Art on the Vine: The New Collector's Toolbox

Starting your fine art collection can be an intimidating prospect. Walking into white-walled galleries and silent museums, where everyone already seems to know all of the lingo, can make the fine art world seem inaccessible.

When Jessica Stafford Davis began engaging in the art community, this is what she thought. Now, after spending years teaching herself about the fine arts world and becoming an experienced collector, Davis understands that art can be for anyone who seeks it out. In 2013, she founded The Agora Culture, an online platform dedicated to educating collectors with all levels of experience, and connecting them with the most promising up-and-coming artists of color.

The Agora Culture


A unique resource that The Agora Culture offers is classes on collecting: Art Basics 101. The course is designed to give new collectors a high-level instruction on the basics of engaging with the art community. It answers questions about viewing art: How should we interact with gallerists? What should we expect from a museum experience? What are some art fairs and Biennales worth attending? It opens a discussion about acquiring work once you’ve gotten a sense of what you want: How do we participate in an auction? How do we insure our purchases? What kinds of payment plans are offered by artists and galleries?

Jessica Stafford Davis, founder of The Agora Culture  Image Courtesy of The Agora Culture

Jessica Stafford Davis, founder of The Agora Culture
Image Courtesy of The Agora Culture

“Do your research,” Davis says immediately when asked about the most important advice for a new collector. “Read—there are great periodicals—Transition, ArtNews, Art in America, Art Forum. Use that to learn more about different artists and their practice.”

The Agora Culture is, in some ways, a research center in itself. If the course doesn’t answer all of your questions, its members are always available for one-on-ones. Part of Davis’ goals is to provide all of the knowledge she has accumulated open to everyone.


An important element Davis often found lacking in fine art communities was diversity. The lack of representation made certain spaces difficult for her to navigate. When she began The Agora Culture, she knew that it would be a space specifically for artists of color, so that she could put her resources into changing the climate and opening conversations about fine art to a larger demographic.

Art on the Vine 

This year, The Agora Culture launches its first ever major event, Art on the Vine, in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard. It is a one-day, ticketed event taking place on August 16 from 1 – 8 pm. The event provides both an intimate art fair, with up-and-coming artists picked by The Agora Culture for their fresh successes and promising outlook, and a panel of seasoned collectors sharing their experiences.

Image Courtesy of Art on the Vine

Image Courtesy of Art on the Vine

Martha’s Vineyard

Davis chose Martha’s Vineyard for its active creative community, especially during its bustling summer months. She had vacationed in Martha’s Vineyard a few times and was impressed by its diversity and engagement. With its history of scholars, artists, and art collectors, it emerged as the ideal place to establish an annual event and a lasting relationship.

Talent on the Vine

The artists on the roster are all emerging talent sourced from all over the country. Nearly all have received MFA’s from premier arts institutions, and many have shown in museums, awarded fellowships and participated in residences. They are proud to feature work by artists such as Vanessa German, Mequitta Ahuja, David Antonio Cruz, Jamea Richmond Edwards—just to name a few. They are “investment-grade artists,”: artists whose work has a high potential of appreciation. Art on the Vine aims to connect these artists with collectors at the onset of their careers to form relationships that can benefit both artist and collector in the future.

Conversations About Collecting

The panel will feature two formidable collectors, with distinguished taste and experience:  Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a collector of African American fine art, and Bob and Faye Davidson, philanthropists and collectors of contemporary art. During this one-hour panel, from 2:30 – 3:30 pm, Cafritz and the Davidsons will share the wisdom they’ve gained in their years as collectors, and discuss the importance of supporting the arts.

The Residency

This is a completely non-profit event and all ticket proceeds will go towards the The Agora Culture’s AOTV Residency program, debuting in summer 2017 as a 4-week residency in Martha’s Vineyard. It will continue Art on the Vine’s relationship with the Martha’s Vineyard arts community and give one artist of color the opportunity to spend a month focused on their practice. 

 Art on the Vine will take place on Tuesday, August 16, from 1 – 8 pm. General and VIP Tickets are still available! Don’t miss this chance to participate in an open and informative  summer arts event.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016: Puloma Ghosh