Frank Talks

Liz Lidgett – Art Gallery Owner, Advisor, and Collector based in Des Moines, Iowa

Photo by Adam Albright
Photo by Adam Albright

Liz Lidgett is an art gallery owner, advisor, and collector based in Des Moines, Iowa. With a master’s in Curatorial Practice and the Public Sphere from the University of Southern California, she founded her first business as an art advisor in 2012 after working as an in-house curator for a corporate collection. Seeing the lack of corporate art advisory throughout the Midwest, Liz began working with several corporate headquarters on educating and curating art pieces for their spaces. Her business quickly expanded to work with personal collections, restaurants, hotels, and public art projects. 

In 2015, Liz launched Adore Your Walls, an online art advisory product that opened her work to a national audience. In 2016 she launched the Des Moines Mural Project, which gave local artists an opportunity to paint the blank canvas that was their city—a movement that has continued to bring color and artist representation to the city to this day. 

Liz is on a mission to change the narrative of the art industry as a whole—by advocating for the growth of women and minority artist representation, and making art collecting accessible for anyone despite their budget. To make that vision possible, she opened Liz Lidgett Gallery in 2019. Fast forward through a pandemic, Liz leveraged her social media presence to keep her “gallery doors open.” By posting videos of the gallery’s artwork on her Instagram page, Liz has created an online platform to virtually display and ship the gallery’s art. Last year they shipped to over 45 states and 7 countries. She represents 50 national and international artists with a commitment to represent at least 50% women and minority artists. 

Her work as an art expert and designer has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Domino, Martha Stewart, Forbes, among others. She is a volunteer for many local arts and culture organizations including the Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines Metro Opera, and Ballet Des Moines. She is a member of ArtTable, the leadership organization for professional women in the visual arts. She lives with her husband Nick, their two children Rocky and Effie, and their ever-expanding art collection.

What was the most important thing you learned at your first job in the Arts?

I learned how to advocate both for the arts and for the artists I worked with. I feel honored to do this work and to be able to help support an artist’s vision. As an art advisor and gallerist, I must be able to speak with both artists and clients—and sometimes those can be two different languages. For example, part of this type of advocacy can look like helping a corporate client to understand why supporting an artist and including artwork in their design plan can help them – It speaks to how they support their community and help to tell their story of their company’s mission and vision.

Where are you from and what is the arts community like there? 

I grew up in Des Moines and while I moved away for my education, I would often visit and see how the arts community was growing and changing. Our community is incredibly supportive of entrepreneurs, and the support for artists continues to build. My husband and I eventually moved back to Des Moines from Los Angeles where I had just graduated from USC with my master’s degree. I felt I could make a difference in Des Moines in a more impactful way than I could in Los Angeles. It has provided me the support I have needed with my business from day one.

While your gallery is located in Des Moines, you reach a global audience. Tell us a bit more about how you’ve leveraged the power of social media to propel your business forward. 

Social media has given us an amazing global platform for the gallery. We focus on accessibility, and last year alone we shipped artwork to 45 states and 7 countries. I use our Instagram channel to speak about artwork in a way that people can connect with. I want potential clients to understand that the art world is available and open to them too. Also, when a client is not able to see the artwork in person, a video is the next best thing. Our video talks about art have helped with countless sales because I am able to show close details and moments that might not be instantly recognizable through a stagnant photograph. Creating these videos also gives an opportunity to speak about the artist, their motivations, and their process during each video.

Many of your Corporate + Business clients are regional. Do you think Liz Lidgett Gallery + Design is filling a void in the Midwest art scene by providing access to “affordable” artwork?

I certainly hope so! There are many galleries that are doing great work to represent emerging artists throughout the country, and I am proud to be doing that work alongside them. Sometimes the Midwest is seen as just “flyover” country and people are surprised to hear that I am located in Iowa. But truly, there is so much amazing creativity and artistic talent in the Midwest. I love to place the work of Midwestern artists in our gallery along with work from national and international artists. 

As an art advisor, what is one mistake that you frequently see new collectors making?

One mistake I see new collectors make is buying what they think they “should” buy vs. what they truly love. My number one advice is to follow your joy and buy what makes you happy—don’t think about trends or what others may like. Buy the art you truly love and connect with, and you’ll never be disappointed.

What is one thing you do every day that contributes to your career success?

I prioritize my tasks on a day-to-day basis. I assess the items I need to get done most and label my daily tasks in an A.B.C. order. A’s must get done today, B’s need to get done this week, C’s need to get done at some point. Additionally, I have begun to look at items to see if they are something I still get excited about after all this time. If I start to see a certain type of task that is a pain point, I look for a solution or I learn to say “no.”

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

Work to be inclusive! The art world can be so exclusive and can make people feel like they don’t belong for a variety of reasons. If you work to be inclusive of different types of artists and clients, your career will be stronger. Plus, it has the added benefit of just being the right thing to do.

What are you most excited for this year at your company or in the art world as a whole?

I am proud of how our company continues to evolve. We still have a strong foundation of representing amazing emerging/mid-career artists from around the world. Beyond that, I am working towards ways to connect our clients and artists in more meaningful ways. For example, we will be hosting our first trip to take several clients to Strasbourg, France in the fall to spend a week with artist Jessi Raulet. 

How do you think the art world can become more transparent?

The more artists speak to each other openly about fee structures and common contract practices— as well as other art professionals being open about fair pay—we can make sure that artists and arts professionals are being paid equitably. I believe in transparency whenever possible and have “office hours” with my artists on a monthly basis where they can pop on a zoom meeting with me to ask me any questions. It’s important that my artists can openly communicate with me because so much of this business is about good relationships. 

If you could own work by any five artists, who would be in your collection?

Oh goodness, well I am very lucky to own work by many of my artists including Hunt Slonem, Kit Porter, Logan Ledford, Roma Osowo, and Katie Craig. I’ve got my eyes on work by Elisa Sheehan, Michelle Armas, and Hillary Howorth.

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