Anne D’Amours McDonald graduated from the MMIAM programme’s third cohort in 2016. Prior to her studies, she completed Bachelor and Master degrees in Fine Art and worked as an arts manager for several art galleries in her hometown of Québec City. Following her MMIAM studies, Anne returned home and founded Galerie.a to develop an international network of artists and collectors for contemporary art from Quebec. Laura Adlers interviewed Anne recently to discuss her new business and becoming a cultural entrepreneur.
Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies in international arts management?
More and more museums are programming international projects, featuring international artists, or shared exhibitions between countries. In 2006, I was so impressed with the exhibition «Le Louvre à Québec» at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. I was shocked to realize that a giant work of art in marble could travel across the ocean for this amazing show and wanted to gain the knowledge and tools needed to work on these kinds of projects. I liked that the MMIAM programme covered a broad range of skills and subjects needed to be a better arts manager.
At the time, I was also very aware that in Quebec, we are very regionalized and we have very few exchanges with cultural organizations outside of our region and I really wanted to gain new knowledge in the programme and return to Québec City to develop new projects.
Tell us about your business and your primary responsibilities?
I run a gallery, but for me, it’s more than an exhibition space, it’s a platform to promote artists through a broad range of projects. I work with local Quebec artists, many are people with whom I have studied. My goal is to tell the story of their art in order to sell it, because when potential buyers learn about an individual’s work of art, they see the value and enjoy it more. I want to help these artists make a living by promoting their artwork and allowing them to continue making their art. At the moment, I am working with four artists, but in a year, I plan to be engaged with twelve.
Through my MMIAM studies, I developed new strategies for showcasing Quebec artists to international markets. Another MMIAM graduate, Yan Gu, has partnered with me and is showing my artists’ work to potential clients in Shanghai. I am now trying to duplicate this model with someone in Montréal who works with galleries and potential buyers in Mexico City and South America.
At the moment, I am doing a lot of market research, visiting the art fairs in Montréal, Toronto, Seattle, New York City, learning about what sells and what doesn’t, how other galleries market their artists and what their success rates are. The art fairs are good events to be a part of, as you can reach a targetted critical mass over these weekends and you can receive market development grants from the government to attend and exhibit. Exhibiting at these fairs is a major part of my business strategy at the moment.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
One of the reasons people become entrepreneurs is out of need, because when you graduate from such a unique programme as the MMIAM, you have very specialized knowledge and experience and, in my case, I was looking for a very specific role in a unique creative environment. I really needed to find my place here in Québec City, because I had no intention of moving elsewhere. I found that the easiest way for me to find my place and build the kind of project I had envisioned was to become an entrepreneur.
When and how did you start your business?
I actually wrote my first business plan for this gallery in 2012, which combined my two personalities and passions: my creative side of artist and curator, and my business side, the organizer, manager, salesperson. I had decided at that time that I wanted to run my own art gallery, but at the time the plan seemed too complicated and not feasible, so I paused it to gain experience and build confidence. I decided to complete my MFA and then completed the MMIAM programme.
In the spring of this year, I decided to revisit and rewrite my business plan, armed with new knowledge from my studies. The Montréal magazine Les Affaires organizes a pitch contest every year called “Launch a Start-up in Seven Days with $700”, and I entered and was a finalist. This exercise really motivated me to just go for it and launch my business.
Which MMIAM campus abroad was the most memorable for you and why?
I would have to say Milan, for the reason that it was the last campus. Milan was so different from Dallas. During my fine art studies and business planning, I always thought about what I could create, what new ideas I should be working on. I never stopped to think about heritage, preserving and restoring what we have. That was a big wake-up call for me in Milan, despite the fact that Québec City is also a UNESCO designated heritage city. I really enjoyed the site visits in Milan, many of which were related to heritage preservation. These were very unexpected and fascinating visits. I felt like I was discovering a new universe all over again after learning so much in Dallas, Montréal and, Bogotá.
In addition, I wrote my thesis about the Venice Biennale, and the SDA Bocconi faculty arranged for me to have a private meeting with the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Biennale as part of my research. We also had a site visit to the Biennale and met with the President. These connections would likely not have happened if I had not been in the MMIAM programme. The faculty helped me reach my thesis research goal in a very concrete way.