She travels the world, buys art, and brings it back to Philadelphia. I met Florcy, five years ago and I remember her Gallery opening. I couldn’t wait to re-connect with her to do this interview.
The CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE has this gallery owner expanding its borders as she expands hers curating art exhibits, audiences, & programs..
“I started with Haitian Art. I wanted to tell the story of the people, the land, the culture and the history. Within 3 months it quickly evolved to be more than Haitian Art. I have art from Africa, The Caribbean, Cuba, Bahamas, Mexican Art, Middle Eastern Art. I wanted to be diverse. I wanted to show that there was quality art that told our story and encompassed pieces that look like you and I. It goes much further back than life in America.”
MORE THAN A COLLECTION…Within the last 2 years she has expanded the business into a consulting firm. Working with museums and assisting them with building their diversity development, Florcy has assisted with bringing newer and different audiences by way of curating exhibits as well as programs.
“I’ve worked with the Delaware Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology. She’s on the Board of the African American Museum and works with the Jewish Museum as well and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS WHAT YOU WERE BORN TO DO?
I’m Haitian and in the Haitian culture you can either be a doctor or a lawyer, so I was born to be either a doctor or a lawyer. I remember at a very young age, between 8 and becoming a teenager, my mom started instilling that I always said I wanted to be a doctor. It was this really big thing. I went to High School thinking I was going to be a doctor so I took a lot of science classes, but I was at a Theater Arts High School so was majoring in the arts as well.
I quickly realized after studying Psychology and Biology in college, that science was not what I wanted to do. I didn’t know I wanted to be the arts. It just so happens that I accepted a job doing a drug and alcohol rehab and housing services program. I ended up quitting because for me it was extremely un-fulfilling. I knew that I was a giver, but I didn’t believe that was the way I was intended to give back. I just wanted something where I saw positive results.
I started learning different things and pursued getting my real estate license. I was doing fashion buying. I explored returning to modeling again. I was doing all these crazy things just trying to find myself. I moved to Philadelphia and accompanied my sister (who is a doctor) on a trip to Panama. I bought these two Haitian paintings from a Haitian woman selling art. I have to credit her with an obvious unintentional seed that was planted. Within a year I came across the idea and decided to open an art gallery so that I can tell more people about Haiti and educate people about Haiti and hopefully it would create a sense of affinity for the country. So that’s what I did.
DID YOU EVER THINK YOU WOULD BE WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
I never would have thought that I would be such an influential pillar in arts and culture. I never thought that I would touch so many people through the arts. Or that I would be the “go to” person for cultural art for minority and diversity. I never thought I would get here with it. This to me is richer than any amount of money I could have made.
I told my mother just the other day; “You know mom, we’re survivors. I’m strong because of you. You know, we just don’t give up and I thank you for giving me those qualities.”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THE YOUNGER YOU, KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW NOW ABOUT SOME OF THE DIFFICULTIES AND CHALLENGES OF BEING A MINORITY WOMAN IN BUSINESS?
There are many roads to the top of the mountain. Don’t ever feel stuck like you have to stay on that same road or path that you’ve initially chosen to take. You may get to a fork in the road or discover that the path you’ve chosen is really not the one you want to take. It’s okay to change; it’s okay to double back. I just know that for me, I was always searching, searching, searching. I had considered myself a Jack of All Trades and that I could do it all. My mom continued to tell me, “Florcy, just pick one”. The confusion for me was that I felt I was so good at everything. But once I settled into what it was, that perfect fit, I knew that this was going to be the rest of my career. Although I know I will not only be an Art Gallery owner, I knew this was the world and direction I wanted to be in. So it’s okay to start all over and to change. It’s okay to keep searching. Sometimes that “place” doesn’t come with what you thought it might have been. The most important thing even on top of all of that is that it’s not always about the money. I thought I would have made much more money by now, and I haven’t. But I am richer beyond my means in a sense in terms of other things. It’s a rich, delightful and rewarding career. I am blessed.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WANTING TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
As a business owner, the one thing I would say is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You have to believe and really tap into the resources that are around you. You have everything and everyone around you that you need to make your business successful. The first thing I did was get a publicist and I was putting ads in the Philadelphia newspapers. That wasn’t needed at the time. I think that we as women are perfectionists and we feel like things need to be a certain way. The best thing to do is to have someone around you who is cost conscious who will give you boundaries on what you do and don’t need.
AS IT RELATES TO YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY, DO YOU BELIEVE YOUR CIRCLE GOT SMALLER OR LARGER? DID YOU LOSE FRIENDS ALONG THE WAY AND HOW DID YOU HANDLE THAT?
That’a a powerful question. I have lost and I have gained. Ultimately I’ve gained. I have to look at it as quality over quantity. Even though you may look at my FACEBOOK page and there’s 5,000 people there and 10,000 people who get my newsletters. What does friendship mean is what I’ve had to learn. I’ve gained and I’ve lost and it has been painful. People I thought would have understood did not. I remember a guy friend of mine who is an executive and he told me, he wish he would have watered friendships a little more and nurtured them a little bit more. He said it was my responsibility as a growing business owner, no matter how busy I was it was my responsibility to maintain those friendships. He believed that it was my fault if I lost it and wasn’t able to maintain the friendship. I look back now and there are some that I wish I would have had and taken the time to nurture. I felt like I was so busy and so I couldn’t make the event or I was so tired. I realize that while it definitely takes two, I needed to be there more than I was for some of my friends. I was on a path and I wanted to be on this path. When I look back, I feel as if I should have done more. Nonetheless, I love what I do and I am very happy. I believe that I have ultimately gained more than I lost.
WHO HAS BEEN THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN YOUR LIFE?
My mom Paulette AKA mommy. My mom is my rockstar. She is my everything. She came to the United States when she was pregnant with me. I am a Haitian American. She didn’t have anything when she came. She took care of me and my sisters. She gave us opportunities and she sacrificed. She came here with very little and now she has 5 children who are very successful. 4 of them are in the medical field and myself who is in the arts. Like I stated earlier, growing up our only choices were to be a doctor or a lawyer. She instilled in me certain qualities that I look to today. Including, being honest with yourself, education is key, give it 100%. My tenacity to work is from her. She worked hard. She was a single mom in New York City raising 5 kids and she did it.
IF THERE WAS ONE THING YOU COULD CHANGE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I don’t want to say I have regrets, because I don’t. I feel like if I changed anything, then perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am. I am so happy where I am. I definitely feel that I wish I would have made better decisions in some cases, but I am comfortable where I am and look forward to all that’s to come!