People of Prominence – Toni Tronu

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Toni Tronu is helping people go beyond the “dust of everyday life” by providing access to art from all over the country. She owns Visual Index in downtown Winston-Salem. Toni is a cultivator of art, and her undying support for artists from all walks of life is boundless.

Toni was the proud recipient of the 2021 NCAEA Friend of the Arts Award and the WSFC Arts Council’s 2021 R. Philip Hanes, Jr. Young Leader Award. She has even teamed up with her husband to create an original musical project called Lady Gold Van.

Toni was invited to share her story with us.

Tell us about where this love of art all began.

I was always interested in artistic endeavors. I was big into music and photography. I grew up around artistic and creative people. My mother and father were small business owners of a bookstore and a tile and granite company that was in the family for 100 years in Florida. My parents taught me how to monetize creativity. They were savvy businesspeople. I morphed my interests from an internship in the art world to art management. I met some amazing people, and I have always loved to connect with others. I knew one day I would open an art shop and leverage all the business skills I had acquired.

What made you believe you could be an entrepreneur in the art world?

I passionately believed that I could build a business that focused on the artists I loved. I saw that what I loved about art could be a viable business with all the skills I had been given by my parents. Honestly, I got bored with what I was doing just managing and interning and wanted something more for myself. I felt like I was mastering the various stages of building on my brewing ideas for my own art shop. I knew that my idea of representing artists from all 50 states could work. I just wanted to reach out, connect and truly represent a wide array of artists from even outside of North Carolina.

What advice would you give to burgeoning artists?

Do not saturate a particular market. Get your work out there in a variety of places. I would also say that local artists should attend Art Crush, which is what the Arts District of Winston-Salem (ADWS) hosts on Trade Street every third Friday of the month to highlight artists. Be vulnerable. Be true. Be sure to meet all the gallery owners and really know them and what they do.

What are your favorite types of interactions with customers at Visual Index?

I have learned to never judge a book by the proverbial cover. As an art dealer, you can never look at someone and prejudge. You can never just stand back and say to yourself, “Oh, that person would never buy anything here.” People from all varying backgrounds adore art, and if it means something to them, they will buy it! I even love that some parents buy art each year for their children as a special gift that they will always cherish as something different and personal.

What does art mean to you?

Art means emotion and happiness to me. It means community pulls together but also pulls apart over art. Art is a powerful force that has more control than anyone would think. I noticed that people came here to my gallery to heal during COVID. People gathered to peruse the labor of love put into each of these works.

Who would you nominate for our People of Prominence series?

Taja Seafus who is the talented President of the DOSE Artist Collective here locally. She tirelessly works to provide opportunities for local creatives to share, collaborate and promote their work. She has continually blown my mind as someone so young and so impactful. She is an uplifting presence in the local artistic community. She really is a creative pioneer. 

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