Every so often we put the spotlight on a local collector. We'll give you a little background about the collector and then talk about one or more topics that may be of interest to other collectors.
I spent nearly an hour on the phone with Katie Verrant last night and enjoyed every second of our conversation. I had so much fun talking to her I stopped taking notes after awhile. She's pretty much the ideal Rochester Art Collector member.
Katie Verrant was born on the west coast in California. She moved to Pennsylvania and went to a "tiny" high school near where her family settled outside of Philly.
Katie learned to appreciate art and the outdoors at an early age. She laughed when she told me her mom "can't pass a museum or gallery without pulling over and going inside to learn something." Although her parents weren't what you'd call collectors per se they did own some original art so Katie had role models for seeing and appreciating art as well as owning art. In addition to art she told me, "I have always loved wildlife and the outdoors," You'll learn how she combines her interests in art, wildlife and the outdoors a little later in this post.
In terms of collecting local art destiny was to play an important role in Katie's life. When it came time for college she sort of stumbled on Rochester Institute of Technology. It had the program offerings she wanted. It was also far enough from home to feel independent and close enough to go back-and-forth without too much trouble. She found her "nerdy" peeps immediately when she moved onto the RIT campus and fell in love with Rochester and the region after extensive touring.
She met and worked with Erich Lehman while she was at RIT. Erich works full time as Premedia Facilities Coordinator for RIT’s School of Print Media. In addition, he was/is the co-curator and lead organizer of Rochester's internationally renowned mural art program, WALL\THERAPY and he was the founder of a popular commercial art gallery, 1975 Gallery. Eventually, Erich asked Katie to design the highly coveted 2013 WALL\THERAPY book commemorating the work and the people who made the program happen that year.
Erich became the connecting tie between Katie and the local arts scene. Her deep interest in the arts combined with Erich's connections opened doors for her all over town. He eventually became very important in Katie's personal life. He opened her up to the possibilities of serious collecting by sharing his extensive collection(s) of local, national and international artwork. She quickly caught the bug.
Would you like to see more artwork from Katie's collection? CLICK HERE
I asked Katie about her first important art purchase. In March of 2013 1975 Gallery hosted "All Things Wild and Free - New Works by Mr. Prvrt"; a beloved local muralist who's real name is Justin Suarez. Justin and Erich invited Wild Wings, Inc., a local organization that that houses and cares for permanently injured birds of prey, to participate at the opening party and receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Justin's work.
Well, Katie fell in love with Justin's work that night as well as the remarkable birds. She ended up spending a good deal time at the opening talking to a person she took for a Wild Wings staff member who was holding a gorgeous injured owl. it was only later after telling Erich she regretted not getting the chance to actually meet Justin that she learned who the "staff member" was: the artist, Justin Suarez.
The next day she called Erich at 1975 Gallery and asked about her favorite painting from the show. It was still available but the price was a serous stretch since she was a student. After mastering her fears she reached deep into her savings to come up with the cash and hasn't looked back. Since then she has purchased nearly 60 pieces of original art .
When Katie moved to Bethesda, Maryland several years ago she had the chance to look back on the work she had collected while she was in Rochester and discovered she had a number of images of women made by female artists. Those works are now displayed as a grouping in her home. There are many other strands to her collection: Rochester artists, muralists, street art and so on. She has added to her collection in recent years. The work made by Rochester based artists remains central to her collection. When you look at the images in her collection you can see a sort of exchange between the works. It looks like improvisational music to me with colors and forms playing off each other.
Katie deeply appreciates the opportunity to meet the artist before she buys a piece of art. She wants to get to know the person and understand their point of view. She also likes to do some research and think about the work before she makes a decision to buy. She seems to have what I would call a "lifetime relationship" with the work in her collection since she doubts she would ever sell anything from her collection.
She loves her new home in Maryland but she says the area doesn't have nearly as rich or friendly an art scene as Rochester. In Rochester, she said, every door was open to her. There is a wonderful community of artists in Rochester. They hang out together, play together, they share their lives with each other. She loved being able to meet and get to know all her favorite artists. Even after several years in Bethesda, she said, it's nearly impossible to find the sorts of places she loved so dearly in Rochester.
Oh, by the way, if you look closely in the photos here and on her site you'll see some artwork piled up against the wall. Classic collector behavior! I do the same thing. Doesn't everyone? She has dozens of pieces yet to be framed. Uh, yep. Me, too. There's always more work to frame and more work to hang...
Header image © Roy Sowers 1999
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