We had the good fortune of connecting with Jane Coats Eckert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jane, is there something you believe many others might not?
The piece of advice I was constantly given is “You can’t make it there”. My first gallery, where I specialized in 19th and 20th century art was in a small town north of Indianapolis, literally in a cornfield. Everyone said no one will travel that far to see you. The next gallery was in Naples, Florida and I mounted shows on great American artists such as Rauschenberg, Christo, Rosenquist Indiana and Lichtenstein. People told me to move to Miami as it was the center of art in Florida.
Eventually I moved north, settling first in a small Connecticut village and last year to where I am now on the campus of Mass Moca. The conventional wisdom was ” Go to NYC!”
Fortunately I forged my own path and found that clients found me and liked being in a friendly space where they were relaxed and could enjoy the art experience of Eckert Fine Art. Now I know if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Although I am not an “artist” who puts paint to canvas, I have succeeded as a gallery owner by seeing talent in others. I studied elementary education in college, but married a very creative man who had degrees in fine art and art history. He worked at a major museum and my art education came from our searching thru the racks of the museum’s storage area, Whistler, Turner, Sargeant were all there to discover and somehow seeing the pieces in person rather than in a book made it much more exciting. You could see the brushstrokes, the true colors, the gentleness or boldness of the artist’s touch. I was smitten! I seemed to have a knack for business and since neither of us wanted to work for someone else, we decided to open an antique shop specializing in furniture and fine art from the area. It was in the Midwest in the 1980’s and we had no one to mentor us or give advice so we made it up on the fly. We worked really hard ( lived in the furnace room of our first shop), never taking vacations or any days off for the first five years. The funny thing is that it didn’t seem like work since we loved what we were doing.. We could only afford 5 pieces when we opened, 2 paintings, and 3 pieces of antique furniture. Someone peaked in our window the night before we were to open and asked if he could come in. Much to our surprise he said he’d take all 5 pieces and we were off and running.
Sadly, my husband and I are no longer together but I have kept the business going through the years and I love it as much today and as I did when we started.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My gallery is on the campus of Mass Moca in North Adams, Mass, so the first thing I’d advise is to visit that amazing museum. The James Turrell installations there are mind blowing and the Sol LeWitt murals should not be missed. Also I’d say visit in September and come for the Fresh Grass music festival. Ten minutes away is the Clark Museum with masterpieces by French Impressionists and the Williams College Museum which mounts important shows.
Also Tanglewood, Williamstown Theater, Jacob’s Pillow, Hancock Shaker Village, Norman Rockwell Museum are just a few of the other cultural sites in the area..
As for food, Bright Ideas Brewery and Chignon Taco truck on campus of Mass Moca plus Mezze and the Barn in Williamstown.
For lodging, Tourists ( owned by John Stirratt of Wilco) and Porches both in N. Adams
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I dedicate my Shoutout to my wonderful parents, June and Troy, who loaned me the $250 to start my business back in the 1980.
Jane personal photo courtesy of Tom Neuwirth, all others courtesy Eckert Fine Art.