October 04, 2008

Gallery Cold Calls...

A comment from a reader poses:
Speaking of cold calls... do you have any suggestions for those of us just starting out? I feel like we wear our hearts on our sleeves, and while I have a couple of galleries I'm interested in approaching, I'm concerned I'll come off as a babbling idiot!
First a disclaimer, I'm no expert but I have been around the block a few times... haven't tested my findings as better or worse than others, but I'll tell you what I learned:

A whole lot depends on who you know and who sees your work. Being personally referred by another gives a big leg up to being considered by an appropriate gallery.

Notice I said "appropriate"... a gallery where your work will fill a need and not be confused with other artists already represented there. A gallery that represents artists in your price range and with your style appeal.

If, like me, you hate selling yourself in person, create a packet that focuses on quality images of your work... way more important to show a consistency in style than a long resume. Every gallery I've been with has been more concerned with the bottom line and moving your work than how many degrees you have. (Obviously, I haven't been in the 'right' galleries that would be looking to make me a global art star... ) Evidence of some kind of experience is good... beef it up if necessary... I didn't say lie, just make it sound good! (Name a product or politician that doesn't do this to the extreme!)

With the ability to create and print our own brochures today, no reason you can't pass these around freely, in person when possible, no need to tie them up with conversation, just introduce yourself and hand it to them. I like full page white envelopes so you don't have to fold the printed pages, they don't get lost on desks, you can even print a small image on the front to grab their attention. For the best quality image I might print them on glossy sticky back paper and apply to the envelope.

Most important... and this is where I credit most of my ongoing contact resource... a good web site! I built mine when most artists had little or no interest in learning HTML code or even what WYSIWYG meant. The latter means you don't have to learn HTML! I'm still using the dumbed down, incredibly easy but soulfully out of date Netscape Composer (don't laugh!) which can't do any of the tricks that make today's sites clever and fun.

BUT!!! An artist's site should not be clever and fun unless that's the kind of art you're selling. It should be simple (please take care with your background colors... PLEASE stay neutral!) At least one big image ALWAYS on the first page, links to other pages ALWAYS easy to find and not guessing games as to what's behind the gizmo image. Find a font that you feel is stylish and appropriate and use it for your titles... but normal text should be... normal text... nothing fancy. If starting out today, I'd try the free Mozilla web editor. So much better to have personal control over your site... to keep it updated and looking exactly the way you want it to look!

Over the years I've been linked to by many other artists and art sites. Those links have brought me many valuable offers (and many really awful offers!) My site is my connection to the world at a time when I'm not really looking for new opportunities. But they keep coming and I keep considering and accepting enough of them to motivate me and my career.

What else... okay: location, location, location. Years of prep re: art education (no formal degrees, as most of you know) and a smattering of experience of a sort made me ready when we made a move to New Orleans. There I had the opportunity to become an active part of the art community, make friends and connections which lead to being asked to join a new gallery located in the primary arts district. Everything I'd done before had been building to that new beginning. Did I cold call that gallery? Nope... a friend I'd worked with on an art board... a dilettante, a wannabee who just liked to be around artists, told me to go see her friend who was interviewing artists for a new gallery.

One more note... be ready to jump at any opportunity. Might not be the most important chance but you won't know until you try it... and you never know who's watching and might remember you and your work... at just the right time.

Hope this helps...


Karen Jacobs said...

About that envelope you're passing out... it could simply be three pages stapled at the corner. Top page a largish image or two and your contact info, the second page more images, third page resume and an image.

CMC said...

I absolutely agree with all of this, Karen. Other than using different web editors (no HTML for me).
The one about being prepared to jump when the opportunity comes is spot-on advice. Just keep painting and you might have three whole shows in the studio closets (what a depressing thought sometimes) but you will be ready to strike when the oppotunity arises.

CMC said...
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Anonymous said...

Thank you Karen. I get that you don't consider yourself an "expert" but, those of us just getting started do consider you a "mentor". So, thanks. I'm going to re-read your entry on cold calls and take it all under advisement.