It's no secret that in the world of art, the value of a piece increases substantially upon its creator's death.
But if Kim Caron and Ashley Prince have their way, Mississippi artists will long be appreciated before their art is sold at an estate auction.
“You don't have to be an an expert to appreciate art, and hopefully, something will catch your eye that you cannot live without, a piece you're drawn to, whether it's by a famous artist or simply something you love,” says Ashley Prince, who co-owns the popular art gallery in Tupelo with her business partner, Kim Caron. “It doesn't have to be pedigree.”
Prince joined Caron in promoting Mississippi artists in 2010, a challenge Caron had single-handedly undertaken when she opened The Caron Gallery six months earlier. Now celebrating the second anniversary of the Caron Prince Gallery, the pair say they believe art – no matter what the value - should speak to the soul.
“It's so much more of an emotional response and less of an educated response,” Caron says. “Yes, it's good to know who influenced an artist, but what emotions they put into it are what we get out of it.”
It is for that reason Prince and Caron offer their customers a wide variety in type and price of art. Pieces can be purchased from $15 to $5,000 in the Main Street Gallery. It's a strategy that satisfies their emotional drive to represent Mississippi artists while still paying the bills.
Years earlier, Caron harbored a secret love for art while she pursued a more practical degree in business. Prince also took an educational path into business while collecting one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. Both women raised young children into teenagers, then combined their practical business knowledge and became partners.
“It's a good yin and yang relationship,” Caron says. “Our pros and cons balance each other out.”
The gallery displays the work of painters, potters, mixed media artists, sculptors, jewelry makers and more.
Shelley Smith of is one of about 40 artists represented. Taught by her father to weld, the Greenwood native began creating bowls from discarded metal and platters from 55 gallon drums, which now adorn the gallery's walls. Her most recent show titled, “An Arsenal of Nothing,” sold out.
“Mississippi artists have a different take on what they see, probably because they've always had to fight for what they have” Caron says. “They're very hard workers who aren't out there to be millionaires – not that they wouldn't – but they really want to share what they have.”
Although the trend in the last six months has been in paintings, Caron says people are coming in to buy simply something they love. The passion is generated when people learn about the piece's creator.
“There's always a story behind the piece, and people can put themselves into that story,” she says. “And when people know more about the artist and where the piece came from, they become more attached to it.”
The pair are considering an expansion, and they'd like to grow the web and shipping portion of their business. Customers come from the region's cities, Memphis, Birmingham and Jackson. They are art lovers, tourists and people in search of décor for their homes.
Classes for the locals help remove the sometimes intimidating feelings associated with art buying.
“People on the street say they want to be more educated before the purchase,” Caron says. “That of course isn't everyone, but some people feel intimidated, like they should have a working knowledge of art.”
Classes are not paint-by-numbers style, but rather taught by artists. Guidance is given for special projects students want to tackle or apporaches or techniques they may want to learn.
Prince is a student herself.
“I don't have that side of the grain,” she says. “I never had art programs in school growing up. I didn't have the background or the know any of the elements in creating my own art. I do know that there is such a wealth of talent in our state that isn't always appreciated – there's a wealth of talent here that's not being showcased as broadly as we'd like for it to be.
“The gallery allows the artist to be creative while we handle the business end. With us being in a smaller town, we couldn't be a niche gallery. So there's something for everyone. And for our customers, it's always free to look.”
Want to go?
The Caron Prince Gallery will host an anniversary reception Aug. 23 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Visit the gallery at 122 West Main St., Tupelo, or visit it online at www.thecarongallery.com.
The next scheduled show is a dual exhibit of work from artists Catron Williams and Cliff Speaks. The opening reception, on Sept. 6, is from 5 to 7 p.m.