Royce Real Estate isn't just a real estate business. It's a gallery.
That's because the downtown company participates in the Ashland Art Center's Art 2 Business Program, which rotates new paintings, fiber art, sculpture and pottery into area businesses every three months.
More than a dozen businesses and nonprofit organizations participate in the program, giving added exposure to local artists while refreshing their walls.
"I love the program," said Sandy Royce, owner and principal broker of Royce Real Estate at 145 E. Main St. "I love having fresh new art on my walls. It keeps the office from being boring. It's a wonderful adjunct to people buying homes. They may need art to make a house feel more homey."
For $500 annually — about the cost of a single large painting — a business can have new art every quarter.
More than 100 artists from Northern California, the Rogue Valley and up to Roseburg have been vetted by the Ashland Art Center to participate in the program.
Their work is professional and they know how to hang a show, said Art 2 Business Program Director Wanda Pepin.
Participating businesses stretch from Grants Pass to Ashland, although Pepin said the Ashland Art Center would be happy to provide work down into Northern California as well.
When businesses first contact Pepin about hosting art, she meets with them and shows them images of available pieces.
Often because business owners are so busy, she suggests three or four options that she feels would work in the space and lets them choose.
Many businesses like large paintings that make a statement, she said.
They generally avoid nudes, while landscape and abstract paintings are often popular, Pepin said.
She said Ashland Community Hospital and nursing homes that use the service usually avoid bold abstract work, which can be disturbing to patients, although they will sometimes choose soft, ethereal abstract paintings.
Some businesses don't want to handle sales, so the Ashland Art Center takes care of that aspect of the exhibits, she said.
Other businesses do like to sell the artwork and they receive a commission, Pepin said.
Nonprofit organizations share the commission with the downtown Ashland Art Center, which itself is a nonprofit, she said.
Businesses and nonprofits that are hosting artwork are invited to take part in Ashland's monthly First Friday Art Walks, in which galleries and other venues remain open to the public into the evening hours.
That brings added exposure to the businesses, Pepin said.
"It allows all of Ashland to come through," said Royce, whose real estate office has participated in First Friday Art Walks.
"The business can enjoy it, the people can enjoy it, and we've sold some paintings for artists."
Jimmy Kolker, owner of the Blue Giraffe Day Spa & Hair Salon at 51 Water St., said his business has been participating in the Art 2 Business Program for a few years now.
Denise Baxter, executive director of the Ashland Art Center, launched the program in 2008 when she was still a gallery owner and had yet to found the expansive center.
"It works out great," Kolker said. "We have a lot of walls to cover. It changes things up and makes things more attractive. We get to interact with local artists."
He said some pieces, such as big, bright canvases, have been especially popular with customers. "It's a great idea to put local artists in local businesses and rotate them out every few months. It's brilliant," Kolker said. "It keeps our place interesting."
For more information on the Art 2 Business Program, contact Pepin at 541-261-9794 or visit www.ashlandartcenter.org/art2business/.
Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.