Kathleen McAvoy is an avid art collector. From portraits to abstract pieces, she's been buying art for 30 years. McAvoy said her Blairstone Forest home looks more like an art gallery, studded with captivating abstracts and tiny watercolor cityscapes.
The most recent piece to adorn her wall? A painting of a mysteriously silhouetted woman, riding a horse through stormy waters and into a misty forest.
In the past few years, the retired state worker has ventured online to buy art. She's ordered about 50 pieces online from Artfinder.com, an online art marketplace.
Topping Miami and even New York City, a report released last week by Artfinder found Tallahassee to be the "art buying capital of the U.S."
Broken down per capita, proportional to each city's population, Tallahassee came in with 1,303 artwork sales made through the Artfinder website in 2016, the report states.
The data was based on Artfinder sales in proportion to city population per million, said Jane Verity, Artfinder public relations manager. For Tallahassee, that number was 0.188 million — derived from the approximately city's population of 188,000.
The capital city made it just above New Haven, Connecticut, which had 953 sales per million people.
Bigger cities are more "saturated" with art — "where you're surrounded by art everywhere," said Artfinder CEO Jonas Almgren, so buyers in smaller cities like Tallahassee may encourage buyers to search online art.
So why are many Tallahassee art connoisseurs turning to the internet to buy art?
McAvoy says it's because she has more access to a variety of art styles, right at her fingertips.
What does this suggest about Tallahassee's art market landscape — outside of the internet?
Tallahassee's filled with art collectors, buyers — and artists, of course.
Mary Maida, owner of Signature Art Gallery — which has been showing and selling local art for more than 20 years — says the art market here is strong. She's seen it grow since 1996 when the gallery first opened.
"The Tallahassee art market is strong due to the universities, the sophisticatedness of a large segment of the population that appreciates art," Maida said.
"I think probably in the last several years as businesses like Artfinder offer imagery that's readily available, while a lot of people may not buy art online, it still increases exposure to what is out there in the world," she added.
Saatchi Art, Etsy and Daily Paintworks are other websites that sell original artwork.
Brinda Pamulapati is a newer art gallery owner in town. She opened Venvi Art Gallery on Park Avenue in 2015 and is impressed by the strength of the city's art buyer base.
Pamulapati says she has seen a core of regular customers form at the gallery.
There are many artists living in Tallahassee, she adds, which attracts collectors.
Some days, she admits, her gallery sees very few patrons than other days. But she's "very hopeful and very positive" about the local art market, because of organizations that are helping increase awareness of the arts like the Council on Culture & Arts, she said.
"I think we're definitely positioned to really explore this creative economy," said COCA Executive Director Audra Pittman.
"Technology makes it easier for a lot of people to not only put their work out there but to filter according to their interests [when buying]," Pittman said.
Along with an online artist directory for art buyers to sift through, COCA offers tools for local artists to be more visible in the community.
One of those is the monthly "Artpreneur" coffee-talk series at the PowerPlant. The sessions train working artists to become entrepreneurs and advocates of their art businesses.
"I think it's quite a representative sample of a general art interest," Almgren said about the report. Almgren suggests that buying art online, allows Tallahassee residents to be part of the global marketplace.
"Suddenly you can be anywhere and have more access to both artists and art, and I think this enables people to be art collectors."
Contact Nada Hassanein at firstname.lastname@example.org.