Making Real Friends
The steps to begin building relationships are not that hard to follow, but first you have to decide what kind of friends you really want. If you are trying to build your career, to become a professional artist by doing your best to exhibit and earn a living from your work, then you need people who will support that effort. You want to meet collectors, gallery owners, curators, directors of nonprofits, and many more. In the workbook for this section, we will write down some names and groups to contact. The next step is to get out of the house and do what is perhaps the most difficult part: begin talking! To begin with, as I have said, you should start by finding out what museums and galleries are in your area and the dates of openings of art or even poetry readings or other events at the museum.
This is the way you will meet interesting people and have friends that can help you. The reason you are going to the museum events, besides it being fun, is that there are often collectors and the supporters of the museum at the openings. There are others who are simply interested in art. It will pay to do a little research before you go to the museum. It will help if you go to the museum’s website and find the list of museum supporters and board members. If they have pictures, look at them and read the little bios about each one. Consider printing out the pages of brief descriptions of some of the people you may meet at the museum opening. Have fun with this; it’s like being a detective. Yes, it is calculated, and so will be the expressions of your desires if you take things step by step in this fashion.
Openings and Parties
The next step is, of course, to actually go to the openings or events one or two nights a week and do very little at first, just look around. Enjoy the art, the atmosphere, have a few nibbles, but not any wine, yet. If you have been researching some of the people from the museum, see if you spot anyone in the crowd. If you are there for the first time, don’t push yourself, just watch. See how people are talking to each other, watch hand gestures, and listen in on the topics of conversation. It will give you a feel of what people are taking about and how they present themselves. Take a look at what everyone is wearing. Can you tell anything about the people you are looking at? Try to figure out who looks like they work at the museum.
These are some of the games I play when I am in a new environment where there is the possibility of meeting interesting people. After watching an opening like this for a while, you can skip talking to anyone and go home the first time, or even the second time if you are feeling uncomfortable. But at some point, after going to an opening, find someone there to talk to. If you see someone in particular like a curator or museum director you recognize, you can introduce yourself in this way: Walk over to the person you would like to talk to and, while looking in their eyes, say, “Hi, I would like to introduce myself, I am X, and I am really enjoying this show.” That or something similar is all you have to say. For many people, this is difficult at first, but you have nothing to lose, so try it! You will find after doing this a few times, it is really quite easy. After you introduce yourself and say that you like the show, you can either be silent and wait for them to respond or simply say thank you to them if you know they work with the museum. Most likely the person will say thank you, and you can leave it at that or tell the person why you liked a particular work of art there and ask them what they think. To direct the conversation to something in the room is a good technique, because then you are not focusing on either yourself or the person you are meeting, but a topic of mutual interest.
This is the way to get everywhere because as you practice, you will find that you get better at talking, better at introducing yourself. I know this may all sound very basic on some level, but it comes down to that. When you go to parties, you probably have the tendency to meet other artists and stick with them. So to meet other people there, it must be a conscious act that you do, knowing your goal is to meet new people who could help you.
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.