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Art by Mail Delivers Big Impact at Low Price

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JSOM alumna starts business that combines artistic awareness and business acumen

Ekaterina Kouznetsova BS’16 is making her mark on the art scene as founder of ArtMail, a subscription art service she launched just months after graduating. The Dallas resident is both creative force and personal curator at the company that mails subscribers museum-quality prints of new works from emerging international artists.

Kouznetsova, born in Russia, parlayed the skills she learned in The University of Texas at Dallas’ marketing, global business and art history programs into an innovative startup.

“When I was just a freshman, I started getting very, very involved in the Dallas arts scene, and it became apparent that that was the industry I wanted to work in,” she says. Kouznetsova landed a position at a local art gallery, followed by a fashion editor gig for Dallas-based magazine THRWD and then with Dallas area designers and then, still in school, as the international art editor for Nakid Magazine.

Kouznetsova observed how talented artists from around the world were facing similar challenges, namely a lack of exposure and sustainable income. “So often, [the art industry] comes off as a very sterile, unwelcoming place,” she says. “And I thought, there’s got to be a better way to fix all these issues.”

In her final semester at UT Dallas, Kouznetsova was taking 21 hours while also working as Nakid’s international arts editor — the same semester she decided to start building her new business. “I’m one of those people that unless I’m overwhelmingly busy, I feel like I’m wasting time,” she says.

In 2016, Kouznetsova spent the summer abroad exploring international markets as part of her global business studies. Following her August graduation with a degree in Global Business, she launched ArtMail with a roster of 20 artists. The goal was to create a space for artists intimidated by traditional galleries, while also making emerging art and decor accessible to the general public.

Kouznetsova used Instagram and a website to market the new business, which earned her a mention in The Dallas Morning News.

“I try to ensure a steady stream of income for the artists so that they can keep on creating work,” she says. “Each artist receives a very, very generous commission that is higher than any other printing company by far, on both prints and originals.”

Most galleries and curators will keep as much as half of a work’s selling price, but Kouznetsova says she takes “much less.” The subscriber receives a certified giclée print guaranteed to last 150 years, along with an artist interview and certificate of authenticity.

Customers sign up online, where they are prompted to pick their favorite paintings. The process, which takes about three minutes on the subscriber’s end, provides Kouznetsova with enough information to curate a customized selection of artists and prints. Prints are matted in specially designed environmentally sustainable frames “made of recycled biomatter with a clear light acrylic on the front with UV coating,” she says. And she’s using artificial intelligence “as an experiment in art curation.”

“We’ve actually already built it out in print data, with tens of thousands of referral points. For now, it’s been surprisingly accurate, predicting pieces that I personally curate.”

The company also offers original works for purchase, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Kouznetsova says she recently began a collaboration with the Ritz-Carlton in Abu Dhabi.

“ArtMail is creating connections between an artist in Thailand and a software engineer in Dallas,” she says. “I’m very glad that I live in a world where I’m able to do that and facilitate those connections.”

Jeanne Spreier

Jeanne is a writer and editor who has worked in JSOM's External Affairs for more than seven years. She is also mother of three college-age kids who were born and raised in Dallas, and gets a lot of her Dallas know-how from them. On any given day, she would rather be outside somewhere. She earned her communications degree from the University of Kentucky. Read more articles

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