July 17th, 2020
By Veronica Vale
When Maren Mullin and Thomas Cushman opened Gallery MAR Carmel last July, nobody could have anticipated what a whirlwind of a year it was to be. Mullin, who first opened Gallery MAR Park City twelve years ago during the 2008 economic recession, is no stranger to adversity, however. So despite the challenges of this past year, Cushman and Mullin remain strong and resolute in their optimism for what the future of these two Gallery MAR galleries will hold. Above all, they are grateful — grateful to their staff, their artists, their collectors, and everyone in between who helped shape Gallery MAR Park City and Carmel into the fresh, bold galleries they are today.
In honor of Gallery MAR Park City’s twelfth anniversary and Gallery MAR Carmel’s first anniversary, we spoke with Gallery MAR owner, Maren Mullin, and Gallery MAR Carmel co-owner, Thomas Cushman, reflecting on their galleries’ past, present, and dreams for the future:
What are some of the ways that Gallery MAR Park City has evolved over these last 12 years that you’re the most proud of?
Maren Mullin: Although we will always carry a few very special emerging artists, we now have the delight of representing nationally recognized artists who are in museums all over the country. That’s a big change from where we were in 2009 when I humbly asked a selection of artists to send their work to a brand-new gallery. Many of those first artists have grown up with us — and are now nationally renowned. We have collectors who continue to come back to the gallery year after year and remember my staff as friends and trusted guides — that is the best compliment that we can receive. After twelve years, I have also personally come into my own as a business owner and artist representative: authenticity and connection is more important to me than ever.
What has been the greatest joy of owning Gallery MAR? What has been the greatest challenge?
Maren Mullin: The greatest joy is the people! Don’t get me wrong, I adore artwork and connecting collectors with fine art, but my employees and artists are my greatest joy and most rewarding aspect of owning the gallery. I feel so privileged that I am able to employ nearly 40 people as a result of this business and the talents of our artists. Over the years we have made our share of mistakes and have had challenges (shipping damages — grr!) but we always take the opportunity to learn from our errors and grow. And some of our most challenging situations have resulted in our most loyal collectors.
“Authenticity and connection is more important to me than ever.”
– Maren Mullin
Thomas Cushman: What an amazing year it has been. The challenges of finding a great location in Carmel-by-the-Sea and getting business license approval from the city were formidable. Then to face the Covid Pandemic and forced closure for almost three months of our first year — who could have predicted such a thing? Maren and I assumed there would be some economic upheaval within the first couple of years of being open in Carmel; the economy had been on such a smooth upward climb for so many years, we knew there had to be a correction coming. But a pandemic shutdown? Nope, didn’t see that on the horizon.
Nevertheless, we have made it through so far in very good shape. The support of our artists with their patience and enthusiasm have been crucial to moving forward. Now we seem once again ready to launch, or maybe better said, ready to re-launch!
What do you look forward to the most in the coming years?
Maren Mullin: The unending presentation of fresh and beautiful artwork: there are so many more incredible works to come! We have a few corporate collections that we are just now curating, and I look forward to seeing those installed. Artwork in a setting such as an office environment or a residential building has the ability to bring joy to so many more lives, just by virtue of visitation.
Thomas Cushman: I will definitely carry forward some of the lessons learned during the shutdown; specifically discovering the virtual venues for promoting our artists and educating our clients through studio tours, artwork demonstrations and video blogs. I also look forward to meeting more clients and discovering their artistic interests and passions. I have two favorite parts of my job; the first is talking to clients about the artwork and artists in the gallery. The second is planning out how all of the art works together in the gallery so that people can walk in and feel something like, ‘wow, I want to live in this world.’
“I’m looking forward to continuing to elevate this gallery into an even more beautiful space of complex, evocative artwork.”
– Thomas Cushman
On Gallery MAR Park City’s twelfth anniversary and Gallery MAR Carmel-by-the-Sea’s first anniversary, what message would you like to send to your collectors and your artists?
Maren Mullin: A fresh and bold THANK YOU to… my staff and our artists and collectors, our UPS man and our craters, our (very careful!) cleaners, our local coffee shops and small businesses that keep us refreshed, our neighborhood restaurants that activate Main Street and bring us new collectors, all of the wonderful writers who continue to find the Arts an important topic… THANK YOU!
Thomas Cushman: So as we move into our second year here in Carmel that is what I’m looking forward to: strengthening our virtual presence, spending even more time representing our artists to our clients, and continuing to elevate this gallery into an even more beautiful space of complex, evocative artwork.