03: Alternative Gallery Spaces with M’Ria’s Mezzanine

03: Alternative Gallery Spaces with M’Ria’s Mezzanine

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

M’Ria and I discuss how she approaches curation and consignment at local businesses painting as a performance, and how your genuineness and interpersonal relationships can turn into sales.

You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:


Chain Assembly: In this episode, we're lucky enough to speak with the wonderful M’ria of M’ria's Mezzanine. As we discuss in the podcast, I met her a long time ago and she does a marvelous job of helping coordinate local events and curate local shows at small businesses for the benefit of other artists in the area. So I want to talk a bit about how I organize my notes for these sessions. 

I have a spreadsheet that I call Art on Display - Exhibiting. And on that, there is a different page for each one of the locations where I sell consignment or hang art.. On the spreadsheet I have:

  • The date that I put it up
  • The date that I'm supposed to take it down
  • Who my contact is
  • I also put the sizes
  • The price that I'm asking for it
  • What the location’s cut as a percentage is
  • What I paid to get that piece made
  • And quantities

Most of the time it's just one, but with this document, I'm able to track anytime I have a sale, I can see how profitable that location was, and I can easily see if maybe things have been taken off the wall and I need to go in and replace them with some new pieces. This approach has really helped me easily see which pieces I've already shown in a particular area and if I need to move them around to different regions.

Aside from that, I also always create art cards that list my contact information, the website where they can buy the piece to pay for it online, as well as a QR code directly to that portion of my website. So with the benefit of Shopify, I'm able to create collections. For example, I have art hanging at Overflow Brewery in St. Pete. So if someone went to http://overflow.chainassembly.com they would be able to see the pieces that I have currently hanging on the wall there and they'll be able to check out from my online store and take the piece with them. This process has reduced the barrier to entry for anyone who wants to buy a piece but doesn't want to deal with cash or Venmo or PayPal. Doing this online checkout system has made it easier for me to get sales with these locations when I'm not around to collect their card with a Square Reader.

And again, this is almost all thanks to Maria and the hard work she does in the area. So let's go ahead and move into our interview with M’ria at M’ria's Mezzanine.

A Conversation with M’ria’s Mezzanine

Chain Assembly: Today I am joined by M’ria of M’ria’s Mezzanine. M’ria is a wonderful artist in the Saint Pete/Tampa Bay area who seems to make it to every single event that's going on all the time. So always impressed with the energy she brings to things. Thanks for joining me, M’ria. 

M’ria’s Mezzanine: Thanks for having me, Nick. This is awesome.

CA: I'm hoping this becomes something useful for some listeners, some people who are hoping to figure out how to make money as art. So I know every artist kind of makes their money in different ways. So that's kind of what I figured these conversations would be good for. And I know you are probably better at socially engaging with people. And I don't mean on social media. I mean, like just physically meeting up with people and having engaging conversations with people, you're better at that than anyone I know. So I thought you'd be a great person to bring into this. 

MM: Well, thank you. That's awesome. 

CA: So we were, before I started the recording, we were trying to figure out how we met. I feel like the first time I met you was maybe at Overflow Brewery. 

MM: Either Overflow or take it a step back to Crafty Fest with Marina. 

CA: Yeah, so that could have been it, Crafty Fest. Also going even maybe earlier, maybe, well. One of my, this was probably not the first time we met, but one of the earliest memories I had involving you was over at Project Dark Arts. 

MM: Oh yeah. Yeah. 

CA: Although even before that, so I remember at Project Dark Arts, Jonathan James was there and I recognized him from the Art After Dark event we did at 81 Bay.

MM: I feel like 81 Bay was before that, so I must have met you even before that. So maybe it was Crafty Fest. Well, you did stuff with Ray-anne, formerly known as Terry Navajo in Fringe, right? 

CA: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I was wondering what happened to Terry Navajo. 

MM: She moved to a different place, a different state, to Kentucky, I think.

CA:  Well, I think that's actually a good way to kind of talk about how you got involved with what you're doing, which is curating shows at different breweries and cafes and stuff around the area. So how did you get involved into that? 

