Stephanie Walker returns to Vermont ready to bring her home state the best contemporary art from around the world.
Establishing oneself as a trustworthy person who sells expensive art to loyal patrons can be a bit challenging, especially since all that 2007 economic ugliness. What’s additionally challenging is the process of selecting artwork to sell, maintaining relationships with artists, showcasing their work while avoiding favoritism often shown to a more popular artist. Stephanie Walker does this kind of work strategically and has been doing it for 18 years. She makes a living by bringing buyers to artists while ensuring that her home state of Vermont, and the region in general, remains in dialogue with the global community of artists.
Walker’s introduction to the world of showing and selling art began when she helped manage an online inventory of art. As Walker ironically points out, this was a different time in the art world, “I remember talking to my first gallery boss and he would laugh and say no one’s ever going to buy art on the internet.” Fast-forward to the current market where Stephanie sells paintings through Facebook and recently reported her first batch of sales from Instagram.
It’s this versatility and unwillingness to submit to the norms of the industry that has brought Walker success. She’s not afraid to take risks, move out of a state, or even close down for months at a time to pursue other projects or sales opportunities. “I’ve tried to avoid thinking too far ahead in order to avoid pigeonhole-ing myself, as a way to be able to roll with what comes my way. I feel like that really worked to my advantage.”
Being an art sales person and a contemporary gallery owner amongst the hyper-local ethos of Vermont presents a specific set of challenges for Walker. “I’m a Vermonter born and raised and I feel like Vermonters take local to an entirely new level… I think it’s fabulous how much we support everyone, but because I left and came back and I don’t exclusively show local artists, there are some people who won’t consider me a local.”
After many years of seasonal work, and a few years of consistent programming and community engagement in Waitsfield, Walker watched this slightly oppositional perception of her role in the arts world morph from competitor to community member. The smaller number of local artists at Walker Contemporary (relative to other galleries in the green mountain region) is not a reflection of Stephanie’s preference for international artists or some allegiance to hierarchies. In fact, Walker says it’s the opposite, “Vermont isn’t an island. As much as it can exist on its own, it’s still connected to a global community in certain ways. My goal is to help contextualize what local Vermont artists are doing and that way I can get artists fair prices for their artwork.” Currently, Walker sells many different kinds of work from artists all over the world. She knows the work of her artists and knows exactly the kind of people who should own the work. Walker takes this commitment to her artists seriously, even talking people out of buying certain pieces.
For Walker, it’s this unbiased and intense admiration that drives her to bring these sculptures, paintings, and drawings to the people of her home state, “I love every one of my artists like crazy, so whatever show I have I’m always totally madly in love with.”
Stephanie Walker is the owner of Walker Contemporary in Waitsfield, Vermont. Follow the gallery on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and be sure to check out her fall group show, What Have We Done, where artists convey the precarious state of nature in the Human/Nature relationship. Artists include: Crystal Liu, Charlotte Potter, Ryan McLennan, Tara Tucker & Lauren Matsumoto.