Hello! Welcome to my blog, "Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People".
I’m a Career & Life Coach for artists and other creative people. I’m based in the San Francisco Bay Area but work with artists throughout the U. S. and all over the world.
I am now sharing a new handout describing four levels of exhibition opportunities that roughly correspond to stages in an art career. You can print it out below.
Stages of an Art Career (52 KB)
I’ve arranged the opportunities in the form of a staircase.
Level One: Gaining Experience & Exposure
Level Two: Building a Resume
Level Three: Getting on the Radar
Level Four: "Making It"
In my last blog post we were talking about the opportunities in Level One. These include cafes, restaurants, and other commercial venues like hair salons and realtors. There are three other possibilities in this category: art festivals, open studios, and your own web presence.
Art festivals used to be great places for artists to show and sell their work. In an art festival, often held outdoors in the summer, you pay a fee and set up a booth to display your art. These festivals usually include food and drink and music to attract the public and create that festive atmosphere. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, visitors come to eat, drink, relax & listen to music, and occasionally buy jewelry. Artists have difficulty making enough sales to cover the cost of the booth and the many hours of their time. However, there are exceptions! The festivals that are still good for artists are juried, have a strong reputation, and attract a sophisticated audience of people who buy art.
Make sure that the festival you’re considering is worth your time and money. Do some research before you sign up. Check out the jurors. Ask the festival promoters for sales figures from previous years. Talk to other artists about their experience. If you have been participating in the same festival year after year but barely make back your investment, or even lose money, it is time to move on.
Open Studios is listed in Level One because it is non-juried yet provides a good opportunity to gain experience and exposure. Open Studios weekends can be vibrant events, where artists show and sell their work to the public. If you’re planning to participate in Open Studies, here are a few "best practices" to keep in mind.
When you participate in Open Studios every year, the challenge is to keep it fresh, both for yourself and for visitors. One way to do this is to set new goals each year, so that you know what you want to accomplish.
For example, if your intention is to sell work, then curate your studio with this in mind. Make at least one section of the studio look like a gallery, featuring a small selection of your best recent work. Don’t put prices on the wall or on pedestals. Prepare a written price list, as galleries do. Your price list should include thumbnail images of each work for sale, documented with title, size, materials, and price. Be sure to include your name and contact information on each page. Have several copies of the price list available in your studio, but also be sure to provide copies visitors can take away. In large Open Studios events, people may visit dozens of artists and it all begins to blur. Your handout will remind them of what they liked and make it easy for them to come back and find you or contact you later.
Another goal might be to build visibility and develop relationships. Visibility is incremental: people first see your work in Open Studios and then recognize it later when you show in another venue. During Open Studios, spend time engaging with people. Don’t just talk to your friends! Tell visitors a little about your own "art story." Talk about your inspiration, your materials, your point of view, whatever information you can share to make your work accessible.
The last item in Level One is "your own web presence." Yes, even as an emerging artist you need to be visible online. You can start by posting your work on Instagram or Facebook. Get comfortable with at least one social media platform, and use it to publicize your first exhibitions and events. Since your web presence is important at each level of your art career, don’t wait. If you aren’t online yet, see my blog post "Finding Your Work Online" for some ideas on how to get started.
So that’s what Level One is all about. When you’ve gained enough experience and exposure, or feel that you’ve reached a plateau, think about moving on to Level Two, where your goal is to build a resume. I will talk about those opportunities in my next blog post.
All the best,
Mary Edwards, Ph.D.
Career & Life Coach for Artists