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Loose and Local: Using Unconventional Venues to Showcase Your Art

by Helen Aldous

Guest writer Edward Stuart discusses some great and original new ideas for places to showcase your art in your local community.

As artists, we sometimes unintentionally lock ourselves in tidy little boxes. We wait for gallery opportunities or we set up at local coffee shops, and we leave other options out of the picture. We look to our websites and social media outlets. Once or twice a year we set up at local art fairs. Though these tried and true methods might get some results, there’s an entire world of venues that remain largely unexplored. Your community is full of people that love art, love working with artists and would delight in helping you showcase your work—which means that the big obstacle is actually finding one of these venues. The good news is that all it takes is some creative thinking, some networking skills and some good old fashioned detective work.

New Beginnings

The first useful clue you’ll find while cracking this particular case is this—start with the new guys. People who are just starting their business are likely still very open to new ideas. They actually might be in need of wall decoration in the first place, which is a need that you can easily fill for them. Bringing your art to a new business’ doorstep makes them immediately feel more involved in the community and lets them know that someone is paying attention to them. Even better, the owner of a new business will often have creative ideas about how to make your art work in a perfect symbiotic relationship with their establishment, which can go beyond “hang it up with a price tag and leave.” There’s a lot of room for creativity and collaboration when you approach a business that’s just starting out—there’s more space to experiment and change things around, which is extremely beneficial from a marketing standpoint.

Follow the Trail

Okay, we need to get more specific than “start with new businesses,” because there are only so many of those. Every city is different, so your avenues of opportunity are different than mine. These are just a few suggestions about where you might look—even if they don’t specifically apply to you, they might give you some ideas.

  • Local music venues (beyond coffee shops) are great. Bars that host live music are often extremely likely to showcase your artwork. All ages venues are great, too.
  • Hair salons are a great place to showcase your artwork, especially since many of them are owned and staffed by artistic, creative people.
  • Comic book stores are often more than happy to showcase your artwork, especially if what you do leans toward any type of quirky or pop art.
  • Skate shops and bike shops are also great for quirky or dark artwork, and their owners are extremely prone to being artistic types as well.
  • Restaurants are great, but food trucks work out pretty well sometimes, too. The logistics can be a bit tricky, but food trucks are generally owned by independent-minded, creative types that are very receptive to hosting your artwork.
  • Local music zines, fanzines and other local publications are always looking for great content. Sure, you can’t hang a painting up in a photocopied zine, but you can find some beneficial relationship there.
  • House parties can be a great place to showcase your work—as long as they don’t get too rowdy.
  • Tattoo parlors and screen printing shops sometimes have the wall space for artists they appreciate as well.

Another great rule to follow is that basically anywhere creative people tend to gather is a good venue for your art. Above everything else, just think “where do I like to go? Where do my friends go?” and follow the trail from there.

Turn on the Light

Many of the businesses listed above might not showcase any local art, but that’s because many of them have just never been approached about it. They simply don’t feature anyone’s artwork because no one has ever brought it to their attention. Any place owned or staffed by artistic types is bound to at least listen to your proposal, even if they’re already an established business. Taking a little risk and making a pitch to a currently art-free venue might result in a long-lasting relationship and open the door for other artists. You never know until you try.

Good Relationship

It’s important to build good relationships with the people that own these unconventional venues, so that they continue to contribute to the local art community. Ideally, your art should both look great on their walls and help to get some people in the door to look at whatever they’re selling. Use your already-bountiful self-marketing and promotion skills to bring some new faces in the door. Show them that you’re committed to the relationship and they’ll give just as much. If you’re blazing new trails and setting up new art venues where there once were none, your fellow artists are going to appreciate it as well. The simple acts of holding up your end of the bargain and giving back to the business owner will open up new doors for you and your peers.

 

Finding an unconventional venue for your art might involve some exploring, handshaking and risk-taking, but it means not having to wait for a street fair or a spot at a local gallery. Your community is full of people who love and appreciate art—the only real struggle is finding them in the first place.

 

Edward Stuart is an artist, writer, blogger, and interior design enthusiast. He writes for the canvas art supplier CanvasGalleryArt.com. Edward enjoys blogging about art, art history, design and home decor.

 

 

Image courtesy of tackorama.net



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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

julie susanne December 20, 2012 at 3:51 am

Some artists prefer not to “supply art for free,” since rarely are sales made directly from these unconventional venues. But I can see relationship building and possible indirect sales as a positive move. These seem like good creative ideas to show art and possibly obtain exposure that may later aid in marketing to venues that result in sales.

That is my theory, but what has experience shown you? Do you have any marketing data that supports this theory of increased sales by this method?
julie susanne recently posted..Art Supply Coupons

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Helen Aldous December 20, 2012 at 7:02 am

Thanks for dropping by Julie. I can only speak from my experience but have found that relationship building is always good. I once displayed some work in a local theatre for their Halloween night event [my work had zombie themes so fitted in well ;-) ] they just really wanted the work as a “backdrop” to the event but I ended up selling quite a few pieces and also met the owner of the gallery where I now display my work through it so it ended up win win all round.

Of course, you may end up with it not working out but I think its always worth a shot as you never know what will happen once you put your art out there into the world. It’s exciting ;-)

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Cyndi September 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Hi! I found this through Twitter – thank you for following me! I love your advice here. I will apply some of it to my writing, art, and photography. :)

Reply

Helen Aldous October 1, 2012 at 7:09 am

Hi Cyndi. Glad you found us. Take care

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