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February 2nd, 2024

Susan Eley Interview in “Bold Journey”

An interview with Susan Eley was recently featured on “Bold Journey”. She discusses her vision and achievements in making SEFA what it is today!

Their original text is available online here.






We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Susan Eley a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.

Susan, we’ve been so fortunate to work with so many incredible folks and one common thread we have seen is that those who have built amazing lives for themselves are also often the folks who are most generous. Where do you think your generosity comes from?
I believe that more than with many other attributes – self-esteem, confidence, resilience, work ethic – generosity must be cultivated and developed throughout one’s life. Let’s face it: being generous does not come naturally. We come into the world with a set of needs—physical, then emotional, social, intellectual – and we do what we can to have these needs met through our childhood, school years and into our working days. Knowing this, I’m a work in progress vis a vis my generosity. I draw from watching others be generous to each other and to me. I try to mimic the goodness I see in others. I try to be deliberate about caring for people, paying attention and responding to concerns they may have in a given moment. I try to listen to others’ stories and experiences and respond appropriately, rather than selfishly bring the narrative back to me. Being a mother of three daughters has also helped to refine my sense of generosity, as kids always come first! My father is the most generous, kind person I know. I have learned an enormous amount from watching him live his life. I admire generosity more than any other human strength; because of this, I am always working on building this attribute in myself.


Appreciate the insights and wisdom. Before we dig deeper and ask you about the skills that matter and more, maybe you can tell our readers about yourself?
I own Susan Eley Fine Art, a contemporary art gallery with two locations: on the Lower East Side of NYC and in Hudson, NY, the cultural hub of the Hudson Valley. I opened the gallery in 2006 with a mission to present a dynamic and diverse roster of living artists, working in a range of techniques and styles, including painting, photography, print and sculpture. Our artists are our lifeblood, the engine that makes our gallery go. I have enormous respect for their practices, dedication and hard work, and am honored that they entrust us to share their work with the public.

Another mission we have committed to from the start is to warmly welcome every visitor who enters our spaces. We are a service business, and as such I believe it is essential that we provide information and answer questions in a professional and friendly manner.

One of the highlights of running an art gallery is the studio visit. To be invited into an artist’s studio to view new work, sometimes with the paint still wet, is as exciting as it gets. I always feel privileged to enter an artist’s studio–their sanctuary. I sense a great obligation to this artist should we choose to show the work.

Another favorite moment in the gallery business is making a match between a collector and a specific work of art. Sometimes it feels like I’m witnessing a love affair! And what a thrill to be the matchmaker for such a romance.

I take great pride in the fact that we have curated over 100 exhibitions, participated in dozens of art fairs in the US and in Canada and organized many artist talks, cultural panels and tours. I am also extremely proud that about 75% of our artists are women.


There is so much advice out there about all the different skills and qualities folks need to develop in order to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment and often it can feel overwhelming. So, if we had to break it down to just the three that matter most, which three skills or qualities would you focus on?
An Eye
A crucial skill I bring to running a gallery is my eye for art. Whatever that elusive thing is, I have it. Collectors and our regular visitors often say that there is a thread running through our roster of artists that demonstrates a consistency in our aesthetic brand. I find identifying artists and specific artworks to include in an exhibition the simplest, most intuitive part of operating a gallery. I am at my most decisive when selecting artwork. I advise anyone working with fine art to train your eye as thoroughly as you can. Frequent museums, art fairs, galleries, artist studios, and when afforded an opportunity, ask artists lots and lots of questions about their technique, particular practice and style.

Business is tough and it doesn’t always go your way. The challenging moments in the gallery business could be: a sale falling through after investing many hours in it; an entire exhibition with little to no sales; or general down turn in the economy. The key to weathering these ups and downs is to be resilient and thick skinned.


The ability to be flexible has served me well. COVID catapulted every retail industry—whether for essential items or luxury goods—into a tailspin. The skill to adapt, pivot and adjust business strategy was essential for survival in those times. After closing our NYC location temporarily, I took a hard look at what would work in this new business climate. We dug into our digital programming, curating virtual shows and events online, and invested more time in our online presence on 1stDibs and Artsy. Most significantly, we took a pop-up space in the town of Hudson, knowing that this was a region where many people had retreated to work remotely. This six-month pop up is now a well-established gallery nearing four years in operation.

Resilience and flexibility are cousins of a sort. To cultivate both, hone your grit in all your endeavors. Stick with the thing you love through setbacks and be ready to change course to try new approaches if one doesn’t work. Most of all, don’t personalize setbacks or successes!

One of our goals is to help like-minded folks with similar goals connect and so before we go we want to ask if you are looking to partner or collab with others – and if so, what would make the ideal collaborator or partner?

I am indeed always looking for individuals, corporations and non profits to collaborate with. From the year I established the gallery in 2006, I have had a sense that I should have a business partner, someone with a shared passion for contemporary art, but with complementary skills. I love working with a team and managing staff and interns, but think it would be a great next step for Susan Eley Fine Art to partner/merge with or to be acquired by a larger art business. I believe I have grown as much as I can as a solo practitioner; yet, I have an appetite for more growth into new marketplaces, new cities with art hubs where we can expand our presence and cultivate new artists and collectors.

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Greg Staley Aiko Wakao Austin Jena Goldman Em Joseph