How can I share my art with the world?
No matter where you are on your art journey, you have art to share and you work hard finding the eyeballs that will appreciate it most. Many of us use the “spray and pray” method of approaching many galleries, entering many shows, selling at various venues, and trying all the ways out there to sell art online and in person.
This is a useful strategy. We learn and grow with each experience. The doors that open afford experiences that shape our development.
What if I told you that there are ways to reach out to buyers beyond the organized shows and venues? What if I suggested ways to engage beyond the group of artists, family, and neighbors you typically share your art with? Would you be interested in doing the work to broaden your network?
The answer may be no. There are artists whose strategy is to only sign with certain galleries or show in specific venues. Some may be building a commissioned art based business. They may teach or take on a part time job to pay for expenses until their sales materialize.
If you want to know how I worked to secure shows in art centers and museums across the United States, growing my collector base in new regions, read on.
If I could only use one word to describe how this is possible, it would be “relationships.” It’s hard work. It doesn’t happen overnight. For me it’s taken ten years to secure my first solo museum show. But it can happen. It can’t happen without building relationships.
What does it mean to build relationships? It means you arrange as much in person and on the phone time as you can with people at venues of interest. It means you follow them and read their newsletters and commit to interact with them for as long as it takes. It may be weeks or years before there is an opportunity to engage fully, but when it happens you are ready.
Let me share with you the list I’ve been using for several years now. Some weeks I can spend only an hour or less doing something on this list. Other weeks, I can knock out several. This isn’t a race. I do what I can, when I can.
1. I do an internet search of art centers, venues and museums in areas I will be traveling to soon. I call these venues and speak to someone about what upcoming exhibitions I can apply to, and who the contact person is if I am interested in exhibiting there. I’ve learned I have the most success when I seek out places that regularly hold classes and art exhibits. These are good indicators of an engaged and thriving community of art lovers who may be open to learning more about me.
2. Once I have my list of names and venues, I subscribe to newsletters, follow on social media, and learn all I can about the people and the places. When I visit, I can speak with genuine interest to the people I meet there.
3. Each time I visit the venues, I spend as much time as I can getting to know not just the organizers, but the other people there as well. I talk to the groundskeeper. I seek out the person who runs the front desk or the gift shop, and if I’m lucky they will have coffee with me. I try to get to know everyone, but of course there are usually only a handful of people I am able to develop close working relationships with. Those people are precious to me. Over time, I find opportunities to let them get to know me and my art better.
4. Throughout the steps above, I look for times when I can mention or refer other artists. For example, when I heard about a call recently for sculptors, I reached out to my 3D artist friend to let them know about an application at a visual arts center I am interested in. Of course, I put a bug in their ear by closing with “I hope one day we can exhibit our work together in a show.” I have a group of 4 artist friends I show regularly with. For larger spaces, which typically require 50 paintings or more, it has been a fun experience organizing shows. Those museums require more work than I can commit.
5. I always know when the time is right to pitch a venue with a show. Often, they will approach me. But if I have developed our relationship enough, I know who to approach, they are familiar with my work, and then it’s just a matter of working out logistics. But when I approach them, I always have a theme in mind for the show, my headshot, bio and artist statement are in order, and I have at least ten paintings available to commit for promotional images. I also have a press release prepared for the venue to use and edit as needed. I am able to set up a Dropbox with all of these files, so they can be accessed by the hosts.
6. At this point, the people I am working with know my work ethic. They know that I will do all I can to share and promote the event on social media and through my newsletter. Sometimes I will send postcards to my contacts. I always offer to do an art talk and a painting demonstration at the event. Demos nudge sales because they urge people to stay longer.
7. After the event, I am careful to send private messages to all who were there, if they have shared their contact info with me. I will ask if they would like to continue on this art journey with me by allowing me to share what I’m up to with them via email. I try very hard to record genuine reasons to contact them in the future. If they mention their birthday, or an anniversary, I’ll wish them well that day for example. The more often I can connect with them in a sincere way, the more likely they will be to want to see more of me and my art.
8. Last but not least on my list, I brainstorm ways to use these experiences to generate more. After I signed with my first gallery, I spoke of it with other gallery owners. When I organized a group show at a museum in MT, mentioning that experience helped us book shows in Japan, MD and VA. Artists I’ve met at openings introduced me to curators I’m working with now. I’m teaching at art centers I hope to someday exhibit at. Every interaction may lead to larger audiences for your art.
Using these steps, I have been successful in sharing my artwork with people who I never would have met otherwise.
Ironically, I doubt these folks would be vested in me if I’d just sent them an email with my best art images. I don’t think my resume would impress them, no matter how many best of shows or signature memberships are on it.
People pay attention to the artists they are familiar with.
Work first to become more familiar to more people. Did I just say you should forget about art marketing?
No, I said that developing relationships is a VERY important part of art marketing. When seeking a larger audience for your art, it may be THE most important aspect of art marketing.
How are you sharing your art today? Has this article inspired you to approach new locations? I’d love to know, and others will, too!