Gallery Spotlights | Visual Arts

Southam Gallery: 24 Years on a Shoestring


Southam Gallery in Salt Lake City

Interviewing both Linda and Kimberly Southam at the same time is “electric” to say the least. As they discuss the history and future of their gallery and their insights into artists, galleries and the art market, energy absolutely floods out of these two vivacious women. Together, they can generate enough wattage to make hair stand on end!

Linda Southam opened Southam Gallery at 50 East Broadway in Salt Lake City, in December of 1982. Daughter Kimberly, now President of Southam Gallery, Inc., was just 12 years old at the time. “I remember that on the grand opening evening, I was supposed to be in charge of the punch bowl,” reminisces Kimberly. “At 6:00 people started arriving and Mom wasn’t quite ready yet, so she sent me out to greet the guests, I was completely terrified and could hardly utter a word.”

Linda Southam

Such is no longer the case; Kimberly has become just as expert at greeting customers and selling art as her business-savvy mother Linda. “Being a single parent, I had to start making money right from the start”, recalls Linda. “I had to learn how to be resourceful real fast.”

Linda studied art at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Weber State University. During this time, she began to gain the expertise to function as a fine art dealer, as well as a very good painter in her own right. “Owning and operating a gallery is one of the hardest, but also one of the most challenging and rewarding things a person can possibly do,” Linda reveals. “We are building maintenance, janitorial staff, publicity agents, caterers, exhibit installers, inside and outside sales, mentors, and accountants.” Linda plans to pass the reins of gallery owner and director to Kimberly soon, and resume painting full time. “I guess I’ve earned a break, after surviving a flood, freeway construction, a burglary, and a tornado”, quips Linda.

There have been many excellent artists represented by Southam Gallery over the years. “We have done well a number of artists throughout our history, A.D. Shaw, Richard Murray, Kathryn Stats, Diane Turner, Steve McGinty, Larry and Sharlene Christensen, Donald Allan, Karl Thomas, Dottie Miles, Linda Curley, Alexander Dzigurski II, Graydon Foulger, John Jarvis, John Myrup, Ken Baxter, and many others, the list is long and we don’t mean to leave anyone out. In the last couple of years Richard Boyer, Aaron Stills, Carole Evans, Jerry Hancock, Michael Bingham, and Robert Call, have been new to the gallery and doing very well. To call an artist and tell them you just sold a painting is absolutely the greatest feeling.”

The two Southam women have a wealth of experience and knowledge to offer the artists they represent as well as young emerging artists.

Work by Richard Murray

“Regarding advice for young artists”, offers Kimberly, “If there is one point I would really want to stress for new artists, it’s the following: a gallery/artist relationship should be a win/win for both parties. Young artists should first find a reputable dealer who believes in their talent and then the artist should give them a chance to do their job. It takes time to build a new career. As long as you can see your dealer is working, paying their artists and selling work, have some patience.”

“Throughout our gallery’s history,” Kimberly continues, “we have always been excited to take on new and emerging artists. However, given the post 9/11 business atmosphere, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the doors open. Galleries are driven to focus on their established artists for sales they can count on. We cannot afford to represent as many emerging artists at this point; it is not due to not wanting to sell new artists. The bottom line for me as an art dealer, is to make my time count. If I work for an artist and line up potential interested parties to buy their work, and spend time with those customers getting them excited about the new artist, I need to make my energy count by selling the art. However, if the customer is able to find a painting or sculpture they like just a little better five minutes or ten minutes away at another gallery/ event, the dealer has worked for nothing. Therefore, I am looking to sell the work of artists who understand this dynamic.”

This is an important point for young artists to understand. It would seem from visiting local galleries that many of our local artists have the idea that they will sell more work if it is in multiple galleries. However, such is not necessarily the case.

“We advise artists all the time to take their work to Park City, or Jackson, or Scottsdale”, explains Linda. “We understand artists have to have multiple galleries to survive, but being in every other gallery in town is counter-productive.”

Work by Aaron Stills

Regarding pricing your art work, Kimberly says, ”Keep your prices lower to start and as your sales increase, gently raise them a little each year. Be patient and allow time for your career to grow. Remember that you are in competition with established artists who have earned their prices. Watch out for unscrupulous dealers who are out to make a buck and use you up. They can raise your prices quickly, to maximize their profits, and then when the market is saturated, they will dump you.”

“Talk to your art dealer”, Linda advises. “Ask for their advice regarding your direction and marketability. The dealers who have been in business for a while know what they are doing. If they don’t, they don’t survive. Strive for consistently good work; don’t bring in ten paintings of which only two or three are good.”

When asked about the trials and tribulations of the gallery business, both Southam’s replied in unison, “Art Auctions and Benefits.” “It’s all the art auctions and benefits that keep us from being able to afford DSL, rather than this old dial-up Internet connection,” offers Linda, pointing to the computer. “There are a number of very deserving causes that need support, but why do they always have to have an art auction? Why can’t they auction off something else? A lot of people will wait for the auctions to come up and then go buy three or four paintings at a discounted rate. It often devalues the artwork. The only way to control auctions is for the artists to refuse to participate.”

The Southams bring up an issue which many artists and galleries have noted around town. Suppose a local non-art related business was to sponsor a benefit or big art sale right before Christmas and sold 160 paintings from the area’s top artists, wouldn’t that pretty much kill the whole season for galleries? How do they expect galleries to survive when they take away their Christmas sales? There is a lot of talk about support for the arts and creating a vibrant cultural atmosphere, and then they kill gallery sales with auctions and benefits. That seems to be counterproductive, to this reporter.

What does the future hold for Southam Gallery? “I’ll have to work harder and be smarter to compete against all the Internet stuff and web sites,” reveals Kimberly. “Repeat business and customer relations is the key.” You definitely have to have a good sense of humor to stay in this business,” says Linda.

If you have not been to Southam Gallery, make it a point to do so. It has been aptly termed, “an artistic goldmine”. Happy art making!

A peek inside Southam Gallery

To learn more about the Southam Gallery and its artists visit

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