Episode 95 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Presentation tools and techniques for artists

Chapter 3

Presentation tools and techniques for artists

As computers and the latest social networks are changing the way we share images all the time, the way in which you present yourself and your artwork continues to change as well. To begin with, I will caution against a common practice of artists that usually gets them nothing but frustration, which is to send out a lot of cold letters. If you want to present yourself to a gallery, do not buy a list of gallery addresses and send them all a generic package with a CD, images, and a résumé. It is possible you could get a reaction from this, but the best tactic is to be targeted in your approach. First, choose the nonprofit centers within your reach and choose the galleries that you like. Not the galleries that you think would be appropriate for your work, but the ones you admire for good shows.

To do this is fairly simple. First, look at a map or just write down the name of your city. You are about to make a list and a plan. If you wrote down the name of your city, begin searching on Google for the word “gallery” and your city. Look for your state council on the arts and write down their number as well. I think it usually pays to take a trip to your local council on the arts. If you are living in another country in Europe or somewhere else, there is usually something like an “office of contemporary arts,” which is funded by your ministry of culture or similar. Wherever you are, you are putting together a list of everything in your area that is art-related, meaning galleries, museums, and nonprofit centers. The nonprofit centers are places of education usually. That means they are supported by your government because their goal is not for profit; it is to help artists in some way. Nonprofits, or in Europe, NGOs, are everything from community centers to granting agencies to foundations that have been set up to give money to artists, and also museums and universities could be part of it.

After you have made the list of art-related institutions and galleries within your area, begin to sort them by which ones are closest. If you have to drive more than an hour, in my opinion, that is too far. So pick all the places that are near to you and refine your list. Separate the types of organizations you are listing in different categories, such as galleries, universities, museums, nonprofits, art-related NGOs, and foundations for grants. Now you have a list of places and people to meet. Take it one step at a time and begin by deciding how many you are going to call and visit in a week. I would pick a low number, like three in a week. Pick a time of day that you can spend thirty minutes on this task.

The next step is to look at your three contacts for the week and do a little research on each on the web so you can understand more about what they can do for you. Ideally, you have done enough research on each that you know who the staff is at the places you are calling. Then give them a call or write them a letter. You are not sending them links or images of your work; you are writing them a letter to ask about their services. If they provide grants, you want to be on their mailing list and know when the next application is due. If you are writing to a university gallery, you want to know who curates their gallery and who you can send a proposal to for having a show there. If you are writing to an organization that supports the arts in some way, like an arts council or NGO, then you want to be on their mailing list, and you want to know if there are any opportunities you should be aware of, like competitions or grants. If you are writing to a museum, then you want to be on their mailing list as well, and you want to know if they look at the work of new artists. Let’s look at each case and exactly how to proceed.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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