Sara McCorriston, who attended Mount St. Joseph Academy in Flourtown and Chestnut Hill College, is co-owner of Paradigm Gallery + Studio, a center city art gallery touted in a Philadelphia Magazine …
by Len Lear
Sara McCorriston, 32, who attended Mount St. Joseph Academy in Flourtown and later, Chestnut Hill College for graduate school, is co-owner (with business partner Jason Chen) of Paradigm Gallery + Studio, a Queen Village art gallery (746 S. 4th St.). Touted in a Philadelphia Magazine “Best of” issue as “the place to discover up-and-coming artists,” we decided to interview this art maven, who is certainly one of the youngest art gallery owners in the city.
•What did the “Best of…” designation from Philly Mag do for you?
“I think it helped us connect with an audience that hadn't heard of us, or maybe did but never really connected or came to visit. We had so many people reference us winning Best of Philly. We continue to proudly display it in our window.”
•How has the pandemic affected your business?
“It's been a whirlwind adapting to what was an almost overnight major change to running the business. I'm proud of how all of our efforts have been put into stepping up to the challenge, instead of giving way to the creeping feelings of defeat. I'm grateful that we had two strong exhibitions/events open just prior to the shelter-in-place orders in Philadelphia, which helped give us at least a bit of a cushion before the floor fell out from under us. In late February, we had just opened our 10th anniversary exhibition, and in early March we were showing at an art fair during Armory Week in New York. We needed to shut off the exhibition, the largest one we've ever had at the gallery, to the public shortly after opening.
“We've launched audio tours for the very first time, and we’ve continued moving forward with our exhibitions schedule and launched all of our exhibitions online through ticketed livestreams and live artist Q&As that have all sold out so far. Using these new tools has helped us connect more than ever to our international audience that rarely, if ever, has the opportunity to see our exhibitions in person.”
•Have you been able to sell online?
“Online sales have always been a strong part of our business, so we're very lucky that we were already set up to operate this way. We're so grateful for the support we've received through online orders each day. It's keeping us afloat.”
•Have you used Zoom or any other video platform to communicate with customers, artists, etc?
“Absolutely, almost every day. Aside from our live events, we've been using video platforms to connect with clients and artists even more than phone calls. It's not the same as seeing someone in person, but face-to-face meetings, even if through a computer, are always so much more personal.”
•What are your favorite pieces in your own private art collection?
“A lot of my favorite pieces come from travels around the world. Whenever I'm in a city or country I've never been to before, the first thing I want to do is learn everything about the art scene and the artists in that place. I try to bring a part of that energy home with me through artwork each trip and also stay connected to the galleries and artists I've collected from. Almost everything in my and my partner's home has a story and a feeling attached to it. From a bottle of sake from a wedding in Tokyo to a couch from Guadalajara to artwork from Cuba.”
•Are you optimistic or pessimistic for the future of your business based on what has happened the past few months?
“This answer changes day to day, but today is one of the optimistic days. I'm a bit worried about burning out after working long hours so continuously these past five months to keep the gallery going, but I'm so proud of what we've been able to do.”
•What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
“Many different answers rush through my head with this question for different reasons, but one of the hardest decisions related to the gallery came about four years into running the business when I decided to quit my full-time job and switch to full-time at the gallery. There was no way to ease into or to take that jump lightly. I knew my pay the first couple of years would be extremely minimal while I really learned to further drive the profitability of the business. It was difficult and scary to give up the financial stability I previously had, but I learned to bet on myself and to trust that I would figure things out.”
•What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“Making a decision, even if it turns out to be the wrong one, is always better than remaining indecisive.”
For more information, visit www.paradigmarts.org or call 267-266-0073. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org