ARABELLA - Our Story
It Starts with a Dream.
ARABELLA was born out of love - for each other, for art and our sense of beauty of the land and our country. Having known each other through our consulting businesses for many years, by chance or good fortune we discovered an opportunity to share our lives and start building a dream. Debra relocated from Calgary, Alberta to Ontario in 2003 and we were married in 2004 on a small, retired horse ranch in Caledon that we hoped to build into our dream.
We felt compelled to start our journey with a clear sense of the future. Christened "Arabella Pines", we built our home into a special place for enjoying all that we had brought together from our two separate lives. "Arabella" for the daughter Deb always wanted and "Pines" from the obvious and bountiful trees surrounding the farm and countryside. ARABELLA was a turn in the road for us, a beautiful sense of someplace we always wanted to be and time was finally on our side. ARABELLA was our way of bringing together east and west, our sons Adam and Graham, our six dogs and setting a new direction for our shared future. The place became a way to connect with many great neighbours and the many artists from the Headwaters region.
While we had come from different pasts with different priorities, ARABELLA - the place - represented what we saw as a beautiful earth full of promise. It was a place and a journey to go "Beyond the Boundaries", to develop our avocations in art and our business vocations as we continued to work with individual business leaders and organizations to develop their entrepreneurial skills and realize new directions.
The Gallery Barn.
At that time, given that we had an unused barn on the farm and we wanted to realize more of our artistic interests and talents, our rather eccentric Gallery Barn at ARABELLA Pines was launched. While at its height we represented 23 artists, admittedly it was a seasonal and part time affair. But it gave us an opportunity to experiment, refine and develop some successful approaches to branding. We like to think that our after-event-hours, martini celebrations with artists and neighbours were legendary.
We knew we had one clear goal - to focus on creating, supporting and promoting art that makes you laugh and look at the world in a different way. Debra's Bird House Art
became a widely recognized local feature and her jewellery cemented her reputation as an outstanding design artist. For my part, landscape painting and photography were my modest pursuits but were refined and reshaped as we created a powerful web site experience for the gallery. As much as possible, we wanted to focus on all that was beautiful in the world and try to explore how we might help grow our own small arts business and that of our artistic colleagues in the region.
Life Changes Without Warning.
All our business activities came to a sudden and grinding halt when Debra was nearly killed in an early spring snow storm. Faced with major injuries that required a lot of healing time, we both started to reassess our future directions. The accident derailed the consulting business we were in the process of expanding, but it did give birth to the creation of our now flag ship publication ARABELLA; the magazine or book, as many now refer to it.
In those months waiting for reconstructive surgery to heal and considering possible new business directions to support us financially, we started to listen carefully to what we were hearing from our small section of the art world. Looking at it as a business environment we recognized some important basic needs were not being met or perhaps more appropriately, some entrepreneurial opportunities weren't being developed.
A Changing Market for Art.
At the time, the days of art tours and art festivals providing ongoing sales for local artists were dwindling. We heard more and more artists expressing the need to get beyond their saturated, local markets and attract customers from further afield. We soon realized that there was a real opportunity to increase the scope of public awareness and consumer demand for a full range of creative talent, products and services that existed right across Canada. The added economic benefits of supporting and promoting arts and culture for various regional cities and towns were becoming more apparent with the writings of authors like Richard Florida. In this context, a well-designed, consumer-focused publication made sense for the arts community. We intentionally refer to it as a publication because the notion of another "magazine" overflowing with advertisements and little relevant, subject matter content was rejected outright in our magazine readership research.
Academic versus Consumer Needs.
In terms of readership appeal, while there are some good publications in Canada that serve to promote critical dialogue and educate on the arts, at the time we researched the field there were none that took a "consumer focus". There still are none that give insight into the personal stories of artists or those that operate creative businesses. There are none that serve to take readers on an emotional journey; or introduce them to the world of experiencing art; or make it easier to walk in the doors of galleries. Today, we feel ARABELLA is unique in these areas. Back then, people that loved to explore and discover art frequently reported a sense of intimidation with the academic discussion they thought was required to visit galleries. At the heart of our research we found most people we would classify as art lovers just wanted to better understand the personal lives, ambitions and talents of artists. Today, they turn to ARABELLA.
Supporting & Promoting Canadian Art.
In brief, we saw ARABELLA as a way in which we could put many of our entrepreneurial skills and artistic talents to work in a way that we hoped would benefit arts and culture in Canada. Today, ARABELLA is the premier Canadian consumer magazine focusing on arts, architecture and design. It focuses on all that is beautiful in the world from our perspective and it helps support and promotes arts and culture in a way that no other magazine does. We've successfully established a reputation and niche for Canadian art and we provide artists and galleries with a proven approach to networking and marketing. We have fantastic readership support and the feature articles in ARABELLA continue to provide real marketing and career advantage to those we profile.
What We Deliver. For Artists,
ARABELLA has become an extremely credible and well-respected vehicle for telling their stories and displaying their artworks with the benefit of increasing sales from a wide geographic region - basically all of North America. The magazine also serves as a source of professional inspiration and means of networking with other artists, as well as a wider range of gallery exhibiting opportunities.
ARABELLA has served as an extremely strong marketing support for promotion of in-gallery events and sales, as well as an ideal means of identifying talent to expand gallery offerings to local clients and art collectors.
For Art Collectors,
ARABELLA now serves to help identify emerging talent and investment opportunities with high potential for return.
For Our Readers,
based on their unambiguous feedback and testimonials, ARABELLA is clearly valued for its unique brand of publishing, education and personal reading enjoyment. It is recognized and appreciated for being uniquely contemporary, highly personal, stunningly visual, and appealing to a significantly wider audience than traditional specialty magazines focusing on arts appreciation, critique, and expert dialogue.
Our biggest challenge today is not the creation process for this beautiful magazine but it is the increasingly difficult aspect of financing the production and distribution through advertising revenues alone. Some people point to the advantages of reducing costs through digital offerings and we do offer issues through several digital newsstands. However, our readership feedback is quite clear and unequivocal - there is simply nothing that compares to physically holding this high-end, quality book; turning the pages and being absorbed by the original, in-depth stories and visual representations of a fantastic array of artistic works.
So as we go forward, we are looking at ways of increasing the financial support for this venture. Converting to a not-for-profit status may be one option; but the other might be to look at add-on services to secure increased financial return from a wider array of related product & service sales. Commission sharing with artists and galleries may also be a consideration. Finally, collaboration and partnerships with like-minded individuals and organizations may well be an avenue to explore.
Like all journeys there are many turns and forks in the road and while there are always uncertainties, the pleasure of creating one of the most outstanding arts publications in the world is well worth it.
ARABELLA is our adventure, our journey, sharing ideas and the beauty around us. For us as artists, it's about transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary; and going beyond the boundaries. This is our dream.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story.
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