to her family, her artists and her clients.
“When I realized this space (at Canton Mart Square) had been vacant a while, my wheels just started turning,” she said. “My monthly would go down so much. I was guessing it would be like moving to another town. And it was. When I moved here (in 2015), people from Jackson who wouldn’t drive eight more minutes (to Ridgeland) would come here. A whole new market opened for me.”
Geary attributed her success to her evolution as a business owner – growing a thicker skin and demanding more of herself. But, she also credited Lee Malouf, a sales associate and artist who has been on staff for nine of the last 10 years.
“A few years into working for me, she got brave enough to bring in some of what she had been working on,” Geary said of Malouf. “She loves art and she loves to work with people. She knows how to ask the right questions.”
Which can be important in working with designers (“a good portion of the business”) and first-time art buyers, who Geary said are prioritizing art earlier in life – and have questions of their own.
“As approachable as I try to make my business, I hope people feel the freedom to walk through (the gallery). Questions are always welcomed here. I love the questions.”
Geary cited several methodologies to metro-area art galleries (one that frames, one that has a “super-cool” space downtown and hosts regular shows and one in Ridgeland where the owner is an artist).
“I have a good relationship with them all,” she said. “We all have a bit of a different slant and mine is my interior design background. I can truly look at a space, look at pictures of (a client’s) home, drop things off or step in if they’re insecure and not working with a designer; that’s what I bring to the table. It’s where I play the strongest and I’m happy to do it.”
Art is an investment and Geary hopes buying art from VIEW GALLERY is always seen as a pleasant experience.
“I just want it to be approachable for people. I think there’s a lot of joy and relaxation in seeing something that’s beautiful and that’s important to me.”