Ahn Wells is a Newcastle-based artist and curator, owner of Gallery 139 Hamilton and founder of Independent Galleries Newcastle.
After volunteering and spending time with other artists and within other galleries, she decided to launch a gallery that supports emerging and professional artists in Newcastle.
She believes that if your work is your passion it doesn’t have to be work.
- Tell us about the journey that led you to start your own business.
I did fine art since art school and I worked in art galleries and organized exhibitions outside of the requirements of my study. So I’ve always been interested in putting together exhibitions and interested in finding artists to have exhibitions.
That found me working in the local Watt Space Art Gallery, which is connected to the University of Newcastle and I also worked in Pod Space, connected to Octapod, which is an artist-run art gallery.
So I started working in art-run galleries as a volunteer and then last year I worked in Newcastle Art Space as the Director, which gave me an insight into what it’s like to be the Director, the boss of an art gallery. I really enjoyed that process. But it was a little bit limiting, as I wasn’t my own boss. That led me to opening my own gallery. I worked out if I had enough money to do it myself, I spoke to others about the realities of running your own business and then I decided to look for a space open my own gallery.
- What was your original mission for your business? And has it changed?
I originally started the gallery to provide a professional space for emerging artists and already-established Newcastle artists.
And that mission hasn’t changed, as the business is only a year and a bit old. So I still have that in mind.
But over the year I’ve realised that you can’t just be doing exhibitions that look good, you have to pay the bills as well. I’m always keeping in mind that it’s for artists who want to become professional artists, that’s the reason why I started the gallery and that why I have taken on represented artists in the gallery, so I can help them have a full-time career as an artist.
- Did you always know you want to be an entrepreneur?
I don’t think of myself as an entrepreneur, so no, I didn’t know I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
But I knew I wanted to be my own boss, so maybe that’s being an entrepreneur. I always liked the idea of doing something special with life, so to make sure I was happy first with whatever I did. And I always had parents support to do what I wanted to do, which led me to what I do now.
- What do you attribute your success to?
I joke about it being a lot of late nights and time on my computer and phone – while I should be talking to people! But I think it’s loving what you do. And it’s not work, even though there’s this thing between work/life balance, my work is my life, so I don’t feel like I need to balance that. But I do make sure I do close the computer and put the phone away and spend time with family and friends. And my pets keep me sane!
- What local entrepreneur do you find inspiring?
I find lots of small business owners inspiring – especially now I’ve started my gallery, I keep finding people doing great things.
The first lady I found the most inspiring was the lady who made my necklace, called Barbara Nanshe, she’s across the road.
I also like the Doughheads business, I think that’s amazing how they’ve made doughnuts into something so successful.
I like the boys that have been doing Newcastle Mirage, the arts and culture zine.
There are so many creative people in Newcastle, everyone’s inspiring!
Cover image | James Murphy Photography