With my first exhibit underway, I already have my eye out for the next venue. While doing research to see what venues exist in my area, I decided to ask my fellow artists, art instructors, and managers of potential exhibit spaces about what they think the best venues are for emerging artists to show their work. I have already begun to take their advice and will share the results of my efforts, but here is what they had to say and what I've learned so far:
#1: Attend a lot of art exhibits
Seek out the person who manages the space and ask a lot of questions:
- Do they cater to emerging artists?
- Will the exhibit get much foot traffic?
- Are the people walking by likely to purchase art?
- How do they market the event?
- How long will the art hang on the wall?
- How much work would I have to produce?
- Do they charge a fee or commission?
- What is the process for being considered and selected?
I discovered that visiting the space in person is important. I can tell right away if my art is a good fit and whether the space has good lighting, good signage, and good placement to grab attention. It also tells me if there are potential issues, such as glare for works under glass, precarious art hanging systems, or an inability for viewers to see work both up close and at a distance.
#2: Consider your local coffee shop, cafe, hair salon, or medical office
Opinions vary widely about whether venues like this are a good place to sell art, so I asked a range of artists about their experiences. Some tried it a few times and quit after no sales were made, but a few have been able to sell at least few paintings each month this way.
So why were they successful? Keeping the art affordable (typically under $100) is a big part of it. Instead of big paintings in expensive frames, they often choose smaller or unframed works, daily paintings, or plein air studies to help keep prices low. Unlike arts shows and festivals that charge hefty entry fees and big commissions, these venues typically ask for little in return, making profit margins higher. The other key element is making sure the style and subject matter are a good fit for both the space and the clientele. No one goes to these venues with a mind to buy art; they buy on impulse. So what will catch their eye? Don't be afraid to ask the proprietor how often someone buys a piece of art and what seems to be working best in terms of price range, size, style, and subject.
#3: Find a venue that supports a cause you care about
There are many nonprofit companies, health organizations, churches, and charities that promote the arts to build awareness and raise funds for special programs.
As an example, I will be submitting my work to a local cancer care center in November to be considered for an exhibit in early 2018. They require a minimum donation of $50 if the work sells, but there are no other costs to exhibit. The space is beautiful with lots of foot traffic and willing buyers. Only a handful of artists participate over a two-month period, and only one piece is allowed per artist.
This is ideal for me because I don't have to create more than one painting, but I still get to list the experience on my resume. With a limited number of paintings hanging there at one time, my work is more likely to be noticed and hopefully purchased. Even if it doesn't sell, I can at least hope to acquire new followers. Plus, I like the idea that I am supporting a good cause.