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.

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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.

Tours

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.

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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.

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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.

Workshops

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.

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Episode 291 – New Markets for Artists / Museums

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.

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