Cassandra Fiorenza is the founder of collective 131, an online gallery that features work only from female artists. She grew up in upstate New York and is passionate about making the art industry more accessible.
Where did you grow up, and how did you end up in New York?
I grew up in upstate New York, just outside of Albany. I went to Emma Willard, which is an all-girls school (maybe this is why I love working with other women)! I then went to the University of Connecticut, where I studied Art History. After I graduated, I moved around a lot. I lived in Boston for a year and then in Philadelphia. I completed a year of graduate school but then realized that it wasn’t for me. I wanted to start working, so I moved to New York and began to work for art galleries.
What drew you to working for art galleries? Are you an artist yourself?
I am not an artist. Actually, I am pretty terrible at creating art! But I have always loved engaging with it. In high school, I was in an art class, and (with my amazing teacher’s help) I realized that, although I didn’t have the propensity for drawing, I did have a good eye. After that, I became the editor of the art magazine at our school and that helped me decide to study art history in college.
“Women are underrepresented in the art world, which is something I saw in reality by working in galleries and going to shows.”
What inspired you to start collective 131?
After working in galleries for a few years, I decided I wanted to start something on my own. Women are underrepresented in the art world, which is something I saw in reality by working in galleries and going to shows. It is much harder for women artists to gain the recognition they deserve. Once I saw that for myself, I wanted to create something to empower female artists.
collective 131 started as a side project, and this past summer I started working on it full time. It has been really hard, but it is extremely exciting. Now, I work with over fifteen artists, whose work I show and sell. Our collective is continuing to grow, and I am adding more women this year and different types of art and design.
What do you hope the future of collective 131 is?
This year, I am planing more pop-up exhibitions, and I am continuing to build up our website scene and gain engagement with that. I hope that collective 131 influences people to talk about women in the art world!
Garden with Goddesses, by Emi Avora, watercolor on paper
What have you learned from starting your own online gallery?
It is a lot of work. A lot of things I knew how to do from previous jobs. But it is a completely different task to build something from scratch. I had to learn about things like marketing and SEO while also learning how to go outside of my comfort zone.
What is a challenge you have faced or currently face, and how did you overcome it?
I am doing this all by myself, so it is challenging at times. I have learned to ask for help whenever I need it and to not be afraid of seeking support from others. I have found that I am a collaborator. So, talking to others and asking for advice helps me find new ideas and move forward.
“I feel really powerful when I work with other people and help these women share their work on a greater scale.”
What are some changes you would like to see in the art industry?
There should be more space for young, emerging artists. I believe there is a big value in looking and talking about new, young art. Further, I want the culture to shift toward focusing more on buying what is appealing to the individual rather than what is ‘in’. Lastly, I want there to be more space and appreciation for affordable art.
What does being powerful mean to you?
I feel really powerful when I work with other people and help these women share their work on a greater scale. I truly feel great when I tell artists that people are responding to their work.
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
I would say, just go for whatever your dreams are. You don’t need a plan when you start. I definitely didn’t have a plan when I started this. Ideas are always happening and you just have to jump in, it will make all the difference.