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Art for rent: LAMP sparks rental program: Gallery director hopes to spotlight local artists

March 14, 2005

Colorful or monochromatic, sober or whimsical, mundane or ephemeral.

LAMP Fine Art Gallery Director Jennifer Kaye totes thick binders full of images of artwork espousing those qualities and just about every description in between. She hauls the binders to clients' offices, helping them select the perfect work to hang in an office, lobby or hallway.

Kaye is an artist and a gallery director, but she's remade herself as a saleswoman for the launch of the downtown gallery's art rental and sales program. The program, possibly the only one of its kind in the city, is designed to provide a way for businesses and homeowners to try out art without the commitment and sometimeshefty price tag associated with buying a work, Kaye said.

LAMP, an acronym for Local Artists Making Progress, also hopes to further its mission of helping to develop and support local artists. Many of the artists in LAMP's portfolio are relative unknowns whose first public showing was at LAMP.

"We're trying to educate the public about the breadth of talent that's right here [in Indianapolis]," Kaye said.

Kaye may consider herself an educator, but she's taking on the rental and sales program with the zeal of a promoter. Since late last year, she's been coldcalling local businesses to introduce herself and her business, and in January had a display at the Indianapolis Home Show. She joined the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, partly to gain access to its member lists, and regularly scans advertisements for prospective clients.

Although she considers businesses and homeowners potential clients, she's targeting most of her marketing efforts toward the business community. "I thought if I started out really punching the home idea, it wouldn't translate as well to the business community," Kaye said. "But if I got into the business community, it would translate easier into homes."

Kaye also figures the potential audience for art is larger in offices. At the very least, Kaye said she hopes employees and visitors become comfortable enough with art to ask questions or attend a gallery opening.

"People have an idea that if they don't make a million dollars, they can't afford art or can't go to galleries," Kaye said. "That's not the way it is."

LAMP's rental fees are based on the sale price of the artwork. A $1,200 painting, for instance, might rent for $255 for three months. At the end of the three months, the client can choose to return the painting, trade it in, keep it for another three months or buy it, with half the rental fee going toward the purchase price. LAMP and the work's artist split all fees half-and-half. Even though LAMP is a for-profit gallery, art rental fees are still tax-deductible as operating expenses, Kaye noted, just as fees for landscaping or cleaning are taxdeductible.

Those fees include client consultation about what would look best in a particular space, and installation of the painting or sculpture.

LAMP's profit motive is, for now, secondary to spreading the word. Kaye plans to set aside space at the LAMP gallery at 901 N. East St. this summer so rental customers can browse through at least part of the inventory. Eventually, she may begin charging for on-site consultations and installation. Until the rental program gets off the ground, however, Kaye is keeping her fees and the program flexible.

LAMP's fledgling program is likely the only art rental program in the city, those in the arts community said. The Indianapolis Museum of Art for many years had a similar program for local artists through its Alliance Gallery, but closed the gallery when construction on the museum expansion began in 2003. IMA has no plans to resurrect the gallery when the expansion opens this spring. The all-volunteer Alliance Gallery suffered from staffing challenges, said Marin Radecki, IMA's director of conservation.

Also, volunteers decided there wasn't as much of a need for the program since so many commercial galleries had opened since the Alliance Gallery opened more than 20 years ago.

Kaye said she looked to other cities for models for LAMP's art rental and sales program. Nationally, several art museums have similar rental programs highlighting local artists and benefiting the museums.

In California, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has operated an Artists Gallery for 27 years, said Marian Parmenter, the gallery's director and cofounder. The gallery has a rotating exhibition and an inventory of more than 1,000 artists that caters to about 800 clients, Parmenter said.

Some of the steadiest clients include law firms, restaurants and professional designers. The gallery's business is split about evenly between businesses and homeowners, she said.

Running the gallery takes a lot of time and hard work, Parmenter said, but it has provided support for artists there and exposed their work to the general public. She predicted LAMP's rental program will do the same.

"I think it works well because it's not

scary," Parmenter said.

One of LAMP's first clients would agree. Linda Reddington, general counsel for Indiana Orthopaedic Hospital, recently hired LAMP to find and install three paintings in her northwest-side office. Next, she plans to rent artwork for her home.

"For me, it takes away some of the angst of going to a gallery and deciding what to get," Reddington said.

Reddington, who said she enjoys going to local gallery openings and supporting local artists, said she hadn't yet had time to find art for the walls of her office, which she moved into last fall when the hospital was finished.

Eventually, Reddington said she plans to purchase art, but will continue renting until she finds a perfect fit.
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