Episode 295 – New Markets for Artists / Contacting the Museum

Contacting the Museum

Who do you send your proposal to? Normally, you would send it to the Program Director, who should be listed on the museum’s website. When I am having trouble finding the right person, I call the museum and ask the general information desk who is in charge of educational programs. They can give you the number you need and sometimes transfer you directly, so be prepared to talk about your idea when you make the call. All you have to say is that you want to submit a proposal for an educational workshop, and who should you send it to. Once you get the right contact information send your proposal as an email, and follow up every few days with calls and emails until you get a response.

Why This Works

You might still think this strategy is hard or competitive, but it is not. Also, once you are running workshops and getting paid—yes, the museum will pay you—then you can ask to meet the museum’s curators who work with living artists.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York

To close this chapter, I will tell you about a time when I was invited to the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the director of educational programming gave me a tour of their facilities. I had called and asked to see the spaces they had available for workshops and educational programs and the director took me around to the beautiful spaces inside the museum, and explained what each room was used for. One room, which looked like a large conference room, had about thirty equipped computer stations.

Unused Resources

The director told me that IBM gave the museum these computers and funded the room, but that no one ever used it. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The Guggenheim Museum had a whole room of computers that could be used for educational purposes, and they just sat there collecting dust! The director explained that no one had any idea how to incorporate the computers in helping people understand their exhibits. He laughed and said, “That’s how things are!”

Opportunities  Abound

If that can happen in New York City, there must be numerous openings for educators across the nation. You are an artist, a visionary, and an educator. You don’t need a degree or past experience to do this; you just need an idea and the will to see it through to fruition.

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.


Episode 294 – New Markets for Artists / Research, Then Write

Research, Then Write

When you are going to write a proposal for an educational program, the museum’s website is the best way to research what the museum might be looking for. Let’s say there’s a local museum that you want to approach. After looking over their currently offered educational programs, think of one you could do. To jumpstart your process, also look at the museum’s upcoming exhibitions. Most educational programs are related to the current exhibits, but you need to know what the museum is planning in a year or six months so you can see if you can do something appropriate then.

The Current Exhibit

If the museum you are looking at has a Picasso exhibit coming up in four months, you might want to think of a program that will help people to understand Picasso. An example could be an adult workshop taking digital self-portrait photographs, ripping them up, and then gluing them together, similar to Picasso’s paintings. The goal would be to teach how Picasso worked with angles and different perspectives to add complexity to his work. With a hands-on workshop like this, all ages can learn something about an artists’ process.

A Related Workshop

An idea like that would certainly be considered, but there are tons of other ideas you could come up with. Think about age groups, and remember to make your idea fun. Could you adapt the workshop I just mentioned for small children and senior citizens who may not be able to use a computer? Perhaps Polaroid’s could be taken, or digital self portraits could be printed out, ripped up by hand and glued back together.


If you are interested in giving tours, you could propose doing one, or a series of tours with a new twist to make it fresh and interesting. You could talk as an artist, or perhaps impersonate Picasso or an important person from his life, and give the tour in character. Once you have an idea, write it out in a short, clear draft. The best way to learn the proper form and length is to go to the museum website again and read over the program descriptions. Copy this form exactly. Make it sound like your program is already done and ready to put into operation by including the program’s age range and sign-up information. That makes it much easier for the museum to imagine your program in their facility.

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.


Episode 293 – New Markets for Artists / Adult Education

Adult Education

Entertainment is also a goal for adult education. Educational departments try to offer programs and create learning-friendly atmospheres where adults and kids alike can come to understand and explore artwork. I was recently reading about a museum that created a lecture series based on things that didn’t go together. An example would be a lecture on the philosopher Nietzsche and pictures of Puppies which the museum had and was very popular! Both entertaining and educational.

Your Career in Education and Also Curatorial Departments

The educational department is very important to your career, because it is the easiest way into a museum. Besides getting paid, you can meet the right people in the curatorial department for a possible show. To begin, what you’ll want to do is to propose a workshop or tour of the museum (if you look at the museum’s website you will see what kinds of things they are doing already).

