Pairing Eco-Art with Environmental Charities with G2 Gallery’s Jolene Hanson

May 15, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good and we’re so excited today to have as a repeat guest our good friend, Jolene Hanson, who is the Director and Curator of the G2 Gallery in Los Angeles. Jolene, welcome back to Green is Good. JOLENE HANSON: Well thank you and thank you for having me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know Jolene, we’re now on Sirius XM and we have a bigger audience than ever before so I want you to share again the whole story about what the G2 Gallery is, how it’s green, and what its mission is. JOLENE HANSON: Absolutely! The G2 Gallery, which is located in Los Angeles, it’s in Venice on Abbot Kinney in Los Angeles so we’re right near the beach on the west side. We are a nature and wildlife photography gallery so we showcase National Geographic photographers as well as local photographers whose work is in landscape, nature, wildlife genre. We have two series of exhibits. We have our main exhibits, which are very environmental and cover environmental successes or challenges so depending on the direction of the exhibit, it’ll show where we have been able to bring back endemic species and or where different species or drinking water is in danger of harm so that’s our environmental series and then we have a series, which we call Nature LA, which is for Los Angeles photographers out of Los Angeles county who do creative more artistic work in nature and wildlife photography so that’s a little bit about what we show but we do something very different than most galleries. We donate 100% of our proceeds from our photography sales to environmental charities. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s just amazing and before we get there, I want to just give a shout-out to your website. It just always puts me in a trance. I have it on right now in front of me and I want to share with our listeners. It’s www.theg2gallery.com. Please go to that website. Follow along. It is just the most gorgeous photos you could ever imagine in the world. It just gets better and better all the time, Jolene, and my hat’s off to you. I’ve got to tell you that right now. JOLENE HANSON: Thank you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Yeah, it is just amazing. Tell our listeners a little bit about when you sell your beautiful artwork, talk about then the mission. Where does the money go? JOLENE HANSON: The money goes to environmental charities and when I mentioned earlier those environmental exhibits that show the success and the challenges, those exhibits we partner with a nonprofit organization that is working on or has worked on that challenge so for example, one of our upcoming exhibits is partnered with The Nature Conservancy and it’s an exhibit by a photographer, Ian Shy, who has worked internationally but has done an extensive amount of research here off the coast of California on The Channel Islands and The Channel Islands are a really unique group of islands that are not necessarily inhabited. One of the islands is Catalina but the others are more or less all protected lands or state park lands and used more for camping as well as research and preservation. One of those islands is the Santa Cruz Island and that island really experienced some challenges. In I want to say the 80s, 90s and the challenges led to a lot of the endemic species. Because these islands are kind of so secluded and they’re not as inhabited by us and they don’t have as much of our stuff going on for them, they have a number of weak endemic species, one of which is a fox. There’s a unique species of fox on the Catalina Island and a unique species of fox on the Santa Cruz Island and The Nature Conservancy took a big role with the Catalina Island in bringing that endemic fox as well as they have an endemic skunk species back to life really. They’re bringing their numbers back up, really allowing them to flourish on the island again. They were affected dramatically by invasive species. Other wild creatures, like bore, had been introduced as well as distemper. When household dogs get shots, we give our dog a distemper shot. Well these foxes, they don’t have their shots to help them and when they’re exposed to it, it can wipe out the entire species very rapidly so those are things that they’re challenged with. The Nature Conservancy has done a phenomenal job at bringing back that fox as well as other species on the island so we are partnering with them on a positive story of what they’ve done really well and what others can learn from. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Jolene, what does environmentalism mean to you? JOLENE HANSON: Oh gosh that’s such a good question and I think it’s a question that changes as our world changes. It is in environmentalism and humanitarianism and they’re starting to become the same thing. I think in the past there was a big divide between the two and it was like well, let’s take care of the people and then oh well, maybe we’ll take care of the environment and they were kind of separated and now for me, they’re becoming more of a big thing. They’re touching upon each other’s lives more dramatically because our environments that we live in are becoming increasingly challenged with global climate change, water. Water in general is just becoming more and more polluted. We’re having less and less opportunities to clean water and so I think that environmentalism is looking at the entire environment and how it affects every species so that includes the human species and really thinking progressively as to how we can really maintain what we have now and take care of it in the best way possible. