When Reina Wooden isn’t working as a sales stylist at our Levi’s® store in Hershey, Pennsylvania, she’s Reina 76 Artist, abstract painter and visual artist.
While she managed to maintain her day job, it was her personal passion that took the hardest hit over these last 12 months.
“I was down and out of it for a while when the pandemic hit,” she admitted. “We really took for granted the access to art and music that we had before the pandemic. Many of my canvases are 4 by 5 foot — imagine trying to mail that out! And then there’s the fact that a lot of my buyers are people who want to see the work first, get up close to it, understand it and the purpose behind it, and meet the artist. You can send them the best quality pictures, but it’s not the same.”
To help her stay connected to art, Reina 76 Artist started creating and posting short videos on social media to inspire others to get creative and get back into the arts. This connected her to a number of different local underground artists in her community. As she got to know them more and better understand the challenges they were struggling with, she realized she could help.
“There’s this wonderful group of emerging, diverse artists who don’t feel like they have a voice or a seat at the table in terms of what work is shown and sold. They didn’t want to create anymore in part because they didn’t know how to approach the galleries and museums where they could show off their work, or how to talk with the people who put events together,” she explained. “They needed guidance, so I took that role on.”
Reina 76 Artist put the skills she learned on the job at Levi’s® toward helping these young artists. “Working at my store has taught me how to be a better salesperson and be comfortable meeting with all different kinds of people,” she said. And so, she started coaching other artists on how to explain their work to gallery owners and potential buyers. She also connected with local galleries to find new ways to showcase underground artists’ work safely during the pandemic, which lead to a successful showcase last month featuring 14 diverse artists’ work at the Civic Club in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
“In my job, I get to meet people of so many different backgrounds, age groups, genders and sizes, and I’ve learned to put myself in the customer’s shoes when answering their question,” she said. “Since working here, I’ve realized that that’s what I have to do as an artist too. I have to be sensitive to the viewers’ perceptions of my work when I go to these galleries, and that’s the lesson I’ve been passing down to this next generation of artists.”
She added, “Gone are the days when we have the luxury of patrons speaking for us and our art. That’s why I encourage these young artists to dig down inside and find that voice deep down called customer service. We have to learn to sell our own brand, and that brand is art.”