Kaiser Kemal: Artist Run Gallery
Long Island City, Queens
Business partners and artists Kaiser Kamal and Alam Tipu began their friendship over a decade ago as art students in Bangladesh. After moving to NYC to pursue their art careers, they found themselves increasingly collaborating on design projects for small Bangladeshi businesses and other immigrant business owners in Queens who were in need of graphic, web, logo and packaging support. A lightbulb went off: to combine their freelance design work with their passion for art by leveraging their extensive social and professional artist network with their burgeoning design client base. The result is ArtistsRun Gallery—a diverse, grassroots art gallery and design business Long Island City that's run by artists and serves a diverse and "glocal" (global/local) community of artists and art lovers operating outside of the Manhattan/Chelsea gallery scene.
"We're the only Bengali-run art gallery and design space in NYC, and we reach clients who don't know where to go for high-quality design work and who can't easily access high end art galleries in Manhattan. Many of our clients are Bengali immigrants, but we've already expanded our base to other immigrants and New York natives," Kaiser explained to his QEDC mentor. "We also help up and coming artists gain exposure in NYC, which is difficult to do if you are new to this city."
To promote creative production, exhibition, study and support in Queens, the organization offers services as a Gallery and as a Studio. The gallery offers professional art in a variety of styles and media—including drawing, painting, sculpture and video installation—and provides a unique pipeline for international artists to be introduced to the NYC art market. The gallery's activities include invitational shows, exchange exhibits with other galleries, art competitions, educational workshops and art demonstrations. On the design-end, ArtistRun's studio services are vast and growing—including graphic and web design, banner, sign and magazine printing, social media and digital marketing, photography and commercial film. "There is definitely a hunger for art and for high-quality design work in Queens that's been overlooked and that we are serving with our business," Kaiser pointed out during a QEDC follow-up meeting in May 2014.
Kaiser's relationship with QEDC started in October 2013, at the same time that he and Tipu launched ArtistRun Gallery in Long Island City with their third partner, ceramist Bishwajit Chawdhury. A student in the Entrepreneur Assistance Program (EAP), a ten-week training course that helps entrepreneurs develop their business, operations and marketing strategy, Kaiser has utilized the expertise of QEDC staff throughout his first year as a start-up. And it's payed off. In under six months, Kaiser hired two part-time staff members to meet their customer demand, and has hosted six art exhibitions with openings attended by hundreds of artists and art lovers. The design team has grown their customer base to 50 regularly paying clients, and by the end of 2014, they plan to hire a full-time staff person to focus on sales and marketing in order to grow this customer base and sustain them into their second year. "Our next goal is to find one or two large clients, a company or agency that needs a lot of regular design work, which will inject capital into our business," he discussed, while outlining his teams primary challenges and aims.
ArtistRun Gallery, May Exhibition, 2014
By promoting the mission that art should be accessible to people of all backgrounds, no matter their ethnicity, income or place of residence, and by creating exposure for upcoming immigrant and native NYC artists, ArtistRun has two bottom-lines: to create a sustainable operation through their design services and gallery art sales, and to toppling economic and social barriers to accessing art and artist networks in NYC. As Kaiser put it: "We want to create an opportunity for art lovers to become art collectors, by maintaining quality and affordability."
An example of a local, immigrant-owned social enterprise that was strengthened through QEDC's technical assistance and mentorship, ArtistRun Gallery promises to be a community signpost and economic driver for years to come.
For more information on ArtistRun Gallery's monthly exhibitions and events, check their website: http://artistrungallery.com/