by Matthew Long
Although you may have deeper motivations for being an artist, it never hurts to expose your work to a wider audience and get some positive feedback! If you are a painter, designer, or photographer (or you work in some other visual medium), putting on an art show can be a great way to promote your work and boost your career.
Finding Your Venue
Obviously, the first thing you need in order to put on an art show is a place to do it. While your first choice would be a gallery that is specifically designed for artists to exhibit their work that may be outside your budget, especially if you are just starting out.
Get creative in your search for venues. Remember that smart marketing can attract crowds to the most unlikely of spaces (see below for more details). You may be able to strike a deal with an owner who has a vacant storefront. This can be a great way to set up an exhibition cheaply.
Your ideal venue should be somewhere that gets plenty of foot traffic. You want to attract spur of the moment visitors, as well as those that you draw in with advertising. If your art is a good fit for an existing business, such as a restaurant, cafe, or store, talk to the owner about showing your work to his or her customers. These kinds of partnerships can give you a long-term display space, but bear in mind that artists showing this way typically have to cut business owners in for a commission on any art sold.
Your budget, both financial and in terms of time, and the availability of your venue should give you some pretty good guidelines about scheduling your show. If at all possible, keep your show running for long enough to cover at least one weekend. Don’t neglect mid-week possibilities, though. Potential visitors are less likely to be on vacation or otherwise occupied during the working week.
You may end up with a flexible schedule in terms of day-to-day hours. Try to plan your open hours around the working commitments of potential visitors. Also, pay attention to the weather and prioritize rainy days. Bad weather means more folks looking for indoor attractions.
Laying The Marketing Groundwork
Give yourself plenty of time to get the marketing ball rolling. You can basically trade time for money to keep your advertising costs down. Spreading the news via word-of-mouth, online advertising, social media, and posting on community boards, both real and virtual, takes time but it is effective.
If you already have an online following, make sure you keep your fans updated as your show gets closer to kicking off. The more frequently you can get them thinking about you and your work, the more likely it is that they’ll tell friends to come see your show.
Write a brief press release announcing your show and submit it to local news organizations. Alternative papers are particularly good places to curry journalistic attention. An intriguing press release may get you free press both before and after your show.
Preparing Your Art And Your Space
Even if you are putting on a show more for exposure than to turn a profit, you should be prepared to sell any piece you exhibit. Set a firm price for all of your works and mount them as professionally as possible. Don’t forget to make labels for your works and an artist’s statement. These are especially crucial for longer shows where you won’t always be present. Consider having high quality reproductions of your works available for sale. (This is a no-brainer if you’re a photographer, of course!)
Give the setup of your show some careful consideration. What special events do you need to plan for? How are you going to handle the opening and closing nights? Have you arranged for music or other forms of entertainment on key nights? Have you planned for refreshments and snacks?
Putting together a great art show is a skill that you can cultivate just like your creative gifts. Getting a few modest events under your belt will help you prepare for bigger and bigger shows as your career progresses. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and put yourself and your art out there!
Article by Matthew Long
Matthew Long is a successful businessman and event specialist. He is co-founder and CEO of Gigcentric.Com, a company that provides professionals with event planning software designed to help run and grow their business.