Propose an Educational Workshop

Generally, I have found that museums have boring educational programs, and that is because not enough artists submit proposals. The people submitting proposals are often educators who have very traditional experience with audiences. As an artist, you can probably do better. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York had a popular program where artists gave tours of the museum, pointing out and talking about their favorite pieces. This got a lot of press and became a big success because artists talk about art in a very different way than educators with no special art knowledge. Artists have informed opinions, strong likes and dislikes, and can be quirky and engaging in their presentation. The public enjoys this much more than most docents, who drone on monotonously during their tours.

Submitting a Proposal to a Museum

Let’s move on to how you will submit your idea to the educational department. Keep in mind that you are doing this to get into the museum, get paid, and have an inside connection to the curatorial department. The best place to start is the muse- um website, where you will find a listing of their current educational programs. Look them over, notice how they are written, and decide which ones appeal to you and which ones do not.

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.


Episode 292 – New Markets for Artists / Education versus Curatorial at Museums

Education versus Curatorial at Museums

Curatorial and education are the two main departments in museums. The curatorial department is in charge of what exhibits are produced and what catalogs are published about those exhibits. Even in the most contemporary museums like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, most of the curatorial staff is involved with research.

Curatorial Department

Museums mainly seek famous and deceased artists whose work fits into the museum’s particular educational category. For example, if you are a curator in a modern museum of contemporary art, one of your projects might be to look at drawings from the past fifty years and compare them to show how style and technique has changed over time in a particular field. Looking at drawings from the past that were used as journalistic tools, would be an example that could be compared to the present.

Research Is Mostly What a Curator Does

A curator may look at paintings from a particular decade and compare them with political events at the time to find relationships between art and politics. I’m explaining what curators do, very briefly, so that you understand that these are not people who can easily help you exhibit your art—their work is entirely separate and may have little to no influence in those matters.

Any Museum Relationship Can Get You Far

However, any connection at a museum can be helpful. I will explain how in just a moment. The other department at museums is the educational department, whose sole purpose is educating the public through programs rather than exhibits.


Educational Department

The easiest way to understand about educational programs  is to go to a museum website, preferably for a museum near you, and look at what they have to offer. There will be upcoming exhibits, of course, but there will also be educational programs for the public. Many of these programs are designed to appeal to specific age groups. They might also have tours for adults at different times that are focused on the current exhibits.


They will also have workshops for young children, teenagers, college students, and adults. There are several different kinds of workshops. Some of them involve participants making something with their own hands, some are lectures, and still others involve playing games that help demonstrate how particular exhibits work. It is also popular now to have drawing packets that teach children to use their imaginations in new ways.

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.


Episode 291 – New Markets for Artists / Museums


Museums are a different ball of wax altogether. They are not in the business of making sales and are not concerned with selling their collections in most cases. In fact, talking about sales with a museum would generally be a mistake for several reasons, unless you’re talking about their gift shop. Museums know that exhibits increase the value of living artists, and they are careful to avoid involvement in commercial deals for ethical reasons.

Galleries Want Museums

You see, many galleries don’t understand how museums work, and for this reason have difficulty getting museums to take their artists’ work. It is a mistake to approach museums like you would other for-profit businesses because museums do not run on art sales and are unlikely to be interested in the gallery’s proposals.

Museums Do Not Want Galleries, They Want Art

Museums are not easily seduced, and indeed, tend to be put off by dealers who try to woo them into looking at an artist’s work. All the museum wants to know from the dealer is why the artist is interesting, and what, if anything, can the artist’s work teach the public. Museums, not unlike universities, are essentially educational institutions, and they make money by charging admission and having fund raisers.  The staff of a museum is largely made up of academics who have at least a graduate degree.

Approaching  Museums

When I advise galleries on how to approach museums, I tell them to focus on an artist’s educational value. The gallery must consider how their artists teach or help their viewers understand something in a new and different way. How is the artist building on the history of previous artists? Artists, too, must understand the importance of their work’s educational value, because if they approach a museum with a proposal of some kind, they must be able to convince the museum that their work is of value extrinsically, in the form of workshops, lectures, and other possible forms that would benefit the public.

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.


