Tangible Experience

Tangible Experience

Jim Schantz and Kim Saul Gallery

Jim Schantz and Kim Saul champion glass at their Berkshires gallery. Photo: Walter Vandervoort

Jim Schantz started in the gallery business in 1982, working with Kenn Holsten at Holsten Galleries. Then, with his wife, Kim Saul, Schantz bought the business from Holsten in 2009 and renamed it Schantz. Today, the Berkshires gallery represents about 60 artists working in glass, including big names such as Dale Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra, Richard Marquis, and Dan Dailey. 

Besides mounting shows at the gallery, Schantz represents artists at SOFA Chicago and Art Palm Beach, as well as other shows outside Massachusetts. For example, Schantz is facilitating a Lino Tagliapietra exhibition at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, through March 21. Schantz also hosts an annual tour of Seattle artists’ studios in March and other events for collectors. 

What changes have you seen since your early days in the glass business? 
In early 1982, when I started, the studio glass movement was still in its growing stages. It was important to be part of that, to witness its development and transition into the art world, where we’ve seen glass as a medium very much appreciated by more and more museums. Now, in the last five years or so, museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, have embraced glass. They had a large Chihuly exhibition there three summers ago; they’ve also dedicated a space to contemporary craft. And they’ve got a fairly significant glass collection. You see more and more of the mainstream museums embracing studio glass. 

You chose to purchase a brick-and-mortar gallery in 2009, at a time when many galleries were shifting focus to the internet. Why? 
We believe having a physical space is very important today, because so much has become virtual. We’re very keen on maintaining a physical gallery for collectors; visitors to the gallery can experience the work firsthand. Art has a physical presence and needs to be experienced in person. You really need to be present with it to have the tangible experience of the art. 

Some gallerists have given up physical spaces because of the challenges of the business. 
It’s a little challenging. There are ups and downs. We have to flex with the economy. In our area, it’s busier in the summer months and fall. The winter months are a time when we can work on other things – shows and our annual tour. 

Tell us about the tour. How did it get started? 
It’s been going since the early ’90s. I originally thought it would be a good idea to go to Seattle and see the studios, since so many of our artists are from Seattle. And then we got the idea, “Hey, let’s bring some collectors with us.” The first year or two, we brought only a handful. Then it became obvious that what we were experiencing was just this incredible exchange and interaction – the opportunity to really appreciate the work firsthand, the opportunity to help sell the work for the artists. So what started out initially as a trip to go and choose work for the gallery grew into this great educational experience over five days, for the 20 artists we visit and the 20 or so collectors who are involved with it. 

What does the tour mean for the artists? 
In March, artists are so excited and ready for people to visit; they’ve worked all winter, and they’ve created a lot of new work. We still choose work for the gallery, and in many cases collectors get a chance to choose the newest work by the artists, who are so great at explaining it. They have such a passion for it. They are so appreciative.

Monica Moses is American Craft's editor in chief.