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Sotheby’s Institute Alumna Jackie Graham is the cofounder of Art on the Ave NYC, a public art initiative that turns empty storefronts in New York into temporary art galleries showcasing under-represented and emerging artists. ⁠

The idea
“The city is full of hugely talented artists, most of whom are under-represented in formal galleries and public spaces.” Jackie says. “We believe that a larger and more diverse range of people should have the opportunity to enjoy this work. Meanwhile, our streets are increasingly blighted by the sad sight of empty stores." Jackie and her mother saw a chance to address all three of these issues at once, with a simple but powerful idea — to brighten the neighborhood by putting beautiful, thoughtful art in vacant storefronts. "Art on the Ave NYC is a public arts initiative that strengthens communities through the promotion of under-represented artists. We put local art in vacant storefronts in high-visibility locations. We activate the street and create new opportunities for connection between neighbors, while also accelerating the re-population of vacant retail frontage.”

The process
Jackie worked with her mother throughout the summer of 2020 to bring this project to life. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, her mom handled things on the ground In New York while Jackie worked on the administrative back-end from Canada. They hired different curators for each exhibition to select artists whose work aligned with the exhibition theme. They also worked closely with Business Improvement Districts who have long standing relationships with property owners in their districts. They sought support from corporate sponsors to supplement the installation budget. Since launching in 2020, Art on the Ave NYC exhibitions have taken over vacant storefronts in Lower Manhattan, West Village and Upper West Side. ⁠

Starting an arts organization
Jackie credits her time at Sotheby’s Institute for discovering the many different paths that a career in the art world could take. “I had decided that I wanted to go to Sotheby’s Institute back when I was 13. It was the first program I had ever heard of of its kind, and I couldn’t believe there was something out there for someone like me, who didn’t want to be an artist but wanted to be surrounded by art. I learned about so many different avenues to explore that I had never considered. Being immersed in the art world as a Master’s student really cemented my desire to build a career in the arts. In particular, the experience that I got with the management side of the arts through my Master’s gave me the skills necessary to successfully develop an arts organization.”

“Intersections", the latest exhibition from Art on the Ave is currently on view in Midtown East in New York through March 20. It features works from 23 local artists — all of which are available for purchase. View the full list of artists as well as the map of the exhibition here.

Featured image courtesy Art on the Ave NYC.

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