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Local group gathers to learn inside info on art and collecting…

For years, programs have existed to demystify the art of wine tasting, pairing and buying and to make it more approachable, particularly for those new to the world of vintages. Mary Stanley, a veteran artists’ representative who lives in Ansley Park, realized that what worked for wine can also apply to art.

In 2006, Stanley launched the Young Collectors Club, a quasi-social network of metro Atlantans who love art but are looking for more information— someone to introduce them to artists, provide some history and offer tips for buying. The idea grew out of the recession, when art sales were plummeting.

“I decided it was a good time to start educating people about collecting so when the economy came back, I’d have educated consumers ready to buy,” Stanley says. “I started by gathering 20 friends for various programs around art, and it really took off. I’ve been doing it now for 10 years, and we’ve grown to 200 members.”

The scope and focus of those programs have also grown. Stanley now offers 24 events a year that might include an artist’s talk over lunch, a private gallery visit or dinner and viewing of a personal collection in an owner’s home.

“Members get behind the scenes, and that’s a great way to network and learn about art,” Stanley says. “I try to vary the mix, so there are a lot of different programs to suit different audiences. But every program is limited to just 20 people, so there’s a lot of interaction.”

Gatherings have been held at homes and galleries around the city, including Buckhead and Sandy Springs. Regardless of location, each session usually takes place on the fourth Wednesday of the month and follows a general format: 30 minutes of socializing, an hour of education then a question and answer period. “And we always drink wine,” Stanley adds.

Stanley also arranges art excursions outside of the metro area. In March, she’s escorting a half dozen members to several art fairs in New York. “Everybody does their own hotel and travel; I provide the programming,” she explains. “One year, we went to the Lower East Side and visited seven different galleries.”

Members pay an annual fee of $300 for individuals or $500 per couple that covers attendance at 12 programs. And the roster of members isn’t limited just to “young” people, Stanley says. “I’d say 30 to 40 is the target, but we have a good mix of ages, from students to avid collectors in their 50s and 60s who like to come to the programs.” In addition, Stanley estimates that about a quarter of the members hail from Buckhead and Brookhaven.

Turning members into customers isn’t the goal of the group, but as an art consultant and independent curator, Stanley admits that can be a perk. “This gives me the chance to meet people, get to know them and see if I can help them with a collection,” she says. “But the real intention is to help people develop their own aesthetics by getting to know artists and why they make what they make. It’s having dialogues about different artworks and artists. I provide a comfort zone where they can do that.”


STORY: H.M. Cauley

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