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Connecting Creatives

We talk to ARTZ ID founder and director Maria Galea about her vision for the future of the visual arts industry in Malta.

Maria Galea: I am not a big fan of titles – I never mange to fit into a specific role! However, if I had to define myself, I would say I am a creative entrepreneur. I have been selling art for the past 11 years – I started working in my family’s framing business and commercial gallery, where I worked alongside interior designers and hoteliers on a day-to-day basis. But I started my professional career in the arts as an artist at a young age, and I still exhibit my work internationally.

Maria Galea at The Society of Arts by Tarumina Sen Chandra

I opened my first gallery five years ago, aiming to help local artists exhibit their work on an international level. During our first year we exhibited works in New York, Miami and Dubai. That same year, we formed a partnership with hospitality company Iniala, opening a cluster of galleries and hosting up to two exhibitions a month.

My role within the arts allows me to connect artists with new networks and opportunities, helping them bring their work to market. I have always been conscious of a lack of infrastructure in the art market in Malta, and when I opened the galleries I realised that my role in the arts should take on a bigger purpose, contributing to the growth of the industry as a whole.

Artpaper: When did you come up with ARTZ ID and why?

MG: I was actually on the underground in London, travelling for work, when I started thinking about ARTZ ID. It began with the idea of creating a space that acted as a support system for the arts industry. It was triggered by the struggles and experiences I went through both as an artist and gallerist. I had always wished for a space where I could find the feedback and advice I needed, but it didn’t exist. Then I thought – why not create an online space that acts as a centralised network where people in the arts can connect, collaborate, get feedback and find new experiences? At the time, however, I was busy managing a cluster of galleries with ongoing exhibitions and projects. Then one fine day I realised that if I don’t focus on this project it will never happen and so that’s what I did. It was a very hard decision, but I followed my gut. I closed the galleries and dedicated a full year to researching and developing the first iteration, which will hopefully start evolving soon.

Artpaper: Who is ARTZ ID for?

MG: Whenever I speak about this project many refer to it as a platform for artists, but it is much, much more than that. It’s a platform for professionals within the industry, which also includes artists. In Malta, the public has very little knowledge of how the art industry works because we don’t really have a fully developed industry. Many art spaces are publicly managed, therefore the private-public creative industry is almost non-existent. ARTZ ID is aimed at firstly creating awareness about the community as a whole, which will attract art lovers and the general public to engage under a centralised platform. It was built specifically for identities and institutions within the arts to showcase their professional portfolio, connect with other professionals in their network and the public in general. So, it has a space for everyone. However, our main target audience is the visual arts community; which includes, artists, curators, critics, auctioneers, cultural managers and more.

What are your plans for the years ahead?

MG: Our journey has just started and will be a long one, but, so far, we are on the right track. For the first few weeks, we’ve been focused on actually building the community and its members – promoting their work and their professional identity is the first step towards creating awareness of the community in general. We are currently working on strategies to create different support mechanisms for our community. In the near future, we will also have some events geared up that will act as workshops focused around professional development and business strategies.

Artpaper: Who are your collaborators and why are they important?

MG: We collaborate with both public and private entities as long as they add value to our community. Creating meaningful collaborations is at the core of what we do, as they create both engagement as well as new ways for our community to access networks. One thing I have learned along the way is that networks are possibly the most important elements in my professional career and have allowed me to grow both locally and internationally. Creating the right networks and connections can open so many doors, and being a professional within the arts is never a straightforward path. Therefore, we believe our collaboration will help our community connect with the right networks of people, companies and audiences.

Artpaper: Why do you think something like this is beneficial in Malta?

MG: To begin with, our community is very fragmented – something that doesn’t allow us to create impact and awareness amongst the public in general. Having a space which acts collectively is essential. An online art space is definitely the way to go, especially during the unique times we are living in. It creates accessibility, which again is something we haven’t had in the past. Finally, I also believe that in the near future, ARTZ ID can act as another support system for the community, which is currently highly dependent on public funding. One of our goals is to create that balance and encourage a creative entrepreneurship mindset within the industry, as well as acting as a connecting point between the professional and the market place.

Artpaper: What is your main goal?

MG: I want to see our online creative community grow professionally and sustainably on a local and international level. Nothing less nothing more.

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