Alicia Lea – Paint Cohoes – Interview
Written by Staff on November 24, 2023
Interview with Alicia Lea – by Liam Sweeny.
We connected with Alicia Lea, owner of the creative space “Paint Cohoes.” Here’s the dish.
RRX: You own a gallery in Cohoes, but you are also an artist. When you opened up your shop, was this a way to get closer to your art, i.e. being in a position to dedicate full time, or did you in some way fall into owning an art business/gallery?
AL: I started dreaming of owning my own creative space that allowed me to work and exhibit Artists while I was in college for fine arts. Craving a space I fit in is something I’ve felt even as a child. As life was happening I always pursued jobs, even if they kinda sucked, but fell in line with what I loved. Mostly they were creative and educational. Eventually I learned the business side of “sip & paint” art. During this time I really started to learn more about myself. Art not only connected me to understand more about myself, but I was connecting non artists to themselves and to each other. Creating an effective way to generate revenue to ensure the longevity of a studio & gallery was top priority. I created a space I needed, that the community needs. It’s more than just being able to make art for me, it’s about creative connection within our community. Through investing in myself (no loans) and a solid support group I opened up Paint Cohoes!
RRX: In my own art, one of the toughest questions to answer is “what do you do?” I guess that wouldn’t be an issue if I did still live in oils, but for a lot of artists, it is an issue. Bands struggle with the labelling of genre, so I guess it’s just a creatives’ thing. And yet I will ask; what kind of stuff do you do?
AL: In my art what do I do….well ahaha this is a loaded question. I connected people with my “art” and the genre for that varies. Currently I am diving into more public art with murals. I’ve always had a passion for graffiti and public art as it is free and accessible for the public to enjoy. My calendar is open for mural/public art commissions!
RRX: Coinciding with the previous question, as an art business owner, is there ever any pressure to advance or support any specific kind of art? Is space an issue or is it a huge issue? Do you seek things based off preferences, or do you like to explore when you’re discovering material?
AL: The ONLY kind of art I will NOT support is anything hateful. The gallery is always changing and evolving. Exhibiting Artist are from all walks of life and varying styles. We also offer lots of creative classes that are changing to the public as well as private offsite and onsite classes. The space is designed for other creatives to come in and teach classes I cannot and I’m always looking for new things to offer the public. If I could add something extra to the space it would be screen printing & pottery and that requires additional space to grow.
RRX: PaintCohoes is a “Remsen Street Business,” which, it should be explained, is the main commercial street in Cohoes. The city does a lot to promote businesses on the street. As a gallery, or art business to be more expansive, do you have any role in promoting the street? Any events you get a lot out of?
AL: I personally will coordinate my own events at the gallery that lines up with City planned events for the street as I am more of an “event” space to maximize foot traffic, give something extra for the public to enjoy, and offers more to the people coming specifically to the gallery. I’ve worked with the city on a project in the past. We did create a grass roots collective group of business owners to help expand what Eat in the Street was after it was discontinued this past summer that encompassed retail and other businesses past Remsen. But we had very little assistance from the city to host those Friday block parties.
RRX: You have private events at the shop, and I remember seeing people spill out of one when I was taking a walk, me living so close. Looked like a great time. The people didn’t remind me of “gallery people,” younger, more energy. What do you look, or hope for, in booking events?
AL: The space is marketed to all demographics! Art IS for everyone and I hope to see all walks of life at the gallery. I work with larger/commercial establishments for private events for team building and host paint birthday parties for young kids! We also will celebrate artist achievements and new releases. Having a safe space for people to create is very important to me. I’ve successfully created art for fun (and will continue to host such classes) . My next step is to focus more on the program Rejuvenating Arts I’ve created this past year.
RRX: Having a business centered around visual art presents a challenge that we as an indie media company understand too well – making money in creativity. It’s so hard to get out there, so artists feel like they need to devalue themselves like all they have is a product. What do you think we can do to support ourselves better as artists?
AL: NETWORKING is key to growing financially as an artist. That’s the one main piece of advice I can give. I know it’s hard because we have lives where other factors can come into place. Plan to attend events or visit establishments that align with your creative business/art. Make an impression face to face. Be genuine and authentic in your connections. Never devalue your art and remember you are earning trust in your community and they will value you where you value yourself.
RRX: This is where you answer the question I didn’t ask. Remarks? Comments? Educate, enlighten, emote – the floor is yours,
AL: Paint Cohoes is a Studio & Gallery. Meaning we have rotating curated exhibits featuring artists of varying showcasing experience while also being a working studio. Artists create work and offer an array of classes that are creatively fun, mindful, and spiritual. We are always looking to network and grow with our community!