This is the first in a series of columns in which Dana Abraham, president of personal banking at UMB Bank, shares important life lessons she has learned from her clients.
Every day we learn from those around us—teachers, friends, co-workers and family members to name just a few. Personally, I have been fortunate to learn several important life lessons from my clients. In the banking and finance industry, you meet many different people from many walks of life. Just as each client has a unique need, he or she also has something distinct to share.
One such instance occurred several years ago, when a client helped me realize anyone can be an art collector. I had always been interested in art, but didn’t really know where to begin. This person helped make the idea of collecting approachable, personal and accessible. And for that, I will always be grateful.
20 years and a growing collection later, here are some of those lessons, along with a few of my own, for those interested in starting their own collections:
Start small and make it personal
Slowly build your collection over time, and purchase what you like. The first original piece I bought was from the Plaza Art Fair. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this beautiful painting that reminded me of where I grew up. I walked over, and as fate would have it, the artist was from my hometown in Mississippi. The scene included a bridge, which has become one of the designs I now look for as I collect. It wasn’t the financial value of the piece that made it special – it’s the personal connection I have to it.
Explore local galleries
Local galleries are full of excellent pieces for you to browse, and local art festivals provide a concentrated place for you to shop. Artists from all over the country will showcase their work at different local galleries and festivals. There might even be an opportunity to talk with the artist and hear the creation story for the piece. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and understand their inspiration – the story always adds value and can provide a better understanding or increased interest in the piece.
Shop while you travel
When my sons were young, we always looked for two types of souvenirs on vacation—an ornament for our Christmas tree and a piece of art. We quickly realized there are local street vendors in just about every major city, and even in smaller towns, you can usually find the art district. Explore these spots and you may find your next stunning piece. These items are not only great keepsakes and conversation starters, but they also add a vibrancy to our homes.
Now that they’re grown, my sons have continued this practice to help build their own collections.
Go with your gut
Finally, if you love it, buy it—or you might be sorry later. I have never regretted buying a piece, but there are definitely pieces I regret not purchasing. There was a porcelain Buddha statue I saw the last time I was in France. I loved it, but was worried about transporting it home. Three years later, I still wish I could go back in time and buy it.
Remember, anyone can be an art collector. It should be fun and exciting to start your personal collection. Take your time, keep your eyes open and look for that first piece. It’s waiting to be found . . . it may even be sitting by my Buddha.
Dana Abraham is president of personal banking at UMB Bank.