Local Gallerist Hayley Stoen Discusses Her Passion Project, The Ateiler Collection

Cottagewood native talks about her art gallery labor of love, The Atelier Collection.

Hayley Stoen has achieved something most people only dream of: turning her passion into her business. Stoen is the owner and curator of The Atelier Collection, a fine vintage art dealership in Excelsior. The Atelier Collection is based on European-style salons, focusing on a small collection of expertly curated art, open by appointment only or online. “I love meeting people face to face,” Stoen says. “I work with clients to find just the right thing.”

So what kind of art will you find in her salon? “I sell fine vintage art,” Stoen explains. “Basically, that means I’m acquiring art locally and abroad, and it’s all vintage or antique. It’s a collection of pieces from unheralded artists that represent different movements within art history.” Stoen focuses on art—mostly paintings—with strong aesthetic appeal, rather than snobby provenance. “I want the art to be appreciated for its aesthetic value, as opposed to, ‘This is by such-and-such artist and it’s worth this much money,’” she says. “It means beautiful pieces for your home, that maybe remind you of where you grew up, or somewhere you traveled, or the view out your window. People feel really strongly about the purchase they make. They feel emotionally drawn to it.”

Stoen, an art historian by training, also focuses on framing. “I do a lot of restoration,” she says. “I might find something at an estate sale, or from an auction in Europe, that might have a hole or a tear in the canvas, and it’s unframed. So I fix it up and bring it back to its original glory.” She works with Hang It, a framing studio in Northeast Minneapolis, to make sure each piece is ready to be put on a wall with a surround that complements the art itself.

So what led Stoen on the path to owning her own gallery? The Cottagewood native, 37, graduated from Minnetonka High School and knew from an early age that she was interested in European culture and art. “I spent my senior year of high school in France as an exchange student,” she explains. “That kind of sparked my love of history and art and architecture.” (Stoen’s dad, Jon Monson, is an architect and the owner of Landschute, a local firm. “It’s in my blood,” she says with a laugh.) Stoen received her undergraduate degree in French from the University of Minnesota, and “hopped all over” after college, from Chicago to London to California. Eventually, she and her husband made their way back to the Lake Minnetonka area with their three kids, Ford, 11, Fletcher, 9, and Tate, 1. “I just really wanted to go back to school,” Stoen says. She also wanted to be closer to family and raise her children in Minnesota. She attended the University of St. Thomas and received her master’s degree in art history. “I had an internship at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in the audience engagement department, which was a great learning experience for me. I really wanted to be more hands-on with artwork. I was interested in acquiring artwork, and selling it.” And soon after, The Atelier Collection was born. “I thought, the best way to be hands-on with art and be a full-time mother would be to start this business,” Stoen says. After living all over Europe and starting her own art collection, she saw a market for something similar. “I had lived in all of these neat, historic cities, and had found some really incredible pieces of fine art, which I purchased even when I was right out of college,” she says. “They didn’t cost very much, but they were really special. People would come to my house and want to buy the art right off my walls.”

That confirmed Stoen’s eye for great art—with a fancy pedigree or not—and enabled her to hit the ground running with The Atelier Collection. “I started buying up every beautiful painting that I came across at an auction or an antique store. I definitely don’t limit myself to where I find them,” she says. With her art history degree, Stoen can assure her clients that she’s evaluating each piece for authenticity, age and other factors.

As someone who’s constantly immersed in the art world, what are some of Stoen’s favorite genres or themes? “I love nautical pieces,” she says—surprise, surprise, coming from someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. “I love seascapes. I’m really into color and texture. And I really like Federal-style pieces, which are kind of antique and involve a lot of Americana.” Most of all, Stoen’s collection—both at home and at her gallery—is eclectic and varied. “I’m always looking for variety. If I have a lot of one thing, I’ll try to get another style. It’s really about what is beautiful and what is speaking to me. I like oil paint, watercolors, charcoal, graphite. I also try to support local contemporary artists whenever I can.” She does make it a point to stick to her fine-art roots. “I focus on originality, and painterly qualities like texture, depth and color,” she says. “I try to stay away from folk/naïve art and only sell high-quality fine art that is representative of a variety of eras and schools.”

Art at Home

Whether you’re searching for your first piece of fine art or your fiftieth, Hayley Stoen shares her tips.

Follow your heart and be true to your style. “If you see something that speaks to you, go for it,” says Stoen. “There is really no error in buying a piece of original artwork when you absolutely love it. It’s an investment that will add character and depth to your home.”

Start with the piece, not the place. “You’ll find a place to hang art you love,” Stoen says. Don’t start with the wall above your fireplace and think, ‘I need something that will fit this location.’” Bottom line: “Collecting art is a process and the best collections come together over time,” Stoen says.