Episode 290 – New Markets for Artists / Effective Openings

Effective Openings

The reason this event was so successful was because it had something for everyone, from kids to adults, and the show was fairly easy to understand. Plus there was free food and music. Another reason this show was packed was because so many people were involved. In addition to the event organizers, there were poets, writers and musicians, and they all invited their friends to the show as well. That is why group shows usually draw large crowds. When you propose your work to a gallery, you might also think about including other artists as well.

Collaborative Exhibits and Proposals

Artist-curated shows are more popular now, and it is OK to include your own work if you are up front about the show being curated by an artist. Also, the show could have a theme that supports your work. For example, let’s say you paint flowers. It would be helpful to recruit other artists who paint flowers. You could also ask a local florist to donate flower arrangements and demonstrate for your guests how to arrange them. Try to be creative and come up with other flower-related events. If your paintings are abstract, bring in other abstract painters and sculptors and stay away from anything figurative. Again, you could also have activities like readings and music, but what about staging a reenactment of a Jackson Pollock painting? It is important to have fun with these things. Galleries will then find your ideas interesting. You are not saying, “Do you like my work?” You are creating a rich experience that will help draw crowds, press, and most importantly, sales.

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.


Episode 289 – New Markets for Artists / The Bigger Galleries

The Bigger Galleries

The best galleries in the world are able to combine a lack of financial risk with a sense for what is some of the best art in the world at the highest prices possible. If you want to exhibit in a gallery, you must think about what they are looking for. An artist is also a business person who wants to partner with a gallery so they will sell their artwork. If you want to have success with galleries, think about what you can offer them.

Making an Offer and an Event

You might present something to a gallery that includes an event like a band on opening night, a fundraiser, or anything else that would help bring in a crowd. Be sure to share any marketing ideas you have and invite your collector friends as well. Here, you can be as creative as you like, but to begin with, just think about ways to bring in a crowd so that you have a greater chance of making sales. If you have an organization you would like to give money to like the Red Cross, you can advertise at your event that a certain percentage of the proceeds will go to that organization, and this may also encourage people to buy your work.

Use Social Media and Stunts to Promote Your Show

Other ideas for marketing your show could be creating events on Facebook and promoting them with Twitter, Instagram and other online social platforms. It’s important to do whatever you can to draw media attention because galleries want more public exposure. Think about a way to make the news. One way could be breaking some kind of record. Richard Serra makes some of the biggest and heaviest sculptures in the world; Marina Abramovic, a performance artist, had a show recently she claimed to be the longest performance in the world. When- ever someone attempts to break a record, it becomes news. Outrageous things also get the media’s attention, but commonplace things like jugglers and ice cream giveaways can also work.

Gallery Invitations That Work

I get invitations to shows all the time, and I can’t go to many of them because I am either writing, making art, or spending time with my wife and son, but when I got an invitation to a gallery and read there was going to be juggling, free ice cream, original poetry readings, and a band, I decided to take my son and check it out. Can you see the fun-for-the-whole-art-family attraction in an event like that? Many journalists have social and family lives they are managing with their professional lives, and they are looking for ways to combine them. In this instance, I didn’t go to the gallery for the art, but for all the activities happening around it. My son liked the ice cream, my wife and I enjoyed the poetry reading, and the art was nice as well, and I met some new people. The event was held at a co-op gallery, which I usually avoid, but I was actually quite impressed with the art I saw so I might go again sometime.

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.


Episode 288 – New Markets for Artists / Museums, Galleries, and Purity

Chapter 12

Museums, Galleries, and Purity

Museums function very differently than galleries, and they have different goals and approaches to art. Museums look for projects that expand the definitions of art and they are looking everywhere for it from the Middle East to Brooklyn. A museum wants to bring in something that educates, and since almost all curators and museum directors are academics, they are looking for something they understand and that they feel is important.

Museum versus Gallery

It is important to understand the differences between museums and galleries so you know that preparing to approach one is very different from preparing for the other. Unless a gallery is a co-op run by artists or a nonprofit space (both of which make little or no sales), it has really only one goal—to make a good profit. This is because galleries cost money to run, and their shows usually sell very little, so the sales they do make need to be as high end or commercial as possible so they can pay for all their business expenses. By necessity, galleries are less interested in the art than its ability to sell. The upside is that you can make a gallery an offer they can’t refuse, and that is generally a no-no for museums.

