Photo courtesy of The Whitney Shop

Gift Shop Plus Summer 2023
The Whitney Shop celebrates the ‘artists among us’ By Carly McFadden

A Manhattan museum gift shop pays homage to the artists of today and now

Community is at the heart of The Whitney Shop.

Situated in the lively Meatpacking District in Manhattan is The Whitney Museum of American Art, founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. According to the museum, Whitney observed that U.S. artists “with new ideas” faced unique challenges in exhibiting or selling their art. She strived to purchase and showcase their works to empower local talented artists, ultimately leading to the founding of The Whitney Museum.

Photo courtesy of The Whitney Shop
The Whitney Museum of American Art is located in Manhattan’s far west side. All photos courtesy of The Whitney Shop.

More than nine decades later, the museum showcases 20th-century and contemporary art while focusing in particular on work created by living artists.

The museum’s gift shop aims to be an extension of Whitney’s original mission, giving a voice and exposure to American artists who keep innovation at the forefront of their works. The Whitney Shop features carefully curated products, including prints, ceramics, apparel, jewelry and other handmade items from New York City artists. It also has an online storefront, where visitors can shop by category or artist. According to Jennifer Heslin, director of retail operations at The Whitney Museum of American Art, top products at the shop are the catalogs, postcards, posters and archival print reproductions.

Keeping community at its core, the shop’s items are largely designed by local artists and creators.

“We prioritize sourcing from and producing with local designers and makers to support the creative ecosystem of NYC,” Heslin said. “Art supplies, book titles and other gifts that encourage creative thinking, material exploration and the sharing of personal objects and collections are also an important part of our product mix. We want our community of artists, gallery visitors, neighbors and shoppers to be inspired by the ideas explored in The Whitney’s programs and empowered in their own creative impulses.”

The Artists Among Us collection is a best-seller, Heslin explained, with keychains, flags, pins, totes and more with the slogan “There Are Artists Among Us” in English or Spanish, reiterating the notion that talented creators and visionaries are still making their mark in the U.S. today.

Photo courtesy of The Whitney Shop
The Whitney Shop aims to give exposure to living American artists.

Further, The Whitney Shop allows artists from the community to submit products for consideration in the museum. This ensures the shop stays true to its founder’s original mission.

“We review product and title submissions regularly,” Heslin said. “It takes some time, but we try to reply to every submission. We look for beautifully imagined, well designed, unique and high-quality products that directly relate to the art and artists in our collection. If a product doesn’t quite fit in our shop, we try to recommend additional shops that may be a better fit.”

The atmosphere in the Whitney Shop aims to be fun, creative, friendly and thoughtful — welcoming artists and art- appreciators alike.

“We strive to strengthen the relationship between our audiences and the museum, creating an emotional connection with visitors while contributing to the financial health and sustainability of the institution,” Heslin concluded.

Carly McFadden

Carly McFadden is the editorial director of Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and Lawn & Garden Retailer.

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