Ptarmigan Arts Gallery has been in existence on Pioneer Avenue in Homer since 1984. Operated as a sole proprietorship for almost thirty years, the gallery faced an uncertain future in early 2013 when the owner decided to try to sell the business and pursue other interests. In January 2013 a group of artists who sold their work through the gallery began a series of bi-weekly, then weekly, meetings to develop a plan to purchase the business as a cooperative owned and operated by the artists.
While some of the gallery’s long-established practices were appropriate to carry over to a new cooperative business model, many were not. Over the course of four months in 2013, the group of artists researched and discussed key elements of operation including corporate requirements, membership, division of labor, income projections, and cash flow – keeping in mind that small business ownership has both responsibilities and rewards. With pro bono legal assistance from the husband of one of the artists, the group filed its incorporation paperwork as Ptarmigan Arts Cooperative Corporation and took ownership of the gallery on June 1, 2013.
Ptarmigan Arts has no paid staff and no employees. Members share equal responsibility for staffing the gallery seven days a week year-round, pay rent for their display areas, and share the cost of utilities. With the exception of snowplowing and preparation of tax returns, all operational tasks – purchasing, routine maintenance and upkeep, scheduling and coordination of monthly shows, landscape work, and accounting – are performed by the members on a volunteer basis.
The cooperative is debt-free and each year returns a sizeable and significant patronage dividend to its members. Governed by a 15-member board of directors and five officers, the Ptarmigan Arts membership meets monthly and holds an annual meeting each May.
Ptarmigan Arts provides an annual scholarship award to deserving high school students who have an interest in the visual arts. The scholarship fund, supported by a permanent endowment with the Homer Foundation, recently awarded a total of $2,000 to three local high school seniors. The gallery conducts an annual or biennial silent auction to benefit the scholarship fund, with all auction items donated by artists and local businesses.
We are proud of our gallery artists and the caliber of artwork they create. We are equally proud of, and grateful to, our member-owners for creating the story of a successful cooperative business.