MM: Well, basically it started, I had my kids and then I was painting in the studio and applying to all these different galleries and shows and getting a lot of rejections, like rejections to me, I was like, this is it, I'm not gonna apply to any more shows, I'm just gonna be an artist in my cave and call it a day. But I applied to Fringe Creative Show and Terry reached out to me and said, hey, let's do it. And I was like, okay, cool. So it was like a little shimmer of light at the end of a long dark hallway. And then I started working with her and getting my work into the breweries and the little cafe shops and whatnot. And then as Fringe developed, she like as they got more and more businesses on board, she needed to help curating different locations. So I was like, you know, I can do that, not a problem. So I learned, you know, a bit from her on curating and then everything was super cool and awesome and heading for the right direction. And then, you know, the pandemics happened. So everything kind of stopped. And a lot of people went in different ways after that. So Terry, left to go pursue her own interests. And in and a lot of businesses were closing. So in light of just trying to keep the community alive after and through the pandemic, because you know, it's just a lot of people lost hope. I just kind of picked up where she left off and just started doing the curating for the breweries that were still open. Businesses that were still open and just kind of just did that way. So and even still, you know, a lot of there's just there's always an ebb and flow of businesses opening and closing. So just being there to support the local business, the local artists and go with the tide, you know, economic. Yeah. 

CA: So so tell me which of the businesses you're currently with or I guess you if we wanted to define it that you curate for right now. 

MM: I curate overflow brewing company in St. Pete, Seamades Creamery in Seminole Heights, Valhalla in Seminole Heights, Seventh Sun Brewery in Seminole Heights, Bull Market, it's off of Gandy and Hines in South Tampa. I think that's everybody at the moment. 

CA: Wow, that's a lot. 

MM: So it's definitely a lot, but it's less than it was.

CA: So what does it look like when you go into a place and say, hi, my name's M’ria, I wanna be your art curator? 

MM: Oh, let me, before we go that way, don’t let me forget Voyage Med Spa in St. Pete. That's the newest one. 

CA: Oh yeah, I think I remember you mentioning that one. 

MM: Yeah, let me not forget them. Actually, it's kind of the reverse of what it is. I haven't been actively seeking new places. They have been reaching out to me. And so when the place reaches out to me, I'll go and meet with the owners, you know, see what they want out of it or if they just want, you know, to help local artists show their work or if they want to cut a percentage and then just curate the walls based on what the owners expectations are. I know a lot of artists and a lot of different styles and a lot of different media. So, you know, one place wants, you know, explicit nudity, I can do that. Other places don't necessarily want that. We can go a different route. Other places don't care. And just like you do you. And so then we just fill the walls as best we can. 

CA: What is traditionally the kind of cut that the location wants? If there is any kind of tradition for that? 

MM: So I try to keep. My goal is to always have the artists leave with 100% of their profit. But you know, the different businesses are set up in different ways. For instance, Seamades Creamery takes 30% of sales, whereas Voyage only would take 10% of sales. All the other places I believe are 100% for the artist as well. So I try to negotiate with them. Sometimes it doesn't go that great. But I usually can get them to either be completely for the artist or at least 10%. 10% is not too bad. 

CA: So being on the receiving side of it, those numbers are all still very agreeable to me as an artist. Mostly because I mean, mostly because it always helps to get pieces out of my house. So just having them stored someplace that people will see them makes a benefit is a benefit in itself to me. But obviously, yeah, it's always helpful too. But I mean, if they're going to take a cut, we would always just adjust the price accordingly. So how often do you cycle out art at these locations? And how organized are you with tracking that? 

MM: So I cycle everything basically about every two months or so. Voyage likes to be rotated out every three months, so it's more of a quarterly exchange. But then there are some like Valhalla like to have fresh work on the walls every month. So I cycle them out once a month. I have a spreadsheet that tracks everything. There is that. And I do like sometimes like right now I'm hosting a show at the Emerald Bar, a pride show. And so sometimes I'll have owners reach out and ask if I'll do like a one-month show or two months show, either a group show or, you know, personal show either way. So that's cool. But usually, I try to do it every two months with little wiggle room for life events and surprises. 

CA: That's awesome. Yeah. So I mean, I can always count on you to get me into places. It's all it almost feels like you're an artist agent for tons of people. And so I know you were taking a cut for a short while and then you kind of stopped with that. I gladly paid it, but can I ask why that was? 

MM: When I did that. I was driving, you know, because I live in Plant City and there is a point, especially after the pandemic, where I found my studio full of other people's artwork, and not my artwork. And I couldn't really produce anything because it felt really cluttered. And then I ended up just taking people's work home, because at the time also I had some places, some walls in Lakeland, so I would take pieces from Lakeland to St. Pete. And, you know, I just, I don't really want to make money off of other people's artwork. I just want to pay for my gas. And so, and then, you know, I'm not the kind of person to go chase somebody down over 10%. So it was kind of loosely thrown in there. If it didn't happen, I wasn't going to sweat about it. 

