Allison Williamson is the mind behind Artist Collective, which she initially launched as an online-only business in 2010 | Courtesy Artistic Collective

Allison Williamson was a bit of a pioneer in the art field. Her invention, Artist Collective, was at the forefront of online art sales. An art history degree from Sewanee and five years experience working in an art gallery led her to take a chance on bringing art sales entirely online in 2010.

“A lot of people were comfortable buying online but it was definitely somewhat limiting,” Williamson said. “There were people that wanted to see things, and if they were local we could certainly accommodate that. The longer we were in business or people bought from us, there was a trust that we built. We had great quality. We worked with great artists. We provided a great resource for local art.”

Artist Collective started with the goal of giving artists the opportunity to sell artwork outside of a gallery. Because of its grassroots beginnings, the company relied on word of mouth, and leaned heavily on the growth of social media to spread information about offerings. But in 2017, Artist Collective evolved by opening its first physical location in Charleston, and has kept expanding over the past five years. The new location in The Charleston Place, which officially opened Sept. 8, represents just how far the company has come. 

Williamson opened the first physical location in Mount Pleasant in 2017. But as the business grew, things changed. “I really never planned to have brick and mortars,” she said, “but it just got to the point where the amount of business we were doing, I needed a space. Not only to meet clients but to house the art, to have a place for shipping.” Much of the work in the early days of Artist Collective was done from Williamson’s Mount Pleasant home.

The Charleston Place and Mount Pleasant locations collect artwork from all five of Artist Collective’s branches

“Now it’s pretty common and it’s a robust market, but at the time the gallery model had not been flipped,” said Anne Pope, a marketing and business consultant who has worked with Williamson since the early days of the collective. “And now certainly, post Covid, even moreso, people are doing online sales. But at the time when Alli started, she was an early adapter and pioneer for a business that sold art online.”

The new location in The Charleston Place serves as a nexus of sorts for Artist Collective. Art from all five branches of Artist Collective, including Nashville, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Palm Beach, is displayed at The Charleston Place. Each branch location is run by its director and features its own stable of artists. The Charleston Place gallery serves as a way for local shoppers to view art from unfamiliar artists. 

“We hope in that space to do lots of great programming,” Williamson said. “Like having artists-in-residence for artists from other cities or even locally to come in for a few days and they are able to use the space to paint. We can do artist demonstrations. We hope to do collaborations and different fun things.”

Pope added, “Part of the mission of the company is to be a place where emerging artists and established artists can grow their own notoriety. The Artist Collective represents them and takes away all the headaches: dealing with marketing, sales, that sort of thing.”

It allows artists to focus on their work and leave the gallery aspect to the collective, like with Mount Pleasant visual artists Chelsea Goer and Diana Garrett whose works have appeared at the Collective. Inspired by a Southern way of life, Goer paints Lowcountry images like oysters and the sea. Garrett’s first series at Artist Collective was “The Butterfly Collection.” 

Artist Collective’s physical locations provide a hands-on touch for those who prefer buying art in person

“I think each market seems to really have their own personality,” Williamson said. “Throughout all the collectives together, we really have a great mix of styles and artists.”

Community outreach and charity are a big part of the mission statement for Artist Collective. Each branch director chooses a different nonprofit to donate to. Charleston’s branches give to Empowered Minds, a volunteer organization that provides yoga and mindfulness classes to school children from aged 3 to 18 years old.

Artist Collective is always looking for more local artists to work with. “I started with an initial group of artists and it’s just grown from there,” Williamson said. “Trying to bring in different styles.” Artists can submit applications to Artist Collective via artistcollectives.org. Applications are reviewed quarterly.

The Charleston Place location represents roughly 85 artists from across the Southeast and serves as a testament to the journey of the company as a whole. It will soon host more events, like the First Friday Art Walk each month. 


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Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.