ARTdart: Conversations with the Clothesline Principals

I spoke to Clothesline Owner/Creative Director, Austin Kowal; Manager, Van Jazmin and Gallery Director, Michael Bailey, to learn more about each of them, their vision for Clothesline and how they have merged their talents as artists/ entrepreneurs to bring fresh ideas to the Sarasota community.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her new column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.

Pamela Beck

by Pamela Beck

People have a lot of questions about the newly expanded Clothesline Gallery and Boutique in Sarasota since it reopened six months ago. Is it more of a gallery or boutique? (Both, plus); Is it run by twenty-somethings? (Yes, and well.); Do you have to be a Ringling College student to show there? (Not at all); What are they actually trying to do there that’s different from regular galleries and stores? (Think collaborative, community and evolving.)

I spoke to Clothesline Owner/Creative Director, Austin Kowal; Manager, Van Jazmin and Gallery Director, Michael Bailey, to learn more about each of them, their vision for Clothesline and how they have merged their talents as artists/ entrepreneurs to bring fresh ideas to the Sarasota community.

Austin Kowal portrait by Scott Braun

Austin Kowal

1. What is your position at Clothesline and what do you do?

AK: I am the owner/creative director of Clothesline. My focus with the business is screen printing, which branches off into two areas. One is commercial screen printing for businesses, schools, charities and many other organizations. The other side of screen printing for me, is highly creative- producing art on t-shirts for the store, making screen printed posters and collaborating with local artists.

2. Please explain what Clothesline offers.

AK: Our flagship store is located in the Historic Burns Square District of Sarasota, FL. We feature local art for monthly exhibits, carry hand-selected brands in the boutique, and produce limited edition apparel with local artists for our Clothesline brand.

3. You work with a few colleagues. What individual traits do you bring to Clothesline?

AK: I come from a family of art/antiques and an artistic lifestyle has always been encouraged. With my background I have a keen eye for balance, design, and quality work in general which helps guide me in my role as creative director.

4. You’re an artist and entrepreneur- how do you balance or fuse the two?

AK: I never thought I would be as happy as I am working for a living! With Clothesline it started out as a purely artistic fun project, and then over the years became more and more professional and refined through experience. One of the most gratifying parts of the business for me is designing a new tee, printing it, and bringing it to the store to display/sell.

5. How would you describe the art that you do?

AK: I would describe my work as very abstract in nature. I use lots of geometric shapes and forms to create a feeling of movement and high energy.

Austin Kowal, Orbital Explosion, 2011

6. What is your fantasy show?

AK: A fantasy show for me would be hosting an installation show for OS Gemeos. I want to try to appeal to more installation artists, and out of the box thinkers.

7. You are 26 years old. How does your age affect this job?

AK: I like to think that age doesn’t affect the job.

8. What are you trying to do with Clothesline?

AK: I am trying to build an intriguing platform to expose raw and upcoming talent, as well as larger, well established artists. From our gallery/boutique base, we have become a vital tool for local creatives to express themselves, collaborate with other artists and meet interesting people. We work with tons of local artists to create limited edition/exclusive t-shirts. We have our Fall apparel line dropping the beginning of September!

Van Jazmin

Van Jazmin portrait by John Revisky

1.What is your position at Clothesline and what do you do?

VJ: I play the classic manager: setting up schedules, delegating, and breaking down projects into bite-sized pieces. I also make sure our people have the right training and their ideas are represented in the organization.

2.What in your background, both educational and personal, prepared you for your current role at Clothesline?

VJ: Being a full-time student at Ringling College helped me learn to juggle projects. Then I was fortunate enough to work under Christine Lange, who schooled me in PR while I was employed in the Office of the President at Ringling College. All the other team skills and event planning knowhow was learned from starting Zigzag Magazine. Ultimately, my interest in supporting a fellow entrepreneur lead me to Clothesline.

3.What are the individual traits you bring to Clothesline?

VJ: I’ve introduced mostly formalities – contracts, matrixes, and mandatory record keeping. I am also very people focused, so I naturally created a foundation for the company’s Human Resources. My approach to HR is not to be a policy-pushing machine, but moreso an agent of change. In one year, Clothesline has grown from a solo act to a team-based culture, and I want to help us continue to evolve.

4. What have you changed since last year for this year?

VJ: We’ve begun to figure out how to coalesce our many different aspects. The gallery, boutique, and screen printing business are overlapping in more places now. Recently, we’ve also been learning how to build our audience and appeal to a wider range of people.

5. You’re both an artist and an entrepreneur. Please describe your art and explain how you’ve combined art and business.

VJ: Essentially my art is anything I produce with my own ideas – whether it’s illustrations, photographs, posters, videos, infographics, stories, presentations, or proposals – it’s my intellectual property. All these creations should reflect my brand. And my brand is a self-portrait in a sense – the work is assertive, expressive, and tells meandering stories.