CA: Have you thought about being more of an official art agent? 

MM: Not really. It just kind of happens. I have thought about like, how I've ended up having the connections that I have gotten, I guess, over the years. And they're kind of cool. How I ended up in places and met different people and then have the connections that I do have. And I like to share with other artists. But I also really believe that artists- like I'm going to give you the tools to do it, but I'm not going to. And I'll hold your hand for a little bit. But, you know, at some point you got to fly on your own. Like, I'll kick you out of the nest so you can make your own waves.

CA: I think a good example of that, too, is you have the requirement, which seems silly that you even need to announce this, but the requirement is that each artist has a way to collect payments on their own. 

MM: Right. 

CA: It must have been pretty frustrating when you were trying to take over that for people. 

Well, right. And in part with that, it becomes like a really big tax headache, especially with, you know, IRS cracking down on electronic transactions. If I'm collecting all the electronic payments from people and then giving it out and some people would be like, oh, well just give me cash. Well, then it looks like, you know, on paper that I've collected all the money and it's my profit, which it's not. So then it just becomes a really complicated tax spreadsheet, let's just say, of documenting the money that comes in, the money, where it goes. So that's another reason, really the main reason that I really like kind of stress that, hey, you guys got to collect your own monies. Because having to go in and out of you know, in Venmo or cash app or, you know, either of those ways or whatever. It just gets and I don't even know if I should be super stressed about it, but I am just stressed about it. 

CA: Well, I mean, just one thing in itself, if PayPal notices you doing too many friends and family transactions per month it can lock your account. 

MM: Right.

CA: So let's talk about your art specifically then. What process do you use to collect sales when your art is hanging at a brewery or a location or a temp gallery? 

MM: I use the same as I encourage other artists to use. I put my Venmo Cash app and I do put my phone number out there and I do tell them I will accept a Zelle should they choose to do that. I also always accept cash. That's cool too. It just depends on the location where I will accept cash. And then also some, not all the places, but some places, like for instance, Seamades, which is separate from all the other ones, they will collect the payment for the artist and then they will transfer me the money. So I'm still kind of doing that. And then I transferred to everybody else with them. But we haven't figured out a different way to do it over there differently as of right now. But yeah, I just use a regular Venmo Cash app. I don't really use PayPal because I use PayPal for other things. I like to keep those separate. It helps me track things better. 

CA: I could say personally, what I do is on because my online store is built on Shopify, I'm able to create a collection, which is kind of just like a kind of landing page that lists a bunch of different art or a bunch of different products that are tied to that collection. So I create a collection for each one of the locations that I have art hanging in and I create a QR code for it that I put on the art labels. And so when people scan that, it takes them to that section of my website that lists the art that is currently on the wall, in addition to art that has sold. So that way they can see things that are no longer available, but they still get a sense of what is things that I have made in the past. I also like bringing them to my website because then it kind of helps build my branding for that specifically. 

MM: Yeah, I'm actually a little jelly of all that because I was like, that's so cool. One day maybe I'll have time to sit in front of the computer and do that. But you know, probably not. 

CA: Well, you do have Square, right? 

MM: I do have Square. Yeah. 

CA: So Square does allow you to create very basic but free online stores. I don't know if you've played with that yet. 

MM: I have. Again, I could I have the capability to do so. I just lack the hours in the day. 

CA: I totally understand that, especially considering you've got some children running around. So let's talk a bit about the art that you sell specifically. Do you ever do prints? Or have you just basically just done paintings? 

MM: Um, so I mean, it's been a long progression. I have done two print runs in my, the history of printing for my work. So I guess they're limited edition print runs. I still have about 11 left of the one print. But for me, I don't think they sell as quickly as other people's work does. And it's just really, also really hard for me to, well, not anymore, but it used to be really difficult for me to, and sometimes it still is, take a picture of my work because it's super, super shiny. And there are lots of reflections. But I don't know, just prints never really moved as they would move for other people. So I just kind of stuck with the original work. Regardless of size. 

CA: I really, I mean, I definitely understand that being this case with your work, because you produce paintings pretty quickly. 

MM: Yeah. Yeah. 

CA: So you have a large body of work. And when you're even just doing like a small event, you'll be there with maybe 20 paintings. When people approach your art set up, I imagine they approach it wanting to leave with an original piece rather than a print of something because it just seems so much more approachable with your setup to get an original piece.

