Joe Fortino and Reed Fagan became friends at Coleytown Middle School. At Staples, both played baseball and shared art classes.
In college the SHS 2008 grads became art majors. Joe focused on drawing and painting at Eastern Connecticut; Reed focused on jewelry (and math) at Skidmore.
This may not be stop-the-presses news, but after college they had a tough time finding jobs. Realizing they were not the only struggling art majors, Reed came up with an idea: create a gallery to show their work, and that of other young artists.
They couldn’t afford a storefront, though. So they went online.
Thanks in part to Westport native Jeff Seaver‘s crisp-looking web design, Joseph Reed Gallery has become the go-to place for over a dozen new artists. Most are in their 20s. One is 60, but just starting an art career.
It’s a fully cyberspace operation. (Except for the art — you can actually hang the paintings on your wall, or place a sculpture in your home).
Artists find the website thanks to Craigslist. Buyers discover it through social media. Marketing director Christophe Esposito — another Staples ’08 grad — is a “genius,” Joe says. He’s already generated 1,000 Facebook likes, and 350 Twitter followers.
Many galleries charge artists just to show their work. Joseph Reed is free.
Many take a 50 percent commission — or higher. With virtually no overhead, Joseph Reed sometimes takes less — occasionally even nothing. “We want artists to succeed,” Joe says.
Most works on the site sell in the $200 to $400 range. “It’s work that artists put their heart and soul into, but at affordable prices,” explains Joe.
Joseph Reed Gallery is not for just any artist-wannabe. For every 10 artists who contact the owner, just 1 is accepted.
Though Joe and Reed pay no rent, and are accessible 24/7/365, there are drawbacks to running an online gallery. “No matter how nice a piece is, you can’t see it in person,” Joe admits.
They make up for that with personal touches. Joe has personally delivered artwork to customers — and hung it for them.
All of the original 13 artists are from Connecticut and nearby states. But Joe and Reed are branching out. They’re in negotiations with potential artists from California, London and Milan.
It’s virtually certain they’ll succeed.