Q&A with Beth Blankenship: Meet Beth Blankenship, Founder and Owner of West Bay Fine Art, Missouri, TX

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Q. Tell us about your history in publishing.

I have more than 13 years experience in the publishing industry. I started as a sales representative with Somerset House Publishing in 1992, and was promoted to a regional sales manager position shortly thereafter. I left Somerset House in 1995, accepting a position as vice president of sales with Gregory Editions Fine Art. I held this position for more than 10 years, and eventually served as vice president of sales/marketing for Gregory Editions/Washington Green USA.

I've had the opportunity to represent and work closely with a number of very talented artists including G. Harvey, JD Challenger, Dan McCaw, Govinder and many others. I am now an admirer and collector of many of the artists I've had the honor to work with, and have an extensive collection of their works, including some very sought-after editions in print, sculpture and originals.

I find myself intrigued by the art business in general. The product, so subjective by nature, makes for challenges not found in other industries. There are no comparisons to be made between artists and images. Each stands alone, thereby creating sales and marketing challenges that are unique to our marketplace.

Q What criteria do you use when choosing artists?

The most important factor, of course, is talent. Other considerations include access to originals, a universally appealing style and subject matter, and the artist's ability to address changing market trends.

We have several artists with skills in multiple genres, enabling us to broaden our line, while also encouraging the artist's growth. But, ultimately, we choose our artists based upon our sense of their viability in the marketplace.

We have been extremely fortunate in this most important area. We have developed relationships with our artists that transcend the normal business relationship, and consider them to be a part of our extended family.

Q. There have been so many changes for galleries in the past few years. Which changes do you think have been the most significant?

First and foremost, the advancements in Web-based technologies have had a substantial impact, both positive and negative on traditional brick and mortar galleries. The Internet has created a more global marketplace for art aficionados, and it's responsible for promoting a more competitive and often cutthroat environment. The market has truly become a shopper's paradise. Price comparison has become the norm rather than the exception.

Next, we seem to have sacrificed the perception of "collectibles" through very large edition sizes, turning many collectors away from the limited edition marketplace. I have always been of the opinion that a healthy secondary market for desirable prints, that do in fact appreciate, is a sign of a healthy market. I'm very pleased to see a number of publishers moving back to smaller limited editions.

On a more positive note, advancements in printing technology have allowed for reproductions much truer to the original than ever before.

Q. How do expect your business to change in the next five years?

That's an interesting question, and one for which I don't necessarily have the answer. The desire to address many of the problems facing traditional galleries today was the primary impetus for forming my own company. My main objective is to have the freedom to be responsive to market needs and demands. This will ensure the customer satisfaction necessary for the survival and growth of West Bay Fine Art in a complex and competitive marketplace. I'm sure that the West Bay of today when compared to the West Bay five years from now will be a substantially different company.

Q. What do you do to relax?

I'm an outdoors type of person. If given a choice, I would probably make a serious attempt to place my office on the patio. I enjoy most "fresh air" activities and would rather be a participant than a spectator. …