MM: Yeah. And I mean, I do like the selling. One of the things I can say is like, you know, there's only one of each in the world, there's no reproductions of any size. So sometimes that makes people feel a little bit more special about the piece that they're taking home. 

CA: So how do you approach the pricing of your pieces? 

MM: I've just determined that I just go by size. It makes more sense to me. I guess size and I know I shouldn't be emotionally connected to pieces, but If I am, then the price is a little bit higher. I really don't want it to sell. I like I mean, again, I know that's like a no, no. 

CA: Well, why would you think that's a no, no? 

MM: I don't know. It's just, you know, at the end of the day, a painting is an object. And yeah, and then, you know, I have the time and effort and thought and all that good stuff in it. And I have done it for all the paintings, but sometimes there are just some of them are just a little bit, you know, I don't know, closer to my heart. So.

CA: I understand what you're saying about having the emotional connection to pieces and you being sad to see them go. Yeah. But in my case, I rarely ever hang my own art. So do you hang your own art? 

MM: Yeah. 

CA: Okay. So then yeah, I can see that being more of a reason for you wanting to not let something go. 

MM: Right. I mean, well, there are pieces that are still at my house that have never left. And so one day they will leave because I'll be like, oh, I don't have anymore. I need that. I'll just grab it off the wall and take it out and then realize that you know, hey, it needed to go out. And now I have space to make something new. Or like, for instance, at Overflow, if I accidentally forget to label one of my paintings, it's not necessarily that I accidentally got to. So I really like it. So I'll get, of course, I'll get a question- the bartender will text me like, Hey, this doesn't have a label. How much is it if someone wants it? So I'll throw a number out there. And then that's the number that I'm okay with letting it go at. So if someone wants to buy out of that number, cool. Those are always fun problems to have. 

CA: Yes, yes. 

MM: That's not really a linear answer. I understand. 

CA: But it's not a linear conversation. So one thing I was wondering too, that kind of came up with a conversation with another artist is, um, how do you reckon with pieces that you've held for years? Do you kind of keep something out of the sales counter, if you will, or do you kind of like cycle what you bring to an event? Do you bring very old stuff and new stuff or is it random? I don't know if you have any kind of chronological approach to that. 

MM: There are a couple of pieces that have gone out into the world but I was reluctant to do so. But, and people really like them but I still don't necessarily want to sell them unless it's a really great offer. But yeah, I do cycle some of my older work out of there. Zeal is the, I don't know if you've ever seen her, but if you ever see Zeal, she's a 48 by 26-inch painting. She's not, well, she was bought and then given to me as a present. So that's the kind of. But anyways, like, yeah, I'll take some of the work out and not really any chronological order. Also, a lot of paintings that except for Zeal and Void, but like other paintings that are older. Sometimes they don't really last long at my house. So the work is always constantly being repainted. 

CA: So if you have a piece that you feel like it's been shown many times and it doesn't really seem like the audience is receptive to it, you'll paint over it? 

MM: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah, actually recently I had a, well not recently I guess, at the end of last year I was going through a, I'm gonna paint over everything kind of phase. And so I made sure that everything that I wanted, that I didn't want to paint over was out of the house, so someone could see it. But it wasn't within my grasp, per se, that I couldn't just walk into the house, pull it off the wall, then pour paint all over it. So and then even with that, I have a solo show coming up in two weeks for Disco Dolls, well, at Disco Dolls, even though I had plenty of work that could have gone into that show, I felt like some of the pieces had been shown too many times and so they got redone a little bit. 

CA: So how often do you feel like you develop an audience through your social media? Like, do you have people who follow you on Instagram and then show up at your shows? Or do you feel like almost all are just people you've met in person? 

MM: I have not. Well, no, I did meet someone who followed me on Instagram and then came to my show. That was a weird experience. In like a good way. I just never have never not met somebody and then they'd be like, Oh, I know who you are. I follow you on social media. Well, I know. 

CA: But most people know you because they've met you in person or been to a show that I know your online presence isn't really the biggest. That's kind of why I was thinking of that question. 

MM: Yeah, no, I would agree. It's mostly people that I've met in person over the years. 

CA: Do you want to have a bigger online presence? Do online sales stuff like that? 

MM: I mean, I dabbled in a little bit and I've never actually made a sale online. 

CA: I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it at the moment. 

