Finding an audience for your art practice
‘Introduction to Part 2’
What do you need to do to successfully find and develop an audience for your work?
Here are some important considerations:
Create a strong body of artwork ready for professional exhibition. Good work habits are essential to your art practice. Consistency in production (in the broadest sense- including exploration, research and creation of art) and in the quality of your work is an important aspect of making art.
‘Creating a strong body of work’
Identify your audience. Who do you want to see your work? Why? Are you interested in showing your work to the general public? Do you want to sell your work to patrons and collectors?
‘Thinking about audience’
Create an appropriate promotional package about your practice (see details in Part 3 Packaging for Success); this package will be specific to your audience and target venues. It could include hardcopy and on-line elements.
Find a space that will attract your audience. It is really important to consider your audience. Are you looking for the art savvy or a more diverse group? Do you want to attract a certain age group or another ‘target’ audience? Your venue choice should match your audience. It is also important to consider how your art will show in a space- will décor, lighting or access be an issue? Audience is also an important consideration in evaluating on-line spaces.
List of potential venues
On-line Gallery Spaces
Personal, Collectives, Free, Fee based; there are many great online articles about these spaces, do your research. Beware of spaces demanding fees or hidden fees for posting your artwork. See more in the next section regarding online exhibition spaces.
‘Approaching a Public Gallery’
Traditional Gallery Spaces
This includes local, regional and national public gallery exhibition spaces and artist run centres; public exhibition spaces show group and solo exhibitions, generally timelines can vary from 6 weeks to 3 months. Work is general not for sale and the institution should pay CARFAC artist fees. You can often find a submissions area on gallery websites.
This can included dedicated fine art galleries and mixed commercial spaces. Some good tips are to check if the dealer is a member of SASK Galleries and the Art Dealers Association of Canada. Generally it is also smart to ask artists who are already exhibiting in the venue about their experiences. It also works well to have an exhibiting artist introduce you to the owner/operator of the space prior to approaching the gallery. Read the excellent area provided by Sask Galleries entitled ‘Approaching a Gallery’.
Art Auctions and Charity Fund Raisers
Again is this your target audience? Ensure that the organization has an understanding of the value of your work & can provide proper charitable receipts. It is great to give to charity. A monetary donation may be more appropriate than your work selling under value. Make sure the organization has a charitable tax number and reserve bid system.
This form of promotion has become increasingly popular in recent years. Groups of artists living in common geographical areas open their studios to the public for generally 1-3 days.
Always be aware of the terms of any juried exhibition (including on-line); be cautious of competitions that require you to pay an entry fee.
Public Art Competitions
This is usually more appropriate for mid-career or established artists. Here is some great information on public art policy/projects.
Important considerations for a live venue:
You may wish to start discussion with a venue through an informal phone call or drop-in visit. Traditional gallery settings may have a formal application process or regular calls to artists. Do your research, this could include visiting the gallery website or calling local venues to ask about their policy and process for hosting art exhibitions.
Once you have created a connection make sure that you discuss all of the issues listed below under ‘Discussion points with Venues’ with the owner/operator of your venue. Then create a formal letter or written agreement with a detailed outline of your responsibilities and venues responsibilities.
You may need to revisit this document several times to iron out all of the details. Make sure that your agreement is fairly formal, concise and legible. Do not rely on vague email or phone conversations; make sure that you have something formal in writing. You can embed or attach this document in an email but make sure that you approach it as a formal written agreement.
This is a smart approach to working with both traditional and non-traditional venues. Even venues that have standard artists contracts may not cover all the details that occur in mounting an art exhibition.
Check out the documents under Best Practices on the Saskatchewan Industry Standards Website, for documents outlining the relationship between Commercial/Public Galleries and Artists.
Get Permission. Ensure that you have proper permission to exhibit in the space (this is just as important for pop up exhibitions in public spaces). Most civic governments have a strict policy regarding street displays and sales.
Will you be paid? It is important to understand the concept of professional fees for artists. Public art venues generally pay artist exhibition fees; familiarize yourself with the CARFAC minimum fee schedule. Most private venues will not pay artist fees. Often artists are told that they are being given promotional opportunities; you need to weigh the value of exposure against the risk of exploitation.
