by guest blogger Peter Dunn
Seeking new places to show your work? Consider local businesses or organizations. A new e-book explains how art shows can provide mutual benefits for artists, sponsors, and their communities.
For many artists, finding new venues to show work is an ongoing challenge. At the same time, local businesses and organizations (such as libraries or hospitals) often need to attract visitors, generate publicity or foster community. That raises the possibility of mutually beneficial collaboration.
With a modest investment of time and effort, art programs can pay dividends for both artists and space sponsors. One example: Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, CA has for two decades hosted shows of work by artists from its surrounding community. Owner Debbie Fox seeks out talented and undiscovered artists. Many of these artists have their first show at the store. Opening receptions typically attract 75 to 150 people and have generated much exposure and business for artists and “countless jewelry sales as a direct result,” says Fox.
On a larger scale, the Salt Lake City Public Library system offers several exhibits each year at all its branches, and new shows every six weeks at its main facility that draw between 2,000 and 5,000 viewers. The tradition goes back to the 1970s and represents “a real feature for people who visit the library,” says librarian Howard Brough. “Our administration has been very supportive of it. For many patrons, it’s their only interaction with quality artwork, and they get the opportunity without a separate trip. We also get our fair share of publicity.”
Where There’s a Wall, There’s a Way
How can artists identify good candidates for these types of programs, and help encourage them to explore the possibilities? One obvious requirement is wall space, but it doesn’t have to be extensive. Exhibits can be incorporated into lobbies, corridors, display areas, waiting rooms, or other under-utilized space, often at minimal cost.
Equally important is finding a sponsor whose audience includes people interested in art, and whose presentation and brand align with visual culture. Your own personal experience may give you some ideas — bookstores, cafes, boutiques, and other community-oriented businesses might fit the bill, as might hospitals and medical facilities, where exhibitions can play a role in creating a healing environment. The world-renowned Massachusetts General Hospital’s long-running Illuminations exhibition program has improved the treatment experience of cancer patients at the hospital’s oncology facility and become a respected showplace in Boston’s art world.
Art Shows for Everyone
To help a potential show sponsor understand how they can benefit, and what’s involved in running an art program, you can offer them a copy of Art Shows for Everyone: A New Tool for Boosting Your Small Business or Organization, a recently published e-book from Gallery System Art Displays. It includes advice from experienced show organizers, and includes a section, “Ten Steps to a Successful Art Exhibit Program,” that provides detailed hands-on guidance.
The information in the e-book also makes good reading for artists and arts organizations, as it illustrates some of the challenges faced by small businesses and organizations, and the role an art program can play in meeting them. This type of understanding can help you be a good partner in pursuit of those mutual benefits.
Anything you can do to help minimize the time commitment by the show sponsor and maximize attendance will be appreciated. Prompt communication, well-organized drop-off and pickup of works to be displayed, and assistance with promotion through your own channels are all valuable contributions. And depending on the circumstances, you or your organization might also be able to lend a hand in other ways, like hanging or striking the exhibition or seeking press coverage.
The fact that so many of these programs endure for decades indicates that they’re providing value for everyone involved — artists, sponsors, and perhaps most importantly, the attendees. With a bit of scouting and some investment in planning and execution, you can advance your own art business while enhancing your community.