We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley L. Voss and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley L., we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks is an essential part of achieving our goals. When faced with uncertainty, we learn more about ourselves and the steps we need to take to reach our desired outcome. Especially in the arts industry––where a clear path to success is uncommon––I learned to welcome the unknown.
My first professional risk was entering college with a major in graphic design instead of choosing a more stable career path. While in school I learned that my interests weighed heavily on the business side of art so I gravitated towards a degree in arts management with a minor in art history. This was right before another risky decision to take a semester off of school (with only one semester left to graduate) to move to New Orleans to participate in four internships at a contemporary arts center, curatorial residency program, artist cooperative, and for an independent fashion designer. These hands-on opportunities were pivotal in my understanding of where I wanted to be in the future.
After graduating from a university in Wisconsin, I returned to New Orleans to continue my work with the curatorial residency to help establish its nonprofit status. This was a fulfilling yet risky endeavour since I was working to create a new arts space versus entering the workforce for a reputable organization. Through this opportunity I learned the power of a good idea and the importance of seeing it through.
In 2017 I relocated to San Francisco to continue my arts career at a commercial art gallery with little connection to the city beforehand. Excited about new possibilities, I embraced the management position and established strong relationships with artists and the local community. Eager for change and with the support of friends and family I took the biggest risk of all and opened an art gallery of my own, Voss Gallery, in September 2019.
It took a lot of courage to dispel the notion of there being a “right time” to start a business––that today can be the day! Without having a journey filled with diversion and choice I might still be dreaming about opening an art gallery. Risks are a beautiful thing!
What should our readers know about your business?
Voss Gallery is a safe place for artists and collectors to learn about art and ask questions. Too often there is a barrier of entry for art lovers to take the next step and purchase a work in support of an artist’s career. I’m trying to cultivate a younger generation of art collectors to learn about art, define for themselves what they like, and help them find the perfect piece to add inspiration to their lives! I also value the importance of treating artists with respect and work closely with them to continue their careers and find fair opportunities. Too often artists are asked to provide their professional services for exposure––which is unheard of in other industries. I think it’s important to educate and redefine the value of art and the place it has in our society.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I always enjoy viewing the current exhibitions at LACMA and The Broad when visiting LA––I can immerse myself for hours! If I’m looking for a more casual arts experience I head to the Arts District and check out the murals and galleries with a coffee in hand. To end the day, you can’t go wrong with a cocktail (or two) paired with great company! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would first like to thank my parents for teaching me the value of having a strong moral compass. Their unconditional support along with family, friends and gallery artists continues to fuel my professional drive and dedication to making a difference through the arts.
The conversations I’ve had throughout the years with mentors who challenged me to further understand my purpose and be more thoughtful about why I am doing things shaped me. We can all go through the motions but having people who encourage you to take a step back and reflect on how you got to where you are is important.
In terms of a local organization, I’d like to give a shoutout to ArtSpan and highlight their annual SF Open Studios program that provides a unique opportunity for art enthusiasts to connect with over 800 local artists in their studios. I became involved with the nonprofit soon after moving to the area and am grateful for the relationships I’ve built while serving on their outreach committee and participating in their various programs.
Amy Tam, Jho, and Nick Otto.