‘Selling your work’
Discussion Points with Venues
Have a clear written agreement with the venue.
This may be in the form of a letter or more formal contract. This will include details such as the opening and closing dates for your exhibition; promotional considerations; artist fees and/or sales percentage sharing.
Contract or Letter of Agreement
- This should result from discussion with the venue, your venue may have a standard contract or you might have to draft an agreement
- CARFAC SK website has an excellent resource section on contracts
- Even when working casually with ‘friendly’ venues it is worthwhile to put down an agreement or project description on paper. It is smart to create a formal document even if you are sharing the information via email. This will help the artist present their thoughts in a clear way and make sure that all interested parties are on the same page
- Who will be in charge of managing the work in the venue (staff, security, do you need to be on site)?
- Who will be providing signage and any additional information that accompany the exhibition; this could include title cards, artist bio, exhibition statement (this could be for a broad audience or more academic), exhibition catalog, artist business cards, etc.? Check out the following CARFAC Advisory Notes for more information: Artist/Dealer Checklist and the Artist Exhibition Checklist
- Is someone on site in charge of sale of the work? How will you be paid? Will you receive a formal invoice? What is your responsibility to the buyer?
- Is the space insured for public liability (is someone is injured who will cover the cost- you or the owner of the space)? Even your own studio needs liability insurance if you are inviting people in to view your work.
- Will insurance cover cost of the loss of your work; will the venue cover the cost of the loss of your work; will you cover the cost of the loss of your work? For further information on insurance check out the CARFAC Advisory Note Insuring Your Artwork.
- What does fair replacement value of work include (insurance may only cover the material costs of producing the work not the value of the work)?
Is your work secure?
This applies to both live and on-line venues.
Installation of the artwork
- Who will install the work, are you responsible for the installation (do you know how to install artwork)?
- Are you allowed to mount the work directly onto the walls or do you need free- standing easels/mounting supports?
- Will tools and equipment for the installation be provided on site (this could include appropriate hangers, hammer, level, measuring devise, etc.)?
- Is appropriate lighting provided or do you need to provide it (who will cover this cost)?
- Who will turn on any electronics (including lighting, audio or any other technology based components); do you have clear instructions for technology management?
- Who will provide on-going maintenance on the space, lighting, etc.?
- Does the work need secure mounting or will there be constant security on site?
- Make sure that you have properly arranged for access to install and remove your work. If shipping work, clearly understanding who is covering the arrangements and cost.
Additional Promotional Considerations
- How will you promote the exhibition? Are you responsible for this or is the venue?
- Who will write and distribute a press release?
- Will there be a formal opening? Who will pay the cost?
- Will there be some form of print and/or on-line promotion of the exhibition? This could be a hard copy or evite invitation.
- Does the venue have a mailing list for distributing information? Is it acceptable to use this under Canada’s new anti-spam legislation?
- Is there potential for additional events in conjunction with the exhibition? For example workshops, an artist talk or additional educational programming (school tours for example).
Additional on-line information regarding organizing exhibitions:
This is a brief article on 6 points to consider in arranging your first exhibition: http://drawpj.com/how-to-hold-your-own-art-exhibition/
Important Considerations for On-Line ‘Exhibiting’
It is important to clarify the difference between using on-line resources for social networking, profiling your practice and selling artwork. These are distinctly different activities that use different services and promotional packaging. Many of us blur the line between our personal profile on-line and our professional profile on-line. Don’t. Be professional.
Here are some things to consider in the development of an on-line business practice.
- What is your purpose in creating an on-line professional presence? Do you want to educate people about your practice? Sell your work? Or share your broader interest in art and art making? Do you clearly understand the difference between a personal website, a blog, a facebook page, a twitter feed, a tumblr blog, etc. Do some research.
- How do you want to communicate? Images, text, commentary? Once you determine how you want to communicate you can better understand how to use the different social media platforms.
- Do you want to build your own or use an existing platform?
- Do you want to use free services or pay for services? Are you willing to give up a percentage of your sales?
- Are you comfortable with someone reproducing and selling your work?
- Do you understand how copyright works? Do you wish to retain your copyright on your work and/or images of your work? (we will address copyright in more detail in Part 4).