SIBYL WALTON FROM TEACHER TO ART GALLERY OWNER BY JEAN PERRY
When the owners pay attention to the marketplace, art galleries can be profitable. “We met our financial targets in 2017 and in 2018,” says former teacher turned gallery owner, Sibyl Walton. “We are confident that we are building a solid foundation for future sales, and birthing collectors.” Sibyl and co-founders, Sylvia Mackey in Maryland and Porter Ajayi and Fidelis Eze Odogwu in Nigeria, opened Artfully Spaced Gallery in Los Angeles, in 2017.
Their efforts are paying off due to their focus the work of the 2019 resident artists: Sandra Zebi from Brazil, Anne Cheek LaRose, Sidney Tuggerson, Jr., and Stanley Smith, from the US, and Damola Adepoju, Fidelis Eze Odogwu, Porter Ajayi, and Bimbo Adenugba from Nigeria. A team of associates and volunteers also support their efforts.
The gallery is located in Los Angeles at 4401Slauson Avenue, inside the Copies Plus Building on the corner of Slauson Avenue and Angeles Vista Boulevard.
Usually open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1 pm to 4 pm it’s best to call ahead before you go. Sibyl is her mother’s caretaker, and may sometimes be needed unexpectedly.
Call: (323) 445-4684 to arrange your visit by appointment. Note that in some areas, when calling by landline you may need to add 1 before the area code. See the works of these artists at: https://www.artfullyspacedgallery.com
At Artfully Spaced Gallery the idea of community is local, national, and international.
“Our mission is to support emerging and established artists in Los Angeles along with artists from various communities on other continents, Sibyl explains. “The goal is to facilitate an exchange of cultural and artistic ideas…and to have a venue in which to exhibit participants’ works.”
The gallery’s 2019 resident artists are l: Sandra Zebi from Brazil, Anne Cheek LaRose, Sidney Tuggerson, Jr., and Stanley Smith, from the US, and Damola Adepoju, Fidelis Eze Odogwu, Porter Ajayi, and Bimbo Adenugba from Nigeria.
In Los Angeles, their outreach work includes various workshops for “…teachers and students,” Sibyl notes, “who may not always have time or funding to go to galleries or museums. The joy in it for us is that it provides professional growth and exposure for the artists while providing a great service to the community.”
The gallery also sponsors panel discussions for high school and college students thinking about starting a businesses or having a career in the arts. Several patrons and volunteers speak on how to be career-ready and share stories about their successes and challenges.
Sibyl’s interest in community stems, in part, from her enrollment at Chapman College in Orange, CA. Her mother suggested that she enroll in the school’s World Campus Afloat program, where students live aboard ship for a semester. The program started at Chapman in 1965 and was known as the University of the Seven Seas. Its goal is to help students become thought leaders and global citizens.
“In my sophomore year, we went to Africa, Asia, and Hawaii. My love and understanding of diversity really blossomed. We visited Liberia, Senegal, Angola, and South Africa.
She began collecting antique West African wood and bronze sculptures. “ As I began to meet more and more artists, our discussions led to the idea of a showing, which eventually led to the broader idea of a community-based gallery.
“Originally I was going to have poetry readings and art exhibits in my den. But their expertise and level of work was so high that we started talking about having juried committees from the US and Nigeria to come to exhibits. I said “Oh my goodness, we can‘t do this in a den, we have to have a gallery! We have the same expectations, goals, and missions of any gallery from New York to Paris and I guess that’s how we got to where we are today. We’re going into our third year this March 2019.”
“The most difficult moment was when I switched from being a wood and bronze antique collector to being a contemporary enthusiast. I collected large African pieces and had to I have to broaden my scope because I had now entered the world of contemporary painting and sculpture.
“Wood and bronze is beautiful but I knew I had to focus on what would be marketable to most people. With the encouragement and inspiration of the all the founders and our associates we just had to make a decision about that. We had to make a decision about our brand.”
The book Rainmakers by Areva Martin helped. ‘The book was written to those wanting to be talk show hosts,” Sibyl says, “ but I took it out of that context and applied it to growing a brand. I am now a student of this book. It helped us put the gallery’s brand out there in a focused way that included professional artists as well as our Los Angeles community.
Before opening the gallery, Sibyl taught students and trained teachers for thirty-seven years, with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
What do you wish you had known that you know now?
“To relax. To not take everything so personally. To let negative comments roll off me. Those are only opinions about a piece of art. Some people don’t know how to see past their objections to the positive in something.
“This business is not about me, I am just a conduit in a movement to establish collectors and specifically African Americans to become collectors of art, especially art from Africa.