Van Jazmin, Mangaka, 2012

That said, business is art and art is business. Serious business. Creative firms are the leaders of industry now, and that’s proof that we are already moving out of the Information Age and into the Conceptual Age. A creative company’s most valuable asset is not their I.T. but their I.P.

6. You’re 21. How has this affected how you’re treated?

VJ: It goes both ways: being young gives me some leeway and forgiveness when making mistakes – it’s expected. On the flip side, it can hurt me in business situations. The fact that I am a student seems to make people assume that I deserve less pay and that it’s acceptable to talk down to me even when I am in charge. Fortunately, this is not a problem at Clothesline.

7. What is your fantasy show?

VJ: An exhibition that integrates live art and multimedia. My dream is coming true right now. John Lichtenstein and I are planning for a retrospective of all the live art and video that has come out of two years of The End of the Dial Tone Radical Experimental Band Band.

8.What do you want Clothesline to be known as? What are you trying to do?

VJ: I want Clothesline to be the place where someone can walk in with a vision and in a matter of days, see their idea become tangible. We have creative thinkers on our team that can come up with retail solutions, and the designer community should take advantage of this. We have an event space that is open to other groups, by the way. We are not just building a brand – we are building community.

Michael Bailey

Michael Bailey portrait by Van Jazmin

1. Please explain what Clothesline offers and how it’s different than other stores/galleries.

MB: Although established since 2008 as a boutique, Clothesline now concentrates on offering opportunities to contribute to an art-conscious community of Sarasota. As a small and growing business, we are able to provide a diversity of services (artist talks, gallery shows, quality products, community-based collaborations)- flexibility that differs us from other institutions. We are not a store or gallery- our mission is to contribute to Sarasota, as opposed to profits first, clients second and community third: this is the distinction between Clothesline and other stores/galleries.

2. What is your position at Clothesline and what do you do?

MB: As Gallery Director, I address the concerns of artists and clients pertaining to exhibitions and make sure that their respective needs are met. I also oversee records concerning works represented in shows past, present and future ensuring a consistent brand image regarding media (internet, newspaper, magazine) and Clothesline.

3. You work with 2 colleagues. What individual traits do you bring to Clothesline?

MB: Both colleagues bring the best to Clothesline and as such, with any business, there are times when the environment is tense. Traits I bring to Clothesline are ones of humor, comedic relief and a drive for success through organized discipline. The results are an opportunity to bring laughter, relief and remind us that we’re human while binding us to our core values and principles.

4. You’re an artist and entrepreneur- how do you balance or fuse the two?

MB: Being an artist and entrepreneur is a natural fusion and are never seen as separate entities. Both require decisions made in the studio and at work to be efficient, detail oriented, being conscious of the larger implications of being involved in art and business while demanding a workhorse ethic. These duel roles inform me of how I can live more purposefully through decisions that not only effect my life, but those around me.

5. How would you describe the art that you do/make?

MB: The work generated analyzes how business, economics and contemporary art congeal in U.S. culture through vehicles of fashion, pop culture, advertisements and consumerist objects in everyday life. This is reflected through representations of signs- logos, brands, corporate identities, slogans, catch phrases- all common. My art shows an understanding of the indispensable relationship of art and economics made sensitive by external variables.

Michael Bailey, Arch Angel, 2012

6. What is your fantasy show for Clothesline?

MB: My fantasy show would be to collaborate simultaneous openings with other galleries that support young and emerging artists. A tour would begin early afternoon with viewers traveling from gallery to gallery, viewing works and meeting the artists. Viewers would see and understand the respective community the artist resides in and how art has impacted the public directly.

7. How old are you? How does your age affect this job?

MB: Being 21 years of age brings a substantial learning curve to the position of gallery director, and there are others certainly qualified for the position. My age means that I bring a continual freshness to the job. I am able to experiment with and discover methods effective for both business growth and an artist’s experience, while adapting and meeting the needs of a changing environment.

8. What are you trying to do with Clothesline?

MB: At Clothesline, we are creating a company that is founded upon and functions through core values that carry weight in both short and long term decisions- beyond profits. We want to leave people with an experience- whatever it may be- that they can be confident knowing it is contributing in a positive way to their lives and community, as much as it is to each of us at Clothesline.

Clothesline Gallery and Boutique
529 S. Pineapple Avenue
Sarasota, Florida 34235
Tel. 941 366 5222
Hours: Noon-7PM Tuesday-Saturday

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2 thoughts on “ARTdart: Conversations with the Clothesline Principals”

  1. Pamela, thank you for this thorough and attentive look at our team as artists / entrepreneurs. We are a wordy sort, aren’t we? :] Hope it was as fun for you as it was for us. Many blessings!

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