We had the good fortune of connecting with Bradey Donaldson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bradey, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Downtown McKinney is down to one art gallery. In the past 20 years there have been three or four open at one time and all mostly promoting local Artists. I have been an Artist showing work at The LAST Art Gallery since 2016. The gallery had three partners and they represented about 25 artists. After 6 years they were getting tired of the five day a week grind of running a business so they decided to retire in May of 2019. When I heard this I immediately went to them to discuss how to keep the business going. They directed me to the landlord whose family has owned the building for more than 60 years. Fortunately he was interested in seeing the gallery continue so I developed a plan and signed the lease. It was a big gamble because I had no idea if any of the existing artists would follow me in turning the gallery into a hybrid CO-OP. I wanted to save Art in downtown McKinney and change the face of the gallery at the same time. I formed McKinney Art Company, with the dba of Last Art Gallery in mid May of 2019. The first thing I did was invite the existing Artists to continue to show art with the caveat that each artist would have to participate in running the gallery by working two shifts per month. Second, I asked the group if there was anyone that wanted to join me as an owner in the Gallery and be involved in the decision making process. And third, I asked the group for leads on adding new artists to the gallery. In order to afford the rent and expenses, we needed double the number of artists! Luckily for me 3 people stepped forward, so I was able to split the company into a partnership with four of us in charge as equal partners. We went to work on June 1, 2019. After 17 months in business we are thriving. We now have 45 artist members, we are open 7 days a week and we remodeled the gallery in a massive expansion project that added more wall space and 8 studios. I think my reasoning for saving the business was more about keeping the art culture going in our historic downtown. All of our Artists are local to North Texas and we all work to promote art in the community. I am so proud of the talent we have gathered and I am very proud to lead this dynamic group of Artists.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Last Art Gallery is a unique Art Gallery from the standpoint it is operated every day by the Artists that are showing their work there. We know alot about each other and are able to share our story with the customers that want to listen. We keep a book that describes the process each artist uses in their work so that each artist can learn about one another! We are a very friendly gallery and have trained everyone to engage with our customers as they enter the store. Most customers love hearing about us and they love the fact that we are ALL local to North Texas.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First stop would be a tour of the Historic downtown square in McKinney. We would visit the Last Art Gallery on Louisiana Street first because of its significance in my life. After that, a walk around the square so they could see the variety of stores we have downtown. Most all are locally owned and have a flavor and flair all their own. Some examples are Homology, Birds and Words, Uptown, Barrons Estate Jewelers, Chase Hall and on and on… We would definitely stop for lunch with 20 many options available. It would be a hard choice to pick between Spoons, Square Burger, Mellow Mushroom and the Yard plus there are another 15 more! I think for a beer and a burger you can’t bet the Yard! Outdoor seating, live music and outdoor games all await us. For a Dinner option, there is always Rick’s Chop House or Harvest. Harvest sources all of it’s food farm to table making it a very healthy choice and it has a fantastic décor. If you leave the square, there are many sights in McKinney worth seeing. Tupps Brewery is right down Highway 5 and a great place to grab a locally brewed beer. We also have the COVE, which is a very special art facility that hosts special art shows just about every weekend. For a history lesson, we have a place called the Chestnut Square Historic Village, which is a view of McKinney frozen in time. Houses and businesses from 1854 to 1930 have been preserved so you can get a feel for life back in those days. What really is amazing is the size of everything! To do a visit to McKinney and to see all the sights would require more than a few days, so this is just a general outline of where to begin and what to see first.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Gail Delger has been the driving force behind art in Historic downtown McKinney for many years and dedicated her life the las 6 years establishing The Last Art Gallery. I took the reins from her and with her quietly guiding me in the background we created this dynamic artist culture which supports 45 artists. With her influence we will now host the Artist in Residence program for the City of McKinney. This program invites an Artist from National or International locations to work in our showcase studio for 6-8 weeks. With Covid, things are delayed, but we hope to get back on track in 2021.