Patti Curtis is a maker in motion. Every morning when she arrives at Fogue, her studio and gallery for artists over fifty in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, she’s greeted with a thriving community of creators honing their craft, selling their work, and plumbing the endless depths of artistic expression.
Fogue is a type of business sadly rare in a culture that places a premium on smooth skin, wide eyes, and fresh faces. And let’s not sugar-coat it — this was an opportunity that arose out of ageism, plain and simple.
“After getting laid off from my executive position at age 53,” she recalls, “I soon realized I reached my expiration date in the corporate, consumer product development and marketing world. I decided to return to my roots and start making art.” The first step was to make a website.
A website that laid the foundation
Inspired, Patti dove into the Seattle art scene and soon met a whole slew of older artists trying to get their name out there. The lack of venues friendly to their work stunned her. That set a fire in her entrepreneurial heart and from there, Fogue, a tongue-and-cheek take on a certain ageist term, was born.
First step was a website. She turned to GoDaddy, with whom she already had a domain, and found out just how easy it was to get her idea online and in lights. “Back in 2008, I had to hire a website designer. I was thrilled to see how far GoDaddy had progressed.”
Website Builder’s drag-and-drop galleries and easily customizable templates made it easy. “I have a professional, navigable website that I can edit and update on the daily if I want, right from my phone, along with the 24-hour customer support that’s key to my business.”
What happened next? A lot, fast. Patti connected with an enthusiastic audience looking for a place to work, a place to sell and a place to connect — and found a super space in Georgetown that she opened three short months after her website went live. From there, the canvas expanded.
“A year ago we started with an 800 square foot gallery and a 400 square foot art studio with 14 artists. We now boast over 6000 square feet of art gallery and art studios with 38 artists.”
Visiting Fogue, this diverse, talented set of painters, sculptors and mixed-media creators is on full display. You don’t see age when you look at these works, and the experience dissolves the stereotypes that exist about older artists — and older people.
Of course, being an artist herself, Patti manages to carve out time to make her Dada-inspired objects, such as intricate bejeweled steer heads that speak to the impermanence of life and the beauty of transformation.
Seamlessly running the show
Successfully growing Fogue and keeping some semblance of a life outside work requires efficient, integrated tools. Patti uses Office 365, which works seamlessly with Website Builder. “I do my bookkeeping on Excel,” she says, “make presentations on PowerPoint, create art labels on Word, and run my email through Outlook.”
She also discovered the affordable GoDaddy SmartLine app, which adds a second line to her existing phone number so she can separate work and business and always know who’s calling.
“I can put my hours of operation in my settings, so the calls go directly to VM when I’m not open. This gives me somewhat of a personal life — it helps, anyway.”
As for advice to would-be everyday entrepreneurs, she counsels perseverance: “Hang in there. There are a lot of difficult days, but keep the wonderful days in your heart. Opportunities are yours but you have to chase them. Don’t lose sight of why you did this in the first place.”
Visualizing the future of Fogue, Patti hopes to expand her mission deeper into the older Seattle art community and broaden her advocacy against ageism in the art world and beyond, while also keeping close to the entrepreneurial spirit that drove her to take the leap.
“In 5 years,” she says, “I hope to have greater financial success to allow me to do more community events and outreach for seniors in my community. Our time has come, and we will buck the social norms of ageism every day.”