Buckhead Art & Company occupies a large, bright showroom in the Shops Buckhead Atlanta. Floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors flood the space with light, illuminating bright white walls and cement floors covered in paint. A substantial array of works line the walls in a variety of styles from abstract to figurative, framing a set of plush couches in the center of the space. Behind a raw wood desk is a friendly face: owner Katie Jones.
At only 24 years old, Katie’s love for art goes back to her youth growing up in Roswell, Georgia. Katie turned to making abstract art to cope with her late mother’s illness when she was in high school, painting angel wings on canvas. She cites a supportive home environment and a stellar arts program at her high school, the Greater Atlanta Christian School, as some of the encouragement behind her pursuit of art. She began participating in art shows and after graduating went on to attend Birmingham Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business, BA in Art, and minor in Art History.
Learning and understanding the business side of her artistic passions was key in achieving her dreams in the field. “Everybody’s got a talent, but you’ve got to learn how to market yourself and know the business side of it because you’ve got to find a way to take your passion and make a living out of it at the end of the day,” explained Katie, who had been encouraged by her father, David Jones, a Commercial Real Estate Agent, to take business classes in college.
It wasn’t only an innate talent for art and an understanding of business that led Katie to where she is today, however. It was also her unbridled persistence and drive which got her in the door. After Katie’s mother Cindy passed away one of her mother’s friends and a fellow artist Laurie Mabrey became a central figure in Katie’s life. She encouraged Katie to pursue her art and got her involved in several shows as well as introduced her to key people in the art world. One such person was Hutton Snellings, now Hutton Snellings Scheel, who opened Buckhead Art & Co in the Shops Buckhead Atlanta in 2016. Laurie, who has since married Katie’s father David, knew Hutton’s family. Laurie encouraged Katie to pursue internships and opportunities at Buckhead Art & Co at every turn.
“I would email, I would call, we came down here one day Laurie and I, and we wouldn’t get any response,” recalls Katie. As a gallery owner, Hutton stayed quite busy, but eventually the timing worked out and Katie got her opportunity. “So one day at school, I was at Birmingham Southern at the time in my senior year around Thanksgiving, and I thought ‘I’m going to call- just keep calling until she picks up the phone.’ So I did, and Hutton said ‘ok, you start on Monday.’” That year she spent the entirety of her Christmas break, right up until Christmas eve, interning at the gallery. She loved the experience and learned a lot from Hutton, a fellow artist whom she admired very much.
After completing her senior year at Birmingham Southern Katie hoped to find a job working at Buckhead Art & Company, but it didn’t pan out. She similarly tried to find work at other galleries in Birmingham, but ultimately ended up taking a job working in Software Sales Recruiting where she worked for only two months. One evening as Katie and Hutton shared a glass of wine in the gallery, Hutton confided that there were some potential buyers inquiring about purchasing the gallery but that she had misgivings about the prospect. “She said ‘you’re the only person who cares about it as much as I do,’ so she offered it to me. I remember calling my dad and saying, ‘I can’t believe she is choosing to offer it to me. I look up to her so much.’”
After some discussion Katie’s father had a proposition of his own: he would help her buy the gallery using what he had saved for her future wedding, admitting that it’s what Katie’s mother would have wanted, and that he understood that having this gallery would probably mean more than a future wedding ever would.
With that Katie cleared out her bank account and gathered as many proceeds as she could from babysitting and painting sales to put down the deposit, paying off the balance monthly ever since. “So I quit my job and just jumped in it having no idea what I was doing,” Katie admitted with a laugh. She is learning as she goes and gleaning knowledge from the artists and professionals she knows as she becomes acclimated with her new reality as a gallery owner in Buckhead. “It was always my dream job, I didn’t expect to have the opportunity at age 23, but I wouldn’t trade it,” she said with a laugh. According to Katie, it took perseverance and “lots of prayers.”
It has been a little over a year since Katie took hold of the reigns at Buckhead Art & Company, and she has made the gallery her sole focus. The gallery represents around 31 artists, mostly local but some from as far away as Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Mississippi, and Birmingham. The mediums are typically paintings on canvas or wood and the subject matter varies drastically but somehow they all also complement one another.
Katie is always learning, always growing, and hopes to see the gallery live on at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta for many years to come. She says one of the biggest things she has learned has been about how and why clients buy art, which is typically for one of three reasons: because they identify with the story, they see some elements in the artwork that resonate with them, or because they can picture the piece in their home.
“The hardest thing I would say is not being from Buckhead and having to get yourself out there,” explained Katie, a self-proclaimed Roswell girl. “I mean if people aren’t coming in I’ll go out and babysit at night so that if they don’t know about the gallery they can learn about it. If they’re not coming in the door, you’ve got to go out there and meet them.” Her biggest goals are to bring in new, fresh faces to the gallery and to get to know her community even more.
In addition to regular hours where prospective clients can stop in between visits to other stores at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta, which Katie considers to be like a family to her, the space also hosts events and can be rented out for special occasions.
“I know that walking into galleries, some people are so intimidated, but I’m like the least intimidating person you’ve ever met,” said Katie in her soft southern drawl. “I’m here in my paint jeans, you know what I mean? So I hope people always feel like they can come in our doors.”
By Isadora Pennington for www.buckhead.com