We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa (Mel) Barrett and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melissa (Mel), why did you pursue a creative career?
I have always been creative. Growing up as an only child, I was constantly making things and figuring out ways to entertain myself. When I was in high school, I enrolled in an art class as an elective — just to get the credits — and it turned out I had a knack for it! I ended up taking art classes for the remainder of my high school experience. Having found my passion, I decided to pursue art professionally. Now thirteen years later, I have become an artist, curator, gallerist, and museum specialist. I have worked with numerous arts institutions throughout California, such as the Carmel Art Association, Arts Council for Monterey County, William Turner Gallery, and many more. Along the way, I founded Visual Culture Arts (VCA), a consultancy with the purpose of helping artists, such as myself, navigate through the administrative side of the art world. Eventually, VCA grew and evolved to encompass an online art gallery and marketing consultancy. With the advent of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the restrictions it placed on in-person art shows and mandatory closures of museums, VCA pivoted to focus primarily on digital marketing. Pivoting to digital marketing has helped VCA adapt and stay relevant during the Pandemic.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Our modern society has become a visual culture. We encounter visuals countless times a day — through billboards, ads, logos, movies, artworks — the list goes on. At the heart of this realization is where Visual Culture Arts (VCA) was born. Inspired by my passion for the arts, I founded VCA with the goal of aiding the artists and creators of our visual culture. Rooted in the founding of Visual Culture Arts, an online art gallery, management company for artists, and marketing consultancy, was the goal to help artists further their careers. VCA has now expanded to help individuals and companies alike navigate through the worlds of fine art and digital marketing. Since I am an artist who has earned certifications in Museum and Gallery Practices, Digital Marketing, Google Analytics, and Facebook Blueprint, I have a unique point of view where I can see both sides of the table and therefore help bridge the gap for others. While VCA still provides services to artists, the company is pivoting to focus more primarily in digital marketing and providing services such as: social media, paid search, and email marketing campaigns. Marketing has always played a critical role in the arts, and any industry, however in today’s climate having a strong online presence is more important than ever. Building a life in the arts has been no easy feat. It’s been an incredible challenge — I have encountered countless setbacks and have taken many risks. The methods in which I have found success, and overcame the challenges presented to me, were by being resilient, preserving, and adapting. While the path I have chosen has not been easy, I would not change it for the world because there is nothing more rewarding than following your dreams and helping others achieve theirs along the way. Visual Culture Arts can help build an art collection, promote artwork to galleries and museums, curate an exhibition, coordinate an event, provide marketing services, and so much more. You can find more information about VCA online at www.visualculturearts.com.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Pre-pandemic, my favorite weekend pastime was gallery hopping. I was a regular at art openings throughout the city. My favorite galleries to frequent were: Thinkspace, Corey Helford Gallery, Gabba Gallery and the Hive.

So is there a person, group, organization, book, etc that you want to dedicate your shoutout to? Who else deserves a little credit and recognition in your story?
I have had so many amazing friends and mentors during my journey through the arts. However, I think the most pivotal moment was stumbling across Juxtapoz Magazine when I was a teenager. Growing up in Carmel-by-the-Sea, I was surrounded by art galleries from an early age. The predominant style in galleries throughout that area tended to be distinctly hyper-realistic landscapes or commercialized abstract art. These landscapes and abstracts were my early influences, but the moment that I picked up Juxtapoz Magazine my mind was blown. Having never before seen “low-brow” or “pop surrealist” art (more recently coined “New Contemporary Art”) I was completely enthralled. It encouraged me to try new styles in my own work and later motivated me to move to Los Angeles.   After I had graduated college with a BA in Art History, a Minor in Studio Art, and a Certificate in Museum and Gallery Practices, I became heavily involved in the art scene in the Monterey area. I started out doing volunteer work with the Monterey Peninsula College Art Gallery which led to getting hired by organizations like the Monterey Museum of Art, and then the Carmel Art Association where I worked for several years. Through my experiences with these esteemed establishments, I was able to apply my knowledge and begin coordinating my own community based art events. Eventually it became clear to me that I had hit a glass ceiling in Monterey, so I started looking to broaden my horizons. I traveled to a few cities with known art scenes such as San Francisco, Laguna Beach, and Los Angeles, but I made up my mind to relocate the moment I stepped into Thinkspace Projects, which was located in the Culver City Arts District at the time. Thinkspace Projects which was founded in 2005 is a catalyst for the New Contemporary Art movement. When I first walked in to Thinkspace, the art of Jeremy Fish was on the walls. Jeremy is an artist whose work I had seen only on the cover of Juxtapoz magazine prior to that moment. I felt star struck seeing his work in person and close up for the first time. At that moment, I knew I had to move to Los Angeles and become involved in the art L.A. scene. Just a few months later, I moved to Santa Monica, and I have been here for four years now. Because of the pivotal impact they had on my direction in the arts and for all of the inspiration and encouragement that they bring to the arts community, my shout out goes to Juxtapoz Magazine and Thinkspace Projects. I would also like to say thank you to the following individuals for being a part of my artistic journey: Maggie Bevier, Lien Truong, Melissa Pickford, Melanie Cota, Karen Crews-Hendon, Richard Tette, Paulette Lynch, Jackie Aitcheson, Chris Winfield, Andy James White, Craig Krull, William Turner, Rich Marcus, Steven Zevitas, LC Croskey, Shawn Hosner, Andrew Hosner, Ken Flewellyn, and Matthew Grabelsky. At one time or another, all of these people have helped me define my vision, develop my skills, or encouraged me to set and achieve my goals.

Website: www.visualculturearts.com

Instagram: @visualculture_arts

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mel-barrett/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/visualculturearts

Other: Check out my marketing & events portfolio here: www.melissabarrett.org
Personal Instagram Handles: @melbarrett_arts / @melissaxdigital

Image Credits
Conner Lee Coughenour, Gary Geiger, Nic Coury, Vico Hernandez

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