We had the good fortune of connecting with Susannah Morgan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susannah, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Work life balance is a moving target, and it always will be. I sit down in the morning with my coffee and write out everything that I need to accomplish that day. This includes the typical tasks like clean up the inbox, client meetings, artist research, and vendor bids, but it also includes things like exercise and Zoom dates with friends which are just as important as any of the other things I need to accomplish in a day. I definitely take more of a holistic approach to my days so that my days aren’t too heavy in one area, and too light in another. My fiancé and I both work from home- he runs a privacy and security consulting business, The Skain Group- so we are careful to respect each other’s time and space during the workday. We’re very fortunate to have separate office spaces in our home, so we can shut our office doors if we need to concentrate- that’s the universal signal that we need to put our head down and focus, and we both know that it’s nothing personal. Because of the pandemic this year, we are also both at home most evenings! We have a hard stop for each day at 5:00. We then shut our offices down, go into the living room, put Thelonious Monk on the stereo, open a bottle of wine, and make dinner together. That’s the shift from workday to evening personal time. We do talk about work together but are very conscious that it’s not all we talk about! We’re really good at reminding each other to talk about something else if we need to.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
SKM Art Advising is a full-service art advising firm that advises private collectors on art acquisitions and manages those acquisitions to installation. I also work with interior designers on boutique commercial and multifamily projects. My clients benefit from my extensive artist relationships to find work for their homes that speaks to them. I manage art research, acquisition, custom framing, shipping and insurance, installation, and collections management. This business truly is a coming together of my previous experiences and knowledge into a business that I am proud of and excel at. I studied French and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin and moved to New York City after college. I didn’t know anyone there and was working for a reinsurance company and volunteering at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Education Department leading tours for young children. I started interning for a gallery in Nolita on Mott St on Saturdays and Sundays, so I was working 7 days a week- 5 days in my corporate office, 2 days in the gallery. I eventually was offered a full-time position with the gallery, so I left corporate America and began working at the gallery full time. It was a dream come true. This gallery focused on Aboriginal and contemporary Australian, English, and Canadian art. We represented many artists that didn’t have a large presence in the US. It was a great introduction to working with artists internationally. After several years, my fiancé and I moved back to Austin and I was hired as gallery director of a well-known and established gallery in Austin that also had a frame shop attached to it, so I gained a detailed understanding of the nuances of fine art framing in addition to holding a respected and visible position in the local art community, both of which have been hugely important for me as a consultant. From that gallery, I moved into art consulting with a fabulous commercial art consulting company. This was a woman owned, woman run business based in Austin that was hugely instrumental in nurturing my entrepreneurial aspirations. My boss was so open and transparent about running the business, and really wanted her employees to feel a sense of ownership of the company. I remember hearing the story of when they landed their first big project, and I remember thinking “I want to do that.” As a commercial art consultant, I was project managing large scale installations and large projects with anywhere from 30-100 pieces of art per project. This type of work really exists at the intersection of art, interior design, and architecture, and I was challenged every day solving problems, researching new and exciting artists, and coordinating and supervising installations around the country. It was fast paced, demanding, and extremely exciting. I loved every minute of it. I did miss working with art collectors on a more personal and individual level, however. I started SKM Art Advising in 2018 to combine my consulting and project management skills with my ability to connect with individuals, and guide them to acquire artwork that will stay in their family through the generations and create the kind of home environment that they are yearning for. I knew that I wanted SKM Art Advising to succeed long term, and I knew it was important to lay an intentional and strong foundation. For me, this foundation rests on the quality of the relationships that I build. This doesn’t just apply to clients, it applies to everyone that I work with- artists, galleries, framers, installers, art shipping professionals, etc. I am only as good as my network. I provide a personal and tailored service that my clients love. I spend time with each of them, and since we typically work together over several years, we often become friends and meet for coffee, dinner, artist talks, or gallery openings. My clients trust me to come into their homes, understand their style, and present them with art options that blow their expectations out of the water, and enhance their experience of being at home. The most important lesson I have learned over the years is just to show up. Be active in your community, and be present at events- go to openings, events artist talks, accept invitations to coffee and lunch, and always be ready for things to happen. “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity” Know your stuff and have your shit together for when things start to happen for you.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I LOVE Houston’s art scene. The Museum of Fine Arts just opened the fabulous new Kinder Building which houses some of the MFAH’s incredible contemporary art collection. We would then hit the Menil Collection to see the incredible collection of Surrealist art which is comprised of over 300 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, and includes important works by artists such as Renee Magritte and Max Ernst, and a stop next door at the Rothko Chapel to experience that incredible space. Then we’d head to some of my favorite art galleries- Moody Gallery and Anya Tisch to see new work by the amazing artists that they represent. A visit to artist studios at Sawyer Yards is always full of new discoveries, and then finish up with a trip to Discovery Green for a picnic and to enjoy the public art on display.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am fortunate to have had the support and mentorship of many incredible people of the years. Anne McGhee Stinson of InteraWorks is my coach and mentor, and I could not have gotten this far without her. Through her Best Year Yet program, we set yearly and monthly goals. We meet monthly to check in, and she provides guidance and strategies that have increased my confidence as a business owner, entrepreneur, and person beyond measure. She is a treasure. Jennifer Seay of Art + Artisans is my former boss who I would say planted the seed for SKM Art Advising (even though she didn’t know it at the time) through leading by example, and being transparent about the realities of owning and running a business. Her poise and determination in challenging and difficult situations are still the yard stick that I measure myself against. And last but not least, my fiancé Vance Long who is with me in this every day. Knowing that he believes in me keeps me moving forward.
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