MM: I mean, sure. If some of it was able to, I don't know. I still have to wrap my head around that for my personal work anyways. I really admire those who have been able to do that effectively and efficiently. So I didn't like even like I want. I always like I was it. What's that site? Etsy. I had tried. I had tried to set up an Etsy shop six years ago. And there was something that always bothered me when I got into the last step of setting it up. So I never actually did it. And I feel Etsy is more of a site for crafting things. I don't know, I mean, I know people who do sell their paintings on Etsy. And again, awesome for them

CA: My biggest gripe with Etsy, yes, I use it and yes, I make a decent amount of sales of my Tarot decks. But my biggest gripe is anyone who buys a M’ria painting on Etsy, they're going to think of it as something they bought from Etsy, not something they bought from M’ria. 

MM: Right. 

CA: So have you done any, for lack of a better term, merchandising of your paintings? 

MM: Not really. I always kind of liked that, that's merchandising. But stickers is as far as it went, you know, for instance, Mark Williams merchandise, like he's got shirts and bags and backpacks and cool purses and he's got his own line of clothing and all that. And that is awesome. I tried to figure that out and I got a really bad migraine. So I stepped away from the computer. It's just, it's not for me, I guess.

CA: I think one thing that could work pretty well, somewhere between the two, where you could still do original things, but still get people excited about owning a piece of M’ria's art. I could imagine some type of situation where maybe you're selling blind boxes, smaller paintings. I know your paintings don't usually get that small, but I could imagine someone buying like you get a box and you don't know what the painting is going to look like. They open it up. It's a surprise. Maybe they just choose like a color to match their aesthetic or something. I can imagine that being a good successful way, too. 

MM: Well, that's how I do commissions really. When I do get commissions, it's basically picking a color or a set of colors and you want the figures to be in any specific pose. You want one figure or multiple figures. That's how I run the commission.

CA: That would make sense. 

MM: I did for a little while have some smaller pieces in those lucid vending vending machines. I also had stickers in those machines. The stickers sold quicker than the pieces. 

CA: I had some stuff through those vending machines for a while, but slowly they kind of phased me out of them. And I got the sense that they really just wanted to sell their own stuff as they started kind of making cheaper items to put in there. So I no longer really kind of consider those as a viable option, at least for me personally. So I stopped tracking that. So what percentage of your business income would you say is commission-based and what percentage is just sales of your unprompted paintings? 

MM: I'm just gonna go over the years, like a general, I say over the years, it's been about 50-50. So I'm gonna accumulate the last six years of art. And every year has been very different. Obviously, the economy is doing wacky things. There was one year that I had a, I guess you'd call him a patron. And so he would just, I would just do commissions for him all year long. And that was pretty much all that happened that year. But then, I guess, life happens and you drift away. Yeah, about 50-50. 

CA: I think that's pretty great, especially considering that when you do a commission, it's generally you're still saying still your same style of painting, right? 

MM: Usually. Well, most of the time, sometimes I get a little weird and challenge myself. I have done a couple of portrait commissions, which is very challenging for me, but I get it done and it's still kind of in my style, but it's still very much a portrait at the end of the day. And then I did a Star Wars commission. 

CA: Oh. 

MM: Yeah, it was like a six-piece series. They're really, really big. Again, in my style, but it was very much the Death Star, and don't hate me. I don't know the name of those planes that fly around. The one with Luke and the droid in it. Yeah, I know. I have that. Whatever plane that one is in space. 

CA: So let's talk about art markets, when you do kind of pop-up events, what does your setup typically look like? 

MM: Over the years, it has changed as well, but usually, I'll have grid walls that hang from the tent. Started a plastic lattice from Home Depot, and then I upgraded to the grid walls. And depending on the event depends on how they get hung from the tent. So if it's like an event where people are gonna be wanting to walk into the tent, then I put them around the edge. So it's like a box. So they have more of an entrance and an exit. Or sometimes I'll hang them like from the center of the tent and like a tee kind of fashion. So people could walk around it. So it's kind of like a mini gallery. But I always, I usually always have my painting station around there. So it's either off to the side or directly in the center, you know, depending on the event. 

CA: And to clarify painting station means you're live painting at events. If there's ever a chance for you to do live painting, you're going to be live painting, right? 

MM: Yes, most definitely. 

CA: Do you find that kind of gets in the way of you talking with potential customers and making sales? 

MM: Probably, probably does. But I enjoy it. And it kind of adds a little bit of a spectacle to the whole thing. I rather do a stage and then people will just stare at me on the stage. But painting. Painting. Stage. Let's clarify. 

