Art gallery with Atlanta roots helps baby boomers find success in second acts

In 2006, when Stephen Tanenbaum and Alex Farkas co-founded Ugallery -- an online marketplace for buying and selling art -- the online art market was still growing.

The two college friends initially focused on representing young artists and appealed to young art buyers. Having roots in the Atlanta metro area, they pulled a stable of emerging artists from local schools including the Art Institute of Atlanta, SCAD, Georgia State and UGA.

But in the 10 years since they were a startup, there has been a shift. Of the more than 500 artists they represent (mostly in North America) about half are over age 50 and one-quarter are over 60 years old.

"We have seen an evolution of our artist roster become more of the older demographic, as well as some of the customers," said Tanenbaum.

When they saw the change happening, they decided they needed to change with it.

"We worked hard to curate our collection and saw a need to find more seasoned artists looking to establish their careers," Farkas said. "From the artist's viewpoint it is tough to break into the art world at any age, but for people who are doing that as a second career, it can be tough to find a gallery."

It took Mary Pratt 15 years to earn her degree in fine arts, but today the Buford-based artist is one of the top-selling artists on Ugallery.

Pratt, 64, had always painted, but after raising her children, she was looking to do things on a bigger scale. A friend told her about Ugallery and she applied.

In 2010, she uploaded five paintings and forgot about it until the sales started to flow. She then decided it would be better to not ignore it and began uploading one painting per week.

"I’m pretty fast. I am very prolific," said Pratt, who believes more baby boomers are turning to art because they have the free time and because they appreciate finer living.

"Art makes people happy. It makes people joyful," said Pratt, whose paintings of marshes have resonated with art buyers.

Tanenbaum says art is a great way for boomers to enrich their lives at the next stage. Even for buyers on a fixed income, Ugallery offers options. The average price point is $1,250 but original pieces can range from $200 - $20,000 with many are under $1,000.

UGallery is home to the work of about 20 artists from Georgia and the state is among the top 10 for sales.

Lynn Pollard, 63, spent years as a weaver. She was more than a hobbyist -- she has a degree in textile engineering from Georgia Tech – but art had never been a prime source of her income, she said.

Still, her connection to art has allowed her the opportunity  to travel and meet a lot of interesting people. Fellow baby boomers, she said, are looking for a new ways to connect to the world around them.

"For people who have spent their lives behind desks, it is an amazing thing to walk into a studio and walk out with something you have made," said Pollard.

Farkas and Tanenbaum, both in their thirties, said they are enjoying a the chance to work with this new group of artists.

"It is a joy to work with artists who have been doing this for 30 years and let them revive their careers at a time when they thought it would be going in another direction," Tanenbaum said.


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.