Gallery owner Ross Parker knows the unseen labor behind every successful enterprise

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Ross Parker, who owns Call of Africa’s Native Vision Galleries on Fifth Avenue South in Naples, has been in the art business for more than 30 years. He’s learned that being an entrepreneur in the art world comes with its own unique demands—many of them unseen by the visitors who peruse his collection.

Once Parker was standing at his desk in the gallery when he overheard a conversation between an older gentleman and the gentleman’s wife.

“We should open a gallery,” the wife suggested to her husband. The husband wasn’t convinced. “I think there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.” The wife shrugged. “What? You just put up some sculptures and hang some paintings.”

This is the part when Parker shakes his head. It’s almost impossible for most people to imagine the amount of work that goes into running a successful gallery. The art business demands determination, passion and sacrifice; it also requires an enormous amount of time.

“It’s not just dealing with clients and the paintings on the floor,” Parker says. “I’m studying magazines, going to art shows around the country, getting a feel for people’s appetites, watching which color palettes are trending in interior design.” He takes this information and flies around the world, often to Africa, where he meets with his artists. They sit down together to discuss art and make decisions for new work. “Sometimes we’ll travel to the bush together, and we’ll sit and drink wine around the fire,” Parker says. “We’ll discuss ideas for paintings, maybe about a herd of elephants we saw crossing the river that morning.”

Parker, 61, is from the country currently known as Zimbabwe. When he was growing up on his family’s 26,000-acre farm there, the nation was called Rhodesia. Parker spent his childhood hunting in the wilderness with tribal warriors. That’s where he developed a passion for animals and the outdoors. Though he left Zimbabwe in 1980, he still returns for three months each year. “I love going back,” he says. “The art business gives me the opportunity to return and be in one of the wildest places in Africa.”

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