CA: Well, it's funny because like even if it's a terrible event, you make no sales. You could be, well, at least I completed these paintings. 

MM: Right. 

CA: I've noticed personally with the events that I've attended over the years, the chances of me making no money has slimmed. I don't know if it's because people recognize me or because I've gotten better at picking events or my booth setup is just so much more attractive, probably a mix of all three. Have you noticed an upwards trend in the events you do or have you gotten not really as, well, I guess you don't go to events so much to make a lot of profit as much as I do. 

MM: Right. 

CA: I feel like maybe you're more there for the camaraderie, the event itself. I don't know. Is that accurate? 

MM: That's pretty much more accurate. Um, again, it's been an evolution over the years. And I know we had a conversation a little bit, not too long ago, where you said that you changed the, the, like the signage on your tent and it really did a, a great, like great boost in your sales for that. And I think that's freaking genius. And I think, you know, there was a time where it was for me, you know, trying to boost as many sales as possible, but I, for me anyways, it kind of- I don't know. It's just a weird thing. I think you are really, really great on branding. If anybody sees your sticker or your tent or even a color palette, that's chain assembly. 

CA: Thank you. 

MM: And just beeline towards it. You've done a really good job. 

CA: I always envy the amount of personal connections that you can make with people. You're more genuineness than I am. I'm terrible at remembering people. I'm terrible at remembering when I spoke to someone, I regularly have people come up to my booth saying, hey, Nick, how's it going? I haven’t seen you in forever. And I'm like, hey, person. So you have a completely different corner of the market, different, yeah, portion of the market corner. I don't know. You're a lot better at what you do. And I envy that. 

MM: Right, right. You know, I mean, art and art market, it's got all these different sides and we all bring our little piece to the table. 

CA: So I know you can't you couldn't possibly go to every event that's happening in Tampa Bay. So what are some things that would be red flags for an event? As in I'm not going to go to them. 

MM: Yeah. Sorry. Yes. Well, like I'm not going to attend it as an artist or I'm not going to go? 

CA: You're not going to set up shop and try and live paint and sell stuff. 

MM: First. I look at who it's being marketed towards. For instance, if an event, while it seems really cool, I don't know, hold on. Let me think of the words I'm trying to say. Like, you know, who is it marketed for? If your intention is to sell artwork, maybe you and also depending on what you're selling, because people have to carry around what they purchase. So I think sometimes that's something that needs to go into consideration. Also, for me now, it's the heat. I will not set up a tent in the Florida heat. I'm sorry. It is too hot. I don't know if I'm just getting old or what, but it is hot outside. 

CA: I know what you mean. I spoke to an artist in another episode recently who's in Orlando and that was also something she struggles with. I feel like because I play so many disc golf tournaments around Florida, I've gotten a bit more comfortable in the ridiculously hot heat. 

MM: Right. 

CA: But that being said, there are also fewer markets happening around Florida this time of year. 

MM: Right. I mean, I used to five years ago or was it, Marcus is seven, so maybe six years ago, six or seven years ago, I was like, it doesn't matter. I'm going to go out in the Florida heat. And it was so hot. And those are the markets that had the fewest people walking around. So, you know, I kind of just learned from that. Also, during the summer, It's hurricane season and a lot of things get rained out. So also something I look for is like the time of day. Like in the past, I would just wake up and at whatever time and, you know, do back-to-back markets. But then there's a couple not the I guess the year before the pandemic. I was like, well, I don't really like waking up early in the morning. So I'm going to pick events that are in the evening. Typically around alcoholic beverages. Because people like to buy things they're drinking, sometimes, usually. But, you know, and then this year, our living situation has changed again. So now we're early morning people. So, you know, it's just a fluctuation of what works best for the individual in general, you know? 

CA: Well, it's funny you bring up doing a market around alcoholic beverages. Like anytime I see something that's like craft beer and art festival or barbecue and art festival, nobody's gonna buy art because their hands are gonna be busy drinking beer and eating barbecue. But if yeah, if it's an event that has a bar, and there are vendors, then that's definitely a great event. 

MM: Right. I mean, I did like I did the scallop festival in Crystal River one year. 

CA: Oh, that sounds fun.

MM: It was really fun and my tent was right behind the scallop competition and I got all the free samples of all the freaking scallops. It was awesome. 

CA: I didn't even know that was a thing. I love scallops. I'm going to look that up. 

