An Art Business with a Software Model

Reuben Pressman and Jessa Ferguson’s
Curators & Co. aims to help artists
make money off their work before it sells

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Despite the enormous role that artists have played in the beautification of St. Pete, many are still struggling to leave their day jobs and pursue art full-time.

Enter Curators & Co.

Curators & Co. rents local art to local businesses for a monthly fee. The business gets a fresh set of locally-made artwork, and the artist gets a cut of the rental fee. Curators & Co. picks up, delivers, hangs and rotates the visual art monthly.

The new company is the brainchild of Tampa Bay area entrepreneur Reuben Pressman and interior designer Jessa Ferguson.

Pressman became the first student to graduate from USF St. Pete’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation program in 2011. A year later, he used these skills to launch a new software platform called Presence. More than 250 universities now use the software, which helps universities increase their student engagement, success and workforce readiness.

How does a software guy get into the business of art?

“Growing up here and seeing what has made St. Pete the way it is,” Pressman says. “And what I’ve fallen in love with [is] art and the artists who have built this community and everything around it. I see that as a big passion to stay involved…”

Pressman’s worked with several art organizations in St. Pete over the past decade. He currently serves on the board of The Studio@620 and the Warehouse Arts District Association.

“Most of the artists I’ve seen come through the[se] organizations… are part-time artists wishing they could do it full time,” Pressman says.

It’s what Pressman calls the artist’s challenge — making a living through a sustainable arts practice. Here, Pressman feels the art world can learn a few things from the software world.

“What made me fall in love with technology and software is you build it once, and it can solve a problem for hundreds, thousands and millions of people over and over again,” says Pressman. “So the idea is, how do we create that recurring revenue stream in a subscription – just like code, but for an art piece?”

That’s the part that helps the artist. But it’s not just about the artists. As a former business owner, Pressman wants to create a program that also benefits local business owners.

“When I had 50 employees downtown working on software, I would have loved to have had something that kept the walls fresh and inspiring for them and interesting,” Pressman explains. “And it’s tough to commit to a large artwork purchase that’s going to be permanent, so this seemed to solve issues on both sides.” (Along the same lines, Creative Pinellas helps visual artists place work in hotels.)

Curators & Co. is about creating a community where business owners can easily incorporate local artwork into their interior designs and local artists can make a living off their art.

“As a designer, I’ve been very frustrated seeing high-end places have HomeGoods art,” Ferguson shares. “You have a community with amazing, inspiring art.”

Ferguson and Pressman are currently collecting artists and businesses to participate, waiting until they hit critical mass to launch. They’ve got about 20 warm leads on the business end, and now they’re working on the artists.

Reuben Pressman and Jessa Ferguson introduce artists to Curators & Co. at a recent Warehouse Arts District event

For visual artists who choose to sign up, the process begins with Ferguson and Pressman taking inventory of their work.

“We get an idea of the artwork you already have and the artwork you are capable of making if you want to add more work into circulation,” says Pressman, “And we create data around this.

“We understand the themes, the motifs, the subjects, the colors, the stories, everything in that. And we match that to what all of our spaces create as a profile for what fits their business, or their brand, or what they’re looking for.

“And we build that into software that aligns those together and helps curators like Jessa plan out and manage the logistics of where the artwork goes…”

Curators & Co. bases each artist’s rental fee on their artworks’ value. They aim to pay out about 20% of the artworks’ value each year, paid monthly. Participating artists also have the opportunity to sell their work, earning 60% of the sale price.

And since each piece of artwork gets displayed in 12 different places throughout the year, the audience for sales should be pretty good. A portion of the art sales goes to the business incentivizing them to create events around the artwork that help it sell.

Curators & Co. plans to pitch artists from multiple arts organizations over the next 60 days or so. I heard their spiel during a Warehouse Arts District member social in July, and I’m excited to see how it goes for artists and local businesses who choose to participate.

It sounds like a win for the City of St. Pete.
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If you’re interested in participating, early signup is open at, with all the details.
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