Photographer Nathan Larimer wanted to open an art gallery in California's Wine Country -- but he didn't want it to be like the rest.
Most galleries across Napa and Sonoma Counties showcase paintings and photographs of vineyards and wineries. Larimer instead wanted his space to be a home for emerging artists uninterested in catering to tourists seeking wine-themed trinkets.
In 2014 he took the plunge and opened Prince Gallery in Petaluma, Calif. It's one of the few contemporary art galleries in the region, exposing the community to artists who otherwise might not have an affordable public forum. All proceeds from artwork sold go back to the artists, an invite-only roster of nine local artists under the age of 30 who are just launching their careers.
Name.Kitchen spoke with the 32-year-old entrepreneur about the vision for his Petaluma gallery, and why its name -- Prince Gallery (prince.gallery) -- helps his business stand out from other area galleries.
Why open a contemporary art gallery in Petaluma?
We’re here to prove that emerging artists, young artists, and experimental artists can all be successful here [in Petaluma].
There’s a fairly good art community here, good music and culture. At the same time, when it comes to visual arts, as opposed to music and whatnot, photographs of vineyards at sunset are going to sell a lot better to a more tourist market, as opposed to maybe more thoughtful, experimental, risk-taking contemporary art. Just from an economic level, emerging artists who are working in more avant-garde genres are going to be excluded from showing their work just because it might not be as sellable to the most obvious surface-level clientele.
So no vineyard photographs in your gallery?
We’re in California Wine Country, but we exhibit things that aren’t necessarily photographs of vineyards at sunset. For the most part, it’s a bigger risk doing a gallery like ours, and that’s why there are less of them.
And you’re OK with that risk?
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be really comfortable with a certain amount of risk.
How important was coming up with a name that differentiated your gallery from others in California's Wine Country?
A lot of local galleries have bad names. [Those names] can kind of devalue the work that’s in the gallery. I was looking for something that was simple, easy to remember and sophisticated.
I wanted the name to be almost like the way that a frame is to a piece of art. You know, when you have like a piece of art and you’re going to frame it you don’t want the frame to overpower or take away from the artwork. You want it to complete the artwork and to support the artwork.
How’d you land on 'Prince Gallery'?
The name 'Prince' actually came from my old office, in this building called the Prince Building. [It's] where I had my studio and photography studio before the art gallery. I was outside the office just on a bench and brainstorming ideas, and I realized that the building was named 'Prince.' It just happened that that was, you know, it was right in front of me. And it worked.
There was also a space available in the building that could have been a space that would have worked for the gallery and we considered renting it. We ended up not renting that space, but the name still worked.
How did you take that business name onto the Internet?
When I was looking to buy a URL or domain name, 'princegallery.com' was already taken, although no one was actually using it. It was one of those deals where somebody owned it, and they had it up for sale for way more than I would ever consider paying for it.
How did you discover that 'dot-gallery' [.GALLERY] was an option?
The first time I was ever exposed to that was the sales person at GoDaddy talking to me about it. I didn’t know that you could have a 'dot-gallery,' 'dot-kitchen,' 'dot-whatever.' I thought it was pretty cool right from the beginning.
It aligns perfectly because it’s new, it’s kind of avant-garde, it’s creative. That’s what we have on our walls in our brick-and-mortar space, and that’s what you see when you see our digital site.
How has this website presence elevated your business as it turns one year old?
Although we have prime real estate for our brick-and-mortar gallery and great walk-by traffic and everything, I would argue that more people see our artists’ work on our website or on our Instagram than people who actually come into our space.
You’re not a relevant entity if you don’t have a website, quite frankly. People don’t take you seriously, it makes you legitimate. I do have an actual storefront business, but if someone goes home and they look me up on the Internet and can’t find me then they’re going to raise questions about how long I’m actually going to be around, or if I’m still around. The website is your identity.
What's your hope for the artists featured on the website and within your gallery walls?
We like to think of our gallery as a stepping stone or a jumping-off point, like a springboard. Hopefully our artists spend time here and can build their resume here and then move on to bigger and better things.
To learn more about this business, visit the website prince.gallery.