MM: It's really awesome. I can pull the name of the guy who runs it for you, who's in charge of it if you want. But it was really fun. Again, it is in Crystal River, so it was like a two-day event. So it was like an overnight thing for me. But I had a great time. I sold my booth fee, so I was happy and I got free food. 

CA: So what would you say is the most successful event you've sold at? 

MM: The most successful event that I have sold at was the art after- No, it wasn't called art. It was the Crash Landing Event at 81 Bay Brewing before the pandemic shut down. Wow. I don't know what was happening. And so I kind of joke with myself. I'm like, if I made a lot of money that day, like that evening, I was like super happy, but really confused. And then the next day, everything shut down. So I was like, so that's my omen. If I do really well, the world will shut down the next day. 

CA: Now, I remember, so it's funny you bring that up. So one event that I remember seeing you at that I wasn't vending at was a Pride event a couple of years ago, and your booth was packed. Did that translate to sales? 

MM: The one in Pinellas Park? I mean, for, I did okay during that event, but nothing like overwhelmingly, it was like, there were people in that tent. Also, that tent was split between four artists. 

CA: Oh, that's right. I remember there were a lot of you in there. It was crowded. So maybe those three of them were other artists, not customers. 

MM: Right. I mean, but there was still a lot of people in and out of the tent. There's a lot of people in general that that year, that event. Yeah, it was a great event as well. I believe we we did well, you know, again, nothing crazy to write home about. But we did pretty well. 

CA: It's sometimes an event is so fun, you don't even worry about the sales.

MM: Right, exactly. And then, you know, and then it's like, Oh, my god, we just, you know, made our booth fee back. Awesome. But we had so much fun doing it.

CA: There was a winter event in my neighborhood I organized last year, Winter in the Wood, because I live in the Kenwood neighborhood. And like sales-wise, I don't think I did that great. Like I probably like half of what has become my normal average in the last year. But I spent all year organizing that event with three other people and we just nailed everything perfectly. We had all of the local musicians from the neighborhood playing Christmas songs and it was just such a wonderful time it felt like a Hallmark Christmas movie and we were all drunk because we had like a little secret under-the-table spiced wine competition. And so we just had such a good time. Plus it’s only three blocks from the house. So the fact that my sales weren't that great, I didn't really care. I can understand moments when you don't really worry too much about sales. 

MM: Right. Right. 

CA: One thing I've noticed too is if a sale is sorry, if an event is very regular, like once a month, that's going to translate to pretty bad sales. Right. Which is wild because like, if you want to think about Art Walk as an event, a lot of people I've talked to who have vended at Art Walk, or people who have galleries that are part of an Art Walk, that doesn't really translate to great sales for them either. But It's better than sales on just any non-Art Walk day. So, like, for example, the I've done that Pinellas Park event and multiple times, and I hardly ever make any sales. But there was one day that a band was playing with a whole bunch of young 20-year-olds, and I made tons of money because a whole bunch of 20-year-olds showed up, and that's my target demographic. I had no idea who that band was or what reason they were there because they don't usually have bands playing at that area of the stage. But it was just a great night for me for some reason. 

MM: Nice. Nice. That's awesome. 

CA: Do you have any plans in the future on how you want your art business to grow? 

I mean, I wanted to grow. Definitely. Well, just see. I find it most satisfying when like because my work is it's different. And I noticed that a lot of people don't really know what they're looking at, which is fine, because art is just whatever. I understand that a lot of people don't understand what they're looking at when they're looking at my artwork. So that's cool. But then again on the other side, people who do see what I intended for them to see, and it's abstract art, so really they can see whatever the hell they want. And they do make the decision to purchase it and take it home. It means that they like really connected to it on some kind of, or they're just really drunk, you know, on some kind of level. So that makes me happy and I hope more people will do that. 

CA: Have you ever tried to have traditional representation in a gallery? 

MM: What do you mean like, I mean, we did House of Shadows. That was pretty. 

CA: Well, I mean like say, for example, signing an exclusivity contract with a gallery to be your sole distributor or something. 

MM: I don't think that's necessarily on my plate. 

CA: Right. 

MM: Just because I have. I think I've just been around the block too long. But I don't like to be that exclusive, I guess, is my, that would be my main issue. For like, instance, I was showing, we're gonna show an artist's work, and then like the show was hung and everything. And then we realized that he had, cause he did sign and it was really great for him. And I was super happy for him, but he signed a contract that said he couldn't show work in a specific county. And, you know, it was, it was okay. We all just took down everything, but I don't think for me, I would want that kind of limited, I don't think I'm there yet is the word, or I don't want that for my artwork, I guess. 

