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Making it marketable

by Adela Talbot, BA’08, MA’11 | January 2, 2018

Kate Taylor,BFA’87, donated $25,000 to help support fourth-year Visual Arts students buy supplies, set up exhibits and learn to market their work

As a professional artist, Kate Taylor knows there is a commercial undercurrent to the art world. She also knows that the business of art is something artists – particularly budding artists – tend to avoid.

“I have seen many amazing and talented artists who don’t have the business background, or the marketing background, to effectively promote and sell their art. Though it’s easier now with social media, there is still a business aspect to art that isn’t really talked about. Often, if you talk about selling your work, it’s like you’re selling out, versus being committed to building your art practice,” said Taylor, BFA’87.

“My background as an entrepreneur tells me, the only way you can continue to do your art is if you sell your art. Art is a luxury item, expensive and no one ‘needs’ it; you need to market it to sell it. If you want to continue to create more art, you need to sell your art. In this day and age, galleries are likely not able to provide enough revenue to rely on – you need to take more control, creating multiple sales channels. Artists are basically entrepreneurs; understanding the business of art will help them succeed and make art a more financially viable career.”

With this impetus in mind, and in honour of the Department of Visual Art’s 50th anniversary, the Toronto-based artist and her husband Robert (HBA’87), recently donated $25,000 to establish the Kate and Robert Taylor Scholarship in Visual Arts in support of undergraduate students entering their fourth year in the program. The scholarship will help students fund studio supplies or a course-based exhibit. As part of this scholarship, Taylor said she is open to mentoring young artists by being a sounding board and teaching them to market their art and their skills.

“I’m at a point in my art career where I felt I wanted to give back and help an artist, the year before their practicum, to truly explore what they want to do without being financially strapped. In my year of my practicum in photography, it almost killed me. I didn’t have the money to do it, and I was working part-time, and I still had to choose between eating properly or my art. I wanted to help younger artists and give them a bit of extra funding to enable them to put their ideas and concepts into reality,” she noted.

Taylor, whose abstract landscapes are known for their colourful, dynamic and saturated reflections of the natural world, has been running a full-scale marketing firm since 1991 – a venture that provided lessons applied to her art career, she said. Taylor has worked as a full-time artist, showing her work, and selling it around the world, since 2013. She participates in about 25 shows a year, including art fairs in Toronto, Barcelona, New York, San Diego and Miami and is represented by galleries in Toronto, Boston and New York.

Kate Taylor, BFA’87, puts the finishing touches on one of her pieces.

After graduation, Taylor focused on her marketing career for years. In 2009, she discovered abstract painting, the palette knife and a renewed passion for creating art. With the encouragement of her sister, Helen Utsal, who is also an artist, Kate entered a show in Toronto and hasn’t looked back.

“I’m one of those people that, if I’m going to commit, I’m going to do it. I’m not going to put my toe in the water; I’m going to jump fully in. I needed seven paintings to apply for that first juried show. I only had seven abstract paintings under my belt and was accepted. I was at once excited and terrified. It was the start of an amazing journey that continues to enable me to follow my dreams,” she said.

“I come from a family of artists and it just seemed the natural way to go. Although my major was in photography, I realized photography had lost its appeal to me with the advent of digital photography. What I liked initially about photography was playing in the darkroom – having to commit to something when you don’t know what the final result will be. There’s this whole element of the unknown, and risking something and going with whatever serendipity provides. With digital, you can control all this so the level of commitment wasn’t the same for me. Trying to rediscover that serendipity led me to my current painting style – once the colour is on the wood background, you cannot pull it back,” Taylor explained.

For years, Taylor has served as the chair and sat on the board of the Artists Network, helping artists become better business people. It’s something she is passionate about, she said, and this inspired her to give back to Western, a place where she was taught painting by the internationally-renowned artist, Paterson Ewen, where she had an “amazing experience” with many memories, and where she met her husband.

“Part of this scholarship is an opportunity to maybe get more embedded within the Western community and to say to Visual Arts students, ‘building your art practice as a business is OK’. Western has a world-renowned business school, but no mandatory training for students in the art program to prepare artists for the real world,” Taylor said.

She would like to see an integrated business course for entrepreneurs in the BFA program.

“I think it is important to give back to your community – which is why Robert and I started this scholarship. For me, I would like to see other artists and Western grads support the next generation of visual artists by providing mentorship and scholarships in an area that is chronically underfunded. I feel strongly that we need to support the arts in this country. To do this, we need to support the artists.”

Zoe Abbott, a fourth-year student completing a minor in Classical Studies, is the 2018 recipient of the Kate and Robert Taylor Scholarship in Visual Arts.

For more information, or to support the Department of Visual Arts, please contact Jessica Schagerl, Alumni & Development Officer, Faculty of Arts & Humanities at 519.661.2111 Ext. 87896 or

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Impact Western
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