Making a Deal the Gallerist Cannot Refuse

A deal you cannot refuse is a staple in any businessperson’s repertoire. It means that you present yourself and your proposal in such a way that is impossible or nearly impossible to refuse because it’s clear that everyone wins. If I ask you for $100 and guarantee that I will give you $200 in a week, would you refuse? That’s an example of a deal you cannot refuse.  If you trusted me, you would pay me $100 because the deal clearly works in your favor. This, in essence, is the basis of any proposal that is difficult to refuse. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to a gallery, an investor, or a business partner; the other side wants to know what is in it for them, and they want to take as little risk as possible.

It Isn’t about Your Art Alone

That is why just showing your work to a gallery is not nearly enough. Even if your art is stunning, the gallerist isn’t interested in liking you or your work as the priority. She has a very serious financial decision to make about whether your work will likely bring them a good financial return on their investment, which is giving you a show. Museums are different, and we will discuss them soon, but galleries must think about profits. If they didn’t, you would not want to be with them. The reason you seek galleries is to sell your work, so why would you sell to a place where selling your work wasn’t their main objective? Sometimes you may find very small, poorly run galleries similar to small, unambitious businesses, and they may not be motivated to sell your work and having good shows. Do you really want to be there?

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.


Episode 287 – New Markets for Artists / Local Library Follow Up

Local Library Follow Up

I wanted to give a free lecture at my local library on income strategies for artists. A friend told me to go to the library and speak about it with the head librarian. So I went to the library and asked to speak to her, but they told me she was busy and to send an email. I explained that a friend had referred me and that since I was there, it would be just as easy to talk to her for a minute. They gave me the internal office phone and when she answered I explained that I wanted to give a free lecture at the library. She told me to send an email, so I went home and emailed an outline of my lecture. I didn’t hear back from her, so I called, got an answering machine, and then sent another email. I still did not get a response. After two weeks I couldn’t believe I was having this much difficulty at a local library. I tried calling at different times of the day and sent more letters, still with no answer. Again, like any human being I was getting worried and agonizing over what I might have done wrong. But as in the past, I was determined to get an answer one way or the other, and when I finally got her on the phone I asked if she had received the emails? She said with a laugh, that she had, but asked me to send it again so that it would be on the top of the mountain of emails she already had. So right after I got off the phone, I sent her the email again and then called her right away. She said she had received it, and yes, of course she would like the lecture at the library. Right there on the phone she booked it in her calendar and it was finalized.

Don’t Take It Personally

Even though the librarian was not as highly sought after as the curator, the same rules applied when corresponding with her. She was very busy, perhaps overwhelmed with budget cuts and mounting work, and her lack of response was nothing personal, she just had higher priorities. Keep these stories in mind as you pursue people, because in this growing, competitive world, one must often be persistent. Take heart though, and remember that we are all struggling in our own ways, and it is usually not personal. We are all just overwhelmed with our own responsibilities.

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.


Episode 286 – New Markets for Artists / Over Two Months of Follow Up

Over Two Months of Follow Up

Starting in May, I began to email and call her at least twice a week, sometimes more. After a month I was amazed that I had not heard back from her. What I found even more troubling was that I was calling her cell phone and I could tell by how quickly my calls went to voicemail that they were not being accepted manually, most likely. After almost another month of this I was starting to get worried. Did I say something wrong? Like everyone else, I began to think I had somehow messed up my chance, but I couldn’t understand how. I knew that even if I had messed something up, I still wanted a response. I felt I deserved an answer, and even if she had changed her mind for some reason, I wanted to know. So after about two months and at least fifty emails and calls I changed my pattern—change is sometimes necessary in cases like this. After starting the email in the usual polite manner, “Dear X,” I said that I was concerned that I hadn’t heard from her and that I hoped she was all right. Then I continued the letter as usual.

A Response

She wrote back the next day saying she was sorry, that she was writing a book and had been out of the office more than in, and finally that she had called the people at the other museum and they were waiting to hear from me. Isn’t that remarkable? I was beginning to doubt her interest in the project, but she was just very busy, and I was not a high priority. So that was a story involving a high-level curator. But of course, I could have stopped writing to her much sooner, and clearly that would have been a mistake.

This next story is quite different.

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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