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it, and there’s a lot of people out there that want to do something as meaningful and as cool as what you’re doing and you have a great position you’ve earned along the way, this Director and Curator of the G2 Gallery and for our listeners out there that just joined, we’ve got Jolene Hanson on, who is the Director and Curator of the G2 Gallery in Venice, California. Again, go to www.theg2gallery.com. They want to be the next Jolene Hanson. Talk a little bit about that journey. How did you get that gig? Talk a little bit about that. JOLENE HANSON: Well, thank you. I will say I am very fortunate and I do have a phenomenal position. I always say it’s from growing up on a dairy farm and working hard all my life but I know that’s not the exact reason. I have a background in photography. I’m from Vermont. Growing up in Vermont, we’re a little closer to the treehugger side because we just grow up in the most beautiful place. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Home of Ben & Jerry’s. JOLENE HANSON: Oh, go Ben and Jerry and so I have kind of that on my background. I have the photography and I have growing up in the environment, growing up in the woods, understanding using nature from a sustainable point of view, looking at how all that works and that’s just the background and that’s where I say the passion comes from but from there, I’ve worked my way up the ranks, so to speak. I worked at a nonprofit for a while, giving me that kind of donor knowledge, learning about how nonprofits work and being able to understand them. I’ve worked on photography and managing a photographer so I have kind of this dual background of art and nonprofit organizations as well as the hands on background of being a photographer so all of these things came to play and when I was given the opportunity to interview with our owners, Dan and Susan Gottlieb, they sat down in Dan’s conference room and of course, they interviewed me but they also started talking about what they see the gallery to be and it was one of the moments in your life where you think oh my gosh, I am in the perfect place. This is going to be amazing and so I followed that feeling that I was feeling, really was open throughout the interview, very honest, and was called back for a second interview, which is always the best news, and took on the position and I’ve been with the gallery since we started. I actually participated in the renovation process of our building so I’ve been there from the ground basically, from that time, and the gallery has really grown. Dan, Susan, and myself have grown with the gallery and it continues to evolve and become unique and take on new creative direction. We’re always trying to think outside the box, what can we do that is different, that’ll kind of keep us hip and cool as well as keep helping everyone out? JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s such an important message and really in this role that you have, even though it’s so altruistic and philanthropic in its base, you’re also an entrepreneur because you were there since the beginning and now you’ve run the G2 for five years so talk a little bit about the evolution, like what’s the journey been like? What have you learned during the last five years of really both environmental entrepreneurship with a dopple of philanthropy on top of that? JOLENE HANSON: It has been a wonderful journey. When we started the gallery, we would have one artist exhibit that would last three or four months. Our first year, we had three exhibits. We now, at five years, have shown over 102 artists. We showcase 98 exhibits and we’ve donated to over 48 organizations and we’ve donated through admission (We charge admission to our special receptions), photography sales, fundraisers (We use the building and work with the organizations to produce fundraisers for those organizations), and we’ve raised over $800,000 in five years for those organizations and the progression has been kind of slow and happens as it needs to but in retrospect, it’s pretty fast. We increased the quantity of our exhibits and we changed it to six weeks. We now showcase three to four exhibits at a time. Almost four years ago — wow time goes so fast — our owner, Dan Gottlieb, suggested to me that I start building an Ansel Adam collection so we now have a pretty solid Ansel Adams collection. We have seven individual prints and two of his portfolios so we have over 30 Ansel Adams prints in the gallery. They’re all original signed Ansel Adams and we always have a collection up in the gallery so that our visitors have the opportunity to see an Ansel Adams and so all of those little things and then there’s the backend stuff that people laugh about. I’ve taken down walls. I’ve pulled out cabinets, just physical stuff that once we started having visitors come through, we realized this isn’t working for flow. This area’s not getting the right attention. Our building originally was a office building and so it had cubicles and we left a few of the cubicles. We’ve now removed all of those cubicles, for example. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So even being the boss, you still have to do all the heavy lifting sometimes, huh? Isn’t that how it goes? JOLENE HANSON: Absolutely. I clean the bathrooms. I do anything. