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Selling Art And Burgers

TULSA, OK -- Nathan Johns isn't like most art managers. He sells his clients’ work through a trendy Tulsa burger joint.

Johns is the owner of Juxtaposition Sound & Vision, a company that represents local artists by displaying their work in a hip Tulsa, Oklahoma hangout called Brewburger. This novel set up has worked out well for the restaurant and Johns. In this interview, Johns explains his journey to selling art and burgers under one roof.

thalo: How did you start selling art?

Nathan Johns: I started selling my own artwork (as seen in Photo 1) in student shows & contests. It wasn't until I met Rob & Lydia, the owners of Brewburger, that I started selling other artists' works (as seen in Photos 2 and 3).

th: What is your history in the art world?

NJ: My love of art started early and has been a major influence in my education and career. By the time I was in middle school, I had already decided that I would always have art in my life. College led to studying fine art, graphic design and art in other cultures.  Fine art, of course, lead to the gallery, and graphic design lead to the advertising company I own. Both are opportunities to bask in the warmth of creativity. 

th: Why did you decide to sell art at Brewburger?

NJ: Well, they had empty walls. Heh, actually, Brewburger had become fairly popular in South Tulsa. In fact, many of my friends and I often ate there. However, it seemed like it was missing something to mark it as "the place to be." Inspiration struck and I approached the owners. They were very pleased with the idea of supporting the local art community in exchange for some pleasant atmosphere added to their restaurant. Besides, Lydia herself is an artist too. 

th: What are some marketing techniques that you use to promote the art in Brewburger?

NJ: The majority of marketing is on Facebook but it isn't limited to that. We also take advantage of other social networks, flyers and the all mighty MailChimp. In early February, we are including an advertising campaign in other establishments. Of course, with this sort of gallery, the most powerful tool is word-of-mouth. The art is great.  So, the loyal patrons of Brewburger and Juxtaposition Sound & Vision don't hesitate to inform their friends. 

th: I've heard Brewburger referred to as "part of trendy Tulsa." How does that make you feel? Is that what you intended?

NJ: Trendy is great. If that means people are enjoying it and buying art then it is wonderful. Whatever it takes to let my artists buy their next canvas to create on. I suppose it was what I intended. South Tulsa desperately needed a place like the JSV Gallery in Brewburger. So yeah, trendy sounds good to me. 

th: How successful is the Brewburger as a showcase for art? Can you share any numbers, like how many paintings per month you sell?

NJ: Well, as a restaurant it starts out as mostly impulse buys. Someone sees a piece they can't walk away from.  Something that calls to them. Customers go there for the great food and walk away with art.  As for numbers, it fluctuates as with anything. I will say that last month we sold 25 pieces of art and 6 books. Oh, and thousands of burgers. Those are practically art, too.

Photo credits

Photo 1 Nathan Johns

Photo 2 Shamus Rawald

Photo 3 Grant Smith