Juliet Harrison

Tell me about your business or specialty.

I am an artist with nearly 40 years’ experience in retail. So, it kind of makes sense that what I do now is own an art gallery. I created the Equis Art Gallery out of what I know and what I love - I specialize in representing Contemporary equine art from over 30 internationally based artists. The work in the gallery represents the horse in a wide range of styles, mediums, breeds and equestrian disciplines.

How'd you get to where you are now?

It has been my goal from the start to create a space, in brick and mortar and online, that offers equine art that is first and foremost Fine Art. It is important to me that patrons can engage with high quality artwork. Once I opened, I did invite the artists to include some other animals but the major focus is always the horse - and depicted in less traditional ways. What you won’t see here is your typical Town and Country, horse and hound artwork. The reason I define it as Equine, and not Equestrian, is the focus is definitely on the horse, not the rider. Visitors will also find a curated collection of Native American Jewelry and objects, as well as some vintage and decorative items that fit in what I call the Equis lifestyle.

I have several criteria in selecting the artists and their work. The artist must be a master of their medium. They must have an intimate knowledge of the horse. It can be from being an owner, rider or trainer – and not just depicting a frozen moment, but an understanding of what happened before that moment and what will possibly happen next. I need to be enthusiastic about the work and for me to offer it, I have to love it. Working for others over the years and learning a great deal about how a retail business is run is part of my story. Also, my own experience as an artist. My work with b+w 35mm film was more Fine Art based and not created for commercial photography purposes. In a modernist vein, I cropped close to the body of the horse. Isolating pieces, defined by light and texture. Through that practice, I met many equine artists whose work I respected and admired. Eventually, I was invited to help manage a virtual International equine art competition sponsored by a well respected equine art magazine. Here I became familiar with the work of the first group of artists that I curated in to the gallery.

On a personal note - exactly a year form the first incarnation of the gallery, I was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. At the time, I had a small space in an artist’s collective where I was showing my photography. I had to choose to give up my space or transform it, even temporarily, into something else. I asked the artists that I was close to if they would be willing to let me sell their work. I also felt strongly that I wanted to find a way to give back to the artistic, friend-based and local communities that supported me so much during my cancer journey. With something as unique as Equis, I knew I could draw people to my town who would shop not only at the gallery but also with restaurants, tourist locations, accommodations and other places. I rented the current storefront location in Sept. 2015.

How has the Covid crisis affected your work or business? Any new ideas or approaches…or lessons learned so far?

70-80% of my business has been online since I opened. I had the experience from selling my photography online, so when I began the gallery I took advantage of that skill. And by focusing on a very specific market and being unique in that business model, I could aim at a highly interconnected worldwide collector base. This still holds true today. In fact, it is what has saved the business during the Coronavirus shutdown. My business model relies heavily on social media marketing. I have kept, and even built on, that loyal collector base.

Early on in the crisis I spent some time reading marketing advice and one piece that really struck home was that during this time of stay at home, those who use online contact for their businesses would have a captive audience. Think of it as if you are on a cruise ship. Nobody is going anywhere and the only entertainment they have is right there onboard. So I keep constant contact with that audience and give them something to entertain them every day. It works. I will say, I never worked harder at, or put in longer hours, online. But I kept my customers interested and connected to the artists, the artwork and my pleasure and passion for both. I am not sure what will happen in the future. I hope people will feel comfortable going inside shops and buying from them again. I love greeting people who come to the gallery in person. I know that many of my followers hope to be able to organize day trips and even vacations to the area, using Equis as the primary destination. I guess that is what I have created here - an online family of followers and a destination brick and mortar business. What I learned from Covid 19 is that my business can exist without an in-person storefront presence, but I’d hate it if that was all it was.

What surprises you in your work, now or in the past?

This seemingly crazy idea of creating an art gallery that would focus on the horse in a contemporary non-traditional way…works! There are enough people in the world who love what I am doing here, and I can make it a successful business. I am constantly amazed and grateful.

What drives you crazy?

The hardest part for a business like mine is to find the marketing niche that can expand the business. I am active online through my website, email blasts and social networking, all of which has been amazing return on the investment of my time. I get stymied when I try to expand my market to reach more art lovers and to get more people walking in the door. Identifying and effectively reaching a new customer base is difficult in these days of new options. And for a micro-business with no financial cushion, it is nearly impossible. But what really drives me crazy are the people who walk in my gallery and say….”Oh, somebody must like horses!” No kidding! I will add, as a subject of art, horses are historically significant. As the partners of human evolution, they are seminal. And for a study in light, texture, massing of muscle and bone, nothing but the human body comes close to being as interesting.

Who inspires you? (it can be anybody you know, or don't know)

I am inspired by the artists who I work with. By their passion and expertise in medium and subject. By their mastery. I learn much from working with them and from being surrounded by their work. I am a conduit to find collectors, we are partners in this endeavor. I am conscious of the history of the horse in art and of the substantial body of work created by the masters of the past – and the influence they have on what is being created today.

Words of wisdom or thoughts?

For those contemplating starting a small business, I would say a few important things. Do what you have a passion for. The likelihood is you will not make a lot of money doing it, so you must love it. Learn as much as you can from others you respect. It is very difficult to jump in to something you know little about how to do. You will need to know about all of the details and even then there will be so much that will come along you will have to learn about. So, be flexible and open to it all. Make mistakes, they are important to learn from. Also be very much aware of your potential market. Is there a hole your business will be filling? And, will enough people be interested in what you are doing, to keep it going? Passion alone is not enough. You don’t want to repeat what someone else is doing, and you also don’t want to find that no one cares about your business either. Go slowly, baby steps if you can. And be grateful for every day you can do what you love. It is so worth it.


Juliet Harrison is an award-winning photographer who received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1991. Specializing in traditional hand-printed Black and White photographs, Juliet has captured images of horses for more than 20 years. Her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions across the United States, and has been published in various magazines. She has published several books of her work, including White Horses: From the Literal to The Sublime, Equiscape: A Modernist Nude, Track Life in Saratoga Springs and Track Life: Images and Words. Recently her work has evolved to focus on the creation of mixed media assemblage sculptures using both organic and man-made materials. Juliet lives in Red Hook, New York, in the Hudson Valley, where she owns the Equis Art Gallery, featuring equestrian themed art by contemporary artists from around the world.

(published in 2020)