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Jolene, if someone buys some of your artwork, is it a write off and are you a 501(c)(3)? Is it a nonprofit or how does that work for our listeners out there that are on your website now because they’re listening to the show and they want to buy one of your great pieces of artwork? How does that work in terms of the financing and the legality of it all? JOLENE HANSON: Absolutely. We are not a 501(c)(3). We are actually a LLC and the tax deduction, to be very honest, is on our end so there is no tax deduction. What we do is we work with our artist so we’re on a 60/40 split, which means that we pay our artists 60%, which is very unusual for galleries in general. Most galleries are now at 50/50 and some are kind of going the other direction so 40/60. This is very unfortunate and hard for artists but that being said, we pay our artists every month. If they sell something, they get paid. That’s like our first priority and then second, we pay our organization so we break the split and then I cut one check to the artist and one check to the organization. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Perfect. I love it. JOLENE HANSON: That is how they get paid so unfortunately for the consumer, it is not their donation but at the end of the day, it is still a donation and 40% of what you spend will go to the nonprofit organization. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Which is therefore, why you get the donation because you’re then making the donation. JOLENE HANSON: Yes, and it may sound odd or off but we’re funding ourselves and we’re then just giving it all back, which makes us very unique. There are not many people out there that are doing what we’re doing. JOHN SHEGERIAN: No, you’re a sustainable organization that then is also helping to save the world. How do you beat that? JOLENE HANSON: You know, there’s not much out there that could do much more than that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it. Talk a little bit the nature of conservational photography. When did photography match up with environmentalism and conservation and who was truly the pioneer of that whole movement? JOLENE HANSON: That’s a great question. I would say around the 1850s or 60s. There’s a photographer who is now available on the secondary market that is really actually starting to grow in his collectability, who is named Carlton Watkins and Carlton Watkins started shooting, I believe, in the 60s. Don’t quote me on it, people out there. I can only imagine the emails of you’re wrong but it was in the late 1800s and Carlton Watkins really kind of, I think, paved the way and was the inspiration for photographers like Ansel Adams. He was working with big plates. This was in the olden days, where you had to kind of have a cart behind you with big plates. You get one shot. You go in. You do the chemistry, very, very hard, I would say, process and he was one of the pioneers. He headed west and started photographing all the wild lands, which led to him connecting people through photography with how beautiful America is. Really in a sense, and I know it sounds horrible but it’s going to get America-centric, but that is really where it all started and that led to photographers after him. There was a gentleman, William Henry Jackson and then of course, the icon that we all know today, Ansel Adams. All of them were influential. They all took roles in government. It’s a big part of it and it’s something that is important to share. They participate in government. They meet with presidents. Ansel Adams has a long history of meeting with presidents. Oh gosh, I’m going to forget who he photographed. I think it was Jimmy Carter but don’t quote me on it but he was the first photographer to do a photographic portrait of one of our presidents instead of a painting and that connection is really important because without that governmental connection, we would not have the National Park Service and we wouldn’t have saved so many lands for National Park usage. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s a great, great point. We’re down to the last two minutes or so. I want to ask you a couple more questions though before we’ve got to say goodbye. Talk about your favorite. This is a hard thing. You’re a photographer in your blood and you’re also a director and curator. Who is your favorite artist and what’s your favorite photograph and what’s hanging in your home? JOLENE HANSON: That is a great question. Right now in my home, I have a Jack Akinda as well as a Clyde Butcher. Clyde Butcher’s out of Florida, a phenomenal photographer, and Jack is out of Arizona. Jack works in color and Clyde works in black and white. The two pieces I have by them are both large format film, the good old fashioned way, pre digital. Personally, I like the old stuff. The piece I have by Jack was taken on a four by five and the piece I have by Clyde was taken on an eight-by-10 and they’re both living photographers, still living today, so that’s what’s in my home. It’s so hard for me. At the gallery recently, we’ve shown Daniel Beltrá, who does phenomenal conservation and environmental photography and is actually now heading towards the secondary market. I’m really excited for him. Upcoming, I mentioned earlier, we have Ian Chive and the exhibit on The Channel Islands and The Galapagos, which will be running through June ninth. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, you also have an environmental film festival coming up, right? JOLENE HANSON: Yeah, so we just started the groundwork on an environmental film festival, which will be this upcoming fall so again, stay tuned to our website. On the events page, we’ll fill you in on when that’s going to happen. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, Jolene, again, you are just wonderful to have on as a guest and you are always welcome to come back on our show to share your great message and all the great work that you’re doing. For our listeners out there again, please go and support Jolene’s great foundation at www.theg2gallery.com. Jolene Hanson, you’re doing inspirational and wonderful work and you are truly living proof that green is good.