Loose and Local: Using Unconventional Venues to Showcase Your Art

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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VAT and Art {or how NOT to get on the wrong side of the VAT man}

Guest Poster Mallory Wood from Accordance International VAT Compliance discusses some important VAT issues facing artists and art businesses when selling art across international borders.

VAT compliance issues to consider when your business buys & sells art 

Art is a unique type of business because more art dealers, unlike people in other industries, are in a position of both buying and selling. This means extra rules to learn and compliance issues that may crop up. Here are a few of the main points to know about when buying and selling art, both in the UK, within the EU and outside of the EU.

Purchasing art

When purchasing art from a UK art dealer, you will be charged UK VAT at the applicable rate and you will be able to reclaim the VAT through your UK VAT return but if the art dealer that you purchase the art through is from outside the UK (but within the EU), as long as they provide their UK VAT number then VAT should not be applied.

VAT should also not be applied if the art comes from outside the EU but you will have to account for the import VAT and customs duty which may vary depending on where the art comes from.

Selling to businesses

When you sell to businesses in the UK, you should charge UK VAT to the purchaser. However under Article 138 of the EU Vat Directive, when you sell art to customers outside of the UK but established within the EU, VAT should generally not be charges and you should provide the customer with the EU Member State VAT number (the number that relates to where the customer is based) displayed on the invoice and you will need to obtain proof that the goods have left the UK.

You will also have to meet the compliance obligations that come with moving goods cross-border, such as intrastat reports. When sales of art are made to business customers located outside the EU, no UK VAT needs to be charged but you must obtain the appropriate evidence to prove the sale.

Selling to private individuals

In the UK, as a domestic supply UK VAT is chargeable at the applicable rate. If goods are sold to private individuals in other UK Member States by a UK business then UK VAT should still be charged but the dealer should be aware of the distance selling thresholds because they will have to register when they cross them.

Margin Scheme

If a company re-sells art (therefore the art is classed as second hand) then it may be worth looking into the VAT Margin Scheme. This is where an art dealer buys a piece of art with no VAT on the purchase price, meaning that when the art is re-sold on, VAT need only be accounted for on the profit margin of the resale price.

You must be aware of the strict rules, set out by HMRC, which dictate what the profit margin is and you must keep all the correct records to be able to prove how you are handling the VAT treatment, in order to prove your compliance and to avoid fines and penalties.


Mallory Wood is Digital Marketing Manager at Accordance. Accordance was founded in response to Europe’s rapidly changing VAT situation with the aim to simplify the experience of cross-border VAT for businesses trading in Europe through a policy of practical engagement with clients and their indirect tax issues.

Accordance greatly supports figurative art and are fresh from sponsoring Shock of the Old – an exhibition featuring local Brighton artists.


Image released under creative commons by Kevin Dooley

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Ignite Your Inner Flame and Learn To Fly

The Olympics and Paralympics have dominated the TV for the last couple of weeks. As an self-confessed “non-sporty” person who can’t stand watching televised sport {or sport of any kind} I was truly dreading the start of the Olympic media onslaught and had become very Scrooge-like about it, complaining that the Olympics had taken money away from the arts.  However, when the games started I was surprised to find myself moved and deeply inspired by the athletes taking part.

What I have enjoyed most are the stories behind the victories (or losses). The mental strength and the ability the athletes possess to keep going when the odds are stacked against them. The strength of mind, as opposed to physical strength that keeps them moving forward towards their goal.

The Paralympics has been especially inspirational for me. Competitors have had to deal mentally with life changing injuries, many caused by war or other acts of violence or other issues that make competing harder.

Paralympic athlete Martine Wiltshire competed at Sitting Volleyball at the London Olympics. She lost her legs in the July 7th terrorist attacks on the London Tube which happened the day after the Olympic committee announced that London would be the venue for the next games.  Martine was faced with rebuilding her life in a different form. She said of her Team GB selection “It’s a dream, and something that I never, ever thought I’d be doing, and a journey that I never thought I’d be on.” Read more on Martine’s story here.

It was magical to see the Paralympics opening ceremony dominated by art. One of the key moments was the centrepiece of Marc Quinns sculpture “Alison Lapper pregnant”

Alison Lapper Pregnant - Paralympics

This beautiful and dignified sculpture amazingly sparked a storm of controversy when it was displayed in Trafalgar Square in London.

Alison Lapper is an artist I have a lot of respect for and her story is one of determination. Born with the congenital disorder, phocomelia, which caused her to have no arms and truncated legs, Alison was rejected by her mother at birth and raised in children’s homes where she was treated cruelly by staff.

She taught herself to paint using her mouth and is a member of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists group. Alison went on to  study Fine Art at the University of Brighton and graduated with a first class honours degree. Her work uses uses photography, digital imaging and painting to question ideals of beauty.

When she became pregnant, Alison was again told that she would never be able to cope as a single mother and should not have the baby, but again she rose to the challenge and has a beautiful son, Parys.

Alison and the Paralympians are a reminder that we all need to model this kind of self belief when the task of achieving our goals and dreams looks beyond our reach. Taking it one step at a time and believing in ourselves and that we can do it takes us a step nearer our goal every day

There are a few key things to remember when you are struggling to keep on track…

  • Surround yourself with positive people who support your plans
  • Conversely do your best to avoid contact with those who tell you it’s impossible
  • Find a possible role model who has achieved what you want to do. Study their methods and learn as much as you can from them. Look at how they got there and the struggles they had along the way and take inspiration and heart from the fact they got there in the end.
  • Set yourself goals – if you have a goal you know where you are going…
  • Have an open mind – you can find inspiration in new, wonderful and unexpected places…

Who is your inspiration? Share with us in the comments…

Image by Alison Lapper

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