by Carolyn Edlund
Alternative spaces have become popular with artists looking to share their work with the public.
As markets transition and become more open, artists are selling directly to collectors more than ever and through a variety of venues. These include artist-planned events that bring buyers in to shop and purchase from the source, as well as collaborative efforts with third parties.
Traditional ways of selling, such as consignment with galleries or exhibiting art art fairs and festivals are good ways to reach the public. But there are other places your work can be displayed and sold. Taking advantage of multiple sales channels allows artists to plan their own schedules, become proactive about their exposure and publicity, and collaborate with others to increase sales. Let’s look at a few options.
Hosting an open studio event is one method of drawing art lovers in to see your work and experience your creative process. During the event, focus on engagement, so visitors get to know you. You may demonstrate your technique, show work in progress or speak about your inspiration and concept. This often takes the form of a cocktail party with wine and cheese or even a more elaboration celebration. Some artists who run regular open studio sales cultivate extensive local mailing lists. They issue press releases and arrange to have their event placed on local arts calendars. They may invite VIP guests to attend early for a preview, and even serve meals to important collectors. This can help solidify friendships and build new relationships.
If your studio has a display area available, it can be the perfect space to entertain collectors. Create a gallery look with professional presentation to wow your guests. And don’t forget to ask visitors to sign your guest book, in order to collect their names, their email addresses and other contact information. Then, continue to stay in touch with them over time as a part of your overall marketing strategy.
Art walks are planned events that expand on this type of experience. Artists collaborate with a local organization to open their studio doors to the public on a planned date. Attendees travel from studio to studio to see a wide variety of work for sale. This often becomes an annual tradition that is anticipated by shoppers and profitable for artists.
If you have a home studio and open it to art buyers, keep in mind that homeowner’s insurance will not cover accidents or injuries. You must have business liability insurance for that purpose. Get quotes from your insurance agent to make sure you are properly protected.
Trunk shows are another form of temporary sale, which are most appropriate for clothing, jewelry and accessories designers. Although trunk shows can sometimes be at stores which buy wholesale from artists, they can also be standalone events. Several artists whose work appeals to a common audience may collaborate for a few days in a rented space to draw in shoppers eager to shop all of their collections. An ambitious marketing effort often kicks this off, with ads on social media and through the local press, as well as invitations sent through email and direct mail. All participating artists can spread the word to their own customer and prospect lists for the purpose of expanding advertising reach.
Pop up galleries are another option for artists. These temporary exhibit spaces may be in empty storefronts or other places that are accessible to the public. This may be arranged with a landlord who is willing to accommodate a short-term tenant and rent for a limited engagement. Often pop ups display the work of several artists working together, but they can be a solo effort. You may be able to locate potential pop-up spaces in your area by yourself, or you might consult a website that specializes in identifying them. Storefront is a platform which can make your search easier and help manage arrangements for you.
Corporate offices may become involved in displaying rotating exhibits of local art. These are sometimes arranged through arts organizations, or business such as Galleries on the Go. This type of exposure helps not only the artists, but reflects favorably on the hosting business as well. It gains the corporation credibility by supporting the local art scene and showing civic responsibility.
Restaurants will often agree to display artwork for sale on their walls. If you are offered this opportunity, make sure the venue is a fit for your work. Learn if the restaurant has a history of working successfully with artists, and making sales. Be sure to get a written contract with them covering your agreement. Find out if they have insurance that will cover your art if it is damaged or stolen. Ask if their staff understands that displayed art is for sale, and can refer inquiries to you as the artist. Make sure everything is in place for best results.
Alternative venues are as varied as the artists who use them and are only limited to what you can imagine. Some artists do live painting demonstrations. Others display work at resorts or on cruise ships, or attend conferences with their work. Your job as a self-directed artist is to determine which opportunities are a good fit for your work and will prove successful, then pursue them.