CA: I get that. I mean, you've kind of maybe on purpose, maybe inadvertently, but you've kind of built this persona where everyone's like, Do you know M’ria? Oh, yeah, I know M’ria. Everybody knows M’ria. And so kind of introducing exclusivity into your art, even if it's in the benefit of growing you as a public figure and like getting you more national recognition or something. All that could be good. At this point, it seems maybe disingenuous to who you are as a person and who you are as an artist. 

MM: Right. 

CA: I think yeah, I think what you're doing is great. And I applaud everything you do for the community. You've helped a lot of artists make a lot of sales and I hope you've made a lot of sales as a result of all the hard work you've put into it too. 

MM: Aw, thanks Nick. 

CA: Awesome. All right, so do you have any events coming up? I know you, not only do you work as a gallerist at multiple different locations, you also organize a lot of events. So are there any specific events coming up you wanna get people's attention pointed towards?

MM: We do have Art After Dark coming up in August. We moved, we changed it. I was at 81 Bay Brewing and then once they closed, we moved it to Seventh Sun Brewing. This year, we changed it from a monthly event because we did see that downturn to a tri-annual event because it's not technically quarterly, but it's so it's only in April, August and December. It's going to be in August. August 18th at 7th Sun Brewing in Seminole Heights. 

CA: That is kismet the way Art After Dark becomes April, August and December. Wow. 

MM: I figured if it's gonna like and even with Art After Dark, you know, because Art After Dark started at 81 Bay to, you know, bring the community together after the pandemic shut down because we needed community and there wasn't anything. And so it filled this void. And it was really great. And it's still really great. Sometimes people put like profit before I know it's kind of like the antithesis of what this conversation is about. But sometimes it's a profit before like what it's actually about and why it's started. And so yeah, anyways, I was struggling a lot with it. But I mean, even if art, even if this is the last year for art after dark. it will have served its purpose in the community. I hope it's not the last year for Art After Dark, but I feel like now for April, August, and December, it's kind of like, hopefully, that will be something that isn't thought every month. But yeah, there'll be a bunch of artists there, at least 10 local artists painting and vending, and then we'll have a traveling gentleman on stage because they built us a stage, a seventh sun, which is awesome. 

CA: Oh, wow. 

MM: Yeah, it's really, again, everything keeps on evolving. I never know what I'm going to find when I go to 7th Sun, which is great, in a good way, not a bad way, but there's a stage. So a traveling gentleman will be playing and I'll be live painting and there'll be a bunch of other artists live painting, and there'll be beer and non-alcoholic beverages as well and a food truck. And it's just a really great time for the community to come together as far as art is concerned. Everything else goes along with it. So that's definitely August. In two weeks, I have a solo show at disco dolls, which is also in Seminole Heights. We have a pride event at the Emerald Bar the pride show. And there's also a pride event on June 24 at overflow with a couple of fun shows in the evening. That for right now is all I can think about.

CA: Well, I've got two pieces in the Emerald show. So I'm rolled in over floor both in St. Petersburg. And you hang art also at art pool gallery. 

MM: I don't hang I have my work there. But I'm right. 

CA: Sorry. That's what I meant. 

Yeah, I have work at art pool as well. Yes. 

CA: And then so if people want to find these events, you're going to be posting about them on your Instagram, which is at M’ria's Mezzanine at M-R-I-A-S M-E-Z-Z-A-N-I-N-E. I'm gonna put those in the show notes for this podcast, the link to your Instagram, and I'll dig up some of the Facebook links and put those in there too. 

MM: Cool, thanks Nick. 

CA: Well, Maria, this was a wonderful conversation. I think we got a lot of good information out of you that will help people walk into places to present themselves, promote themselves, and also grow their communities with similar events. So thank you so much again.

MM: You know, if you're a local artist and you're in St. Pete and you happen to be walking around Saturday night and have weird art questions, I bartend Saturday nights at Overflow. You're always welcome to come and ask me weird questions about art. 

CA: And you're also welcome to buy M’ria a beer. 

MM: There you go. That too. Thank you so much once again. 


Chain Assembly: Art for Profit’s Sake is recorded through Riverside FM, edited on Adobe Audition, and distributed through Spotify for podcasters. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you found anything helpful, interesting, or useful in this podcast, please rate and review us 5 stars. If you want to learn more about Chain Assembly, head on over to ChainAssembly.com.

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