Commercial Art Gallery-How to Start Your Own-part 1

I could not tolerate the cold in England, so after teaching primary school for 30 months as a qualified teacher, I decided to return to Barbados in 1969.Barbados was beginning to develop as a tourist destination;and there were only a few retail outlets offering local art for sale.

Opening an art gallery in Barbados in 1970 was a brave decision; I had walked off the job as a teacher in a secondary school after only one hour in my first classroom.

I knew I wanted to be an Artist and the thought did occur to me that if I stayed in that classroom, I might never leave.

No one knew me as an artist of had ever seen my work; Barbados Tourism industry was beginning to expand; but the market was still limited.

I knew that a pure art gallery would never survive. Every person has to eat but not everybody needs art.

I found a small commercial building with two floors in the heart of the capital Bridgetown. The decision was to look for something that will provide cash flow and afford food and shelter until the gallery was in a position to satisfy all those needs.

The business plan was to open a restaurant on the second floor and the Art Gallery and gift shop on the main floor.

The local market for art was limited at the time so I went in search for a product I can sell to locals in the gift shop. Reggae music was my choice; the music shops were not selling reggae and the radio stations were not playing it.

The Restaurant
My choice when eating in restaurants was to eat a freshly cooked meal. I would always order something that I knew had to be prepared that day.

The concept for the restaurant was to have one special a day and served on that day only; If any was left back the staff was alloyed to take it home; but the volume of food cooked increases with the volume of traffic.
W hen the special was finished, we served steaks or hot dogs.

I ate at the restaurant every day; I later learnt that in addition to the food being tasty and the portions satisfactory, my being seen eating there every day from the menu was the key to the success of the restaurant. I later found out that some restaurant owners, if they do eat at their restaurants, they do not eat from the menu.

When the gallery was able to carry its own weight I sold the restaurant operation. My dislike of the restaurant business had to do with shopping every day; I hated it.

The Gallery & Gift shop

It is extremely difficult to operate a pure art gallery as an artist or entrepreneur; unless you have a fairy godfather or godmother with strong financial backing.

The gallery exhibited my own work plus works by other artist at a 35% commission, which was raised to 45% this year after nearly 50 years. Artwork was priced between $200.00 and $4000.00.
Some body might become rich from your work when you are looking down from above.

The gift shop carried quality gifts for both locals and tourists, which provided the gallery with a reasonable cash flow. The gifts included T-shirts; craft jewelry, ceramics, wood and metal and craft, wraps and antique maps and hand painted glass Christmas ornaments that sold all year round.

The concept described above it the same concept that exists today; My landlady would love to create space for a small coffee shop and snack bar. mainly to attract more traffic.

I felt proud when another gallery owner from another Island told me she modeled her gallery after my concept.


  1. Hi Courtney! Your website is so intriguing and very beautiful! I love all your artwork and jewels! The stories you tell within the pages give me, the visitor, such an at home feeling of welcome. Your gallery is so established and inviting. I’m sure you know most of your visitors personally.

    I wish you continued success with Devonish Art Gallery. I would enjoy stopping by one day.


    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting. It is difficult to remember all of the visitors, but we have repeat visitors who are like family,unfortunately some are not with us any more, but the children are now grown up and continues to visit.The gallery is now 30 years in Anguilla and 19 in Barbados.Please visit and If I can help I will be willing to do so.Best wishes.


  2. Thank you so much for making this wonderful gallery of your artwork! I have not experienced this type of designs till recently and I love what you are doing. How long has this site been in development? Also what is the best deal I can get for multiple packs? Thank you so much!


    1. Thank you for visiting the gallery, The website started in 2012 by a developer I took over as CEO in 2015. Everything is nand carved, the mostly repeat and items I do wholesale are the hearts, minimum of 12.

      Enjoy your day.


  3. What a great story you have…and so much experience to share!

    You were very wise to not assume you could make it just with the art gallery. We live in a coastal tourist location. There are many businesses that come and go. So many of them are galleries, where there is all they offer.

    The galleries that stick around are almost always associated with a bakery or restaurant. As you pointed out, people always need to eat!

    Looking forward to the next parts of this story!


    1. Selling pure art is always a challenge; I have seen so many galleries open and close over the years.Usually the ones that last for a long time are owned by wealthy families for pride and fun; but sometimes money follow money.


  4. Hi Codevonish
    I love how you tell your story and your thoughts about what could work and the reasons why in the planning of your art gallery.
    Your warm personality comes across in your writing.
    Fantastic that you enjoyed eating every day in the restaurant and how it gave your customers confidence in the food.
    Wish you ongoing success with your venture.


    1. Thanks for visiting and your kind words; I did not realize how much my eating in the restaurant meant to the customers until after I sold the restaurant and many customers left.But it’s a tough business, you have to love it to be in it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *