Q & A with Susan Oliver Heard of Cinnabar

Find out how she selects exhibitions, came to be a gallery owner and what she loves about Blue Star in our Q&A with Susan Oliver Heard of Cinnabar Art Gallery.




Cinnbar is a art-fan-favorite at Blue Star, tell us about your initial vision for the gallery and why you chose to call Blue Star Cinnabar’s home.
Blue Star is an excellent complex in a high-traffic location centered in an area that has a growing art community and appreciation of contemporary art. The gallery space has large windows letting in natural light which is optimal for viewing artwork. The gallery is unique in that we strive to show work that has not been seen before. We select artists that are well known locally and internationally as well as new, lesser known artists and choose work that has not been highly circulated in the San Antonio area. I want the gallery to exhibit fresh work and fresh ideas that appeal to and break convention at once.




Give us your background, highlights of what led you to become a gallery owner. 
I started out art consulting for public and private entities as well as making and selling jewelry in trunk shows throughout the United States. I spent 3 years attending the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Carlsbad, California to further pursue my passion for diamonds, rare gemstones and minerals.  After finishing my post-graduate studies I began working in Colorado at a gallery that specialized in large, outdoor sculpture, museum quality minerals, and fine jewelry. Gallery ownership felt like a natural next step and as San Antonio is my home-town-what better place to start then where you already have roots combined an opportunity and passion to show unique artwork, minerals and jewelry.


You’re an artist as well, what themes do you pursue? What is integral to your work?
I am passionate about being a jeweler and I pursue nature-based jewelry that involves precious metals and rare gemstones combined with everyday, found natural objects.




What jobs/work have you done outside of being an artist/gallery owner?
I have had my own jewelry business for 17 years and have been an art consultant for 15.


What types of art do you identify with most? How do you select exhibitions for Cinnabar?
I relate to artists who have focus and directly exhibit their passion. I trust my eye and it has done me well over the years.
I greatly enjoy studio tours and file away in my mind options for the future. My passion is curating and putting together the pieces of the puzzle for an innovative theme.
I have moments of revelation about names for exhibitions. Whether they are aesthetically driven or experience driven, I relate to them through passions of my own.



What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given? What advice do you have for artists looking to gain more exposure in the San Antonio community?
I entered into the business from a retail and sales driven point-of-view in the jewelry world.  The best advice I have derived is to really listen to the client and try to find them exactly what they are looking for in their environment. Do not show them everything, Only show them what is congruent to their interests.
For artists I recommend a 180 degree different approach! Work from the creative force that inspired you and do so with a focused passion. Do not get bogged down with the commercial parts of the art world that can deteriorate the passion behind your work. Leave the selling to the gallery. When approaching a gallery- do not bring work in person unannounced. Set up good working website. If the gallery accepts admissions (it will say that on their website- look for it) then send a well written, short email asking for a good time and email to contact them. Join their email list. If or when they respond,  send a short email with 3 of the strongest works you have. Then attach your website and contact info and request a studio tour. Be patient, but follow up. Weekly at most.


What is your dream project? 
It is best to stay tuned and see what is lined up for the rest of the year. All dreams are art and art is a dream.


What role does art play in your every day life?
I began playing the piano as a toddler, started making jewelry as a kid, and photography in junior high.
The better question is what role doesn’t art play in my life?


Name something you love about Blue Star Arts Complex and why?
I love the installations that come through Hello! Studio and as a board member of Blue Star there is hardly a show or event I don’t enjoy.


Cinnabar’s current exhibitions can be found here and on our events page.