Q&A: Julia Yensho, Owner of Y:ART in Highlandtown

I sat down with local artist Julia Yensho recently. We chatted about her art gallery and the Highlandtown Art Walk.

Talk about your childhood, where you grew up, etc

I grew up in Baltimore in a little village called Dickeyville . Its over near Leakin Park and Kernan Hospital. The Dickeyville Historic District is a National Register of Historic Places located just inside the western edge of Baltimore City. Growing up in my little community was pretty idyllic to say the least it was a wonderful time. I was in that last generation where your parents would say “I don’t want to see you till dinner” and usually they didn’t. There were six of us three boys and three girls, with the boys all older than the girls. We had lots of friends and it was as if we had a whole village of parents. The eclectic and eccentric ran rampant in this gem of a place, artists everywhere! So many influences for this little sponge to take in…it was fantastic!!

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I always knew I was an artist. But it wasn’t really like that, its such an organic thing…you just are! I like to do many things and like I said there were many influences in my life. As a child my beloved Grandmother, my fathers mother Julia who is my namesakes was very German and lived over by the old Memorial Stadium by City College. They had a confectionery shop and she was a phenomenal cook. A true artist in the kitchen. Well she took me under her wing and used to have a stool in the kitchen just for me; where she proceeded to teach me all she could which was magical for me. So that was my choice as an adult, it was either go to art school or cooking school. I chose to be a chef! A pastry chef as a matter of fact and passionately worked in the trade for 20 yrs., traveling and experiencing all it had to offer at the time. I enjoyed specializing in chocolate and sugar sculpture so art has always been an integral part of my life. I retired quite young, soon after my son Sebastien was born and that is when I started painting. I had worked in clay and many other mediums but never quite felt comfortable with paint. It didn’t take me long to learn how to enjoy and manipulate a brush and found I could make a living as a decorative painter. Which i did for many years ending up as a Scenic painter in the movie business.
Who is your favorite artist?
That is a very tough question. I’ve never had just one and I’m pretty sure it is because of my upbringing of so many fantastic influences! But if i really had to answer this question my biggest influences and why would be for starters, Picasso who was a master of everything he touched with his uniquely masterful technique from painting to set design. He wore many hats and mastered them all, Leonardo da Vinci for his mastery of art itself and his brilliant inventive mind, Alexander Calder’s form and function in kinetic sculpture and color form that are and will forever be timelessly modern and Henry Moore how everything he touched created such a softness in its beauty and an immensity of powerful strength.

What are some of the challenges of owning/operating an art gallery?

Owning an art gallery had never been on my radar before we owned this building. But this building has a life and personality of its own and made itself what it is, we were meant for each other, its like a good friend that you know will be there. Believe me we both have our moments and they always seem to work themselves out. So far so good!!

Having a gallery can be extremely challenging for instance lining up the art and making sure the marriage is perfect is just one of the biggest jobs that consumes a huge amount of time. Then to have a store on top of that and to keep it fresh…yes there are challenges!!! One of the biggest personal challenges I have at this point is being able to do my own work! I have been very luck so far with assistants who really are an integral part of the vertebra that makes a gallery work. They are always young and this is a stepping stone for them so to keep one for very long doesn’t seem to happen but in the same breath it keeps things fresh too. So I’m always looking for that next passionate young apprentice who wants to come in and show me what they’ve got! In addition to apprentices, we’ve also been thinking about getting a sales team to help us sell more pieces and make more revenue. Sales teams would probably really help us, so that’s something we’re considering. We’d probably even host a Sales Kickoff event to get all of the sales professionals motivated to sell. Salesforce has some examples of things to do on their website, so that could be useful. That might just improve the gallery’s finances.

What is it like being able to live AND work in Highlandtown?

I have two sisters and a brother that live down here which is what drew Tom and I to the area. We live so close and just don’t see each other much with our busy lives and growing families. I am looking forward to having my family over for all the big holidays. Which is something Tom and I often did before we moved and that’s another story for another time! I had wanted to live in the city for years now and finally here we were looking for studio space which is why we bought this building and how it all really began.

I love being in Highlandtown and I thoroughly enjoy running a business here in my new hood. As Len Briggs says on RCIA Resources (http://www.rciaresources.com/), “With my business, the fact is that I’m always busy, doing this or that” and I couldn’t agree more. I like always being on the go. One of my favorite things about running my business is going to the many artists studios and developing close relationships with them all. The great enthusiasm for the arts scene has been a joy to behold. What I truly love is that the venues for art that are popping up here in Highlandtown are all different. A true pot luck for the Arts Scene! Art is such an organic business which makes it perfect for this woman!! It can be very competitive so my choices need to be great and Baltimore has not disappointed; there are so many amazing artisans in our regional area. Some have even gone to sites like cgkbusinesssales.com/baltimore and sold their original businesses to fund their artistic endeavors, which must help a lot.

What is the Highlandtown Art Walk?

First Fridays has been such a successful venture!! It was a thrill after I sent out that first email to see the response from the neighboring businesses and that was that, off it went! For me it has been such a great experience to see how it has brought out neighbors who haven’t been in and my surprise to see the many out of the neighborhood art enthusiasts it brings into Highlandtown. What a thrill it is when I hear ” We had no idea this gem of a gallery was here and can’t wait to come back with friends”

Why should people to come this Frday if they haven’t been yet?

Friday seems to be perfect for Highlandtown because we are downtown! For many its the perfect meet up after work to get out walk around have a nice glass of wine or a beer and look at truly amazing art enjoy good company and get to know your neighbors and neighborhoods. Highlandtown is growing just like a magnificent sculpture or a finely composed painting that is still being thoughtfully constructed and I am proud to be a part of that masterpiece in the making.

I look forward to seeing more and more new faces here in our thriving Arts District.

The Highlandtown Art Walk is this Friday in Highlandtown!

For more information on this months Art Walk, follow Highlandtown Arts District on Facebook and Twitter

‘Like’ Y:Art on Facebook

Follow Y:Art on Instagram

Official Website