Book Your Next Exhibition – Now

Yeah, I know you’d rather be in the studio.
Yeah, I know it’s super cheap and easy to show your art online.
Yeah, I know it’s a slog to find a good exhibition space.

Vanessa Turner listening to what an admirer is interested in at her show.

And, yeah, I know that if you’re physically and geographically able to show your art in public and you’re not doing so, you’re just making excuses. Not only that, you’re also:

  • Missing out on sales and networking opportunities.
  • Taking the easy way out.
  • Working your way to a less-than-stellar art career.

Exhibiting your art in live venues should be one of your primary goals. Book a show now!

Let’s Define “Exhibition”

For our purposes, an exhibition is simply your art on public view. It could be any of the following:

  • Open studio
  • Hair salon, bank lobby, library, coffee shop
  • Commercial or nonprofit gallery
  • Retail store
  • Art festival
  • Pop-up space
  • Museum

Most artists seek progressively prestigious venues, but the point is always to get the work in front of people, however you have to do that.

Why It’s Important to Exhibit

With the exception of digital work, art can’t be fully appreciated in pixels. You shouldn’t be satisfied showing your art only online.

Art is a form of communication.

You might think it’s all about self-expression, but I don’t know of a single artist who feels fulfilled making work only for him- or herself.

©Lori Call, Garden Dancers – Chinese Lanterns. Mixed media and oil on watercolor paper, 16 x 14 inches. Used with permission.

You need other people to see, experience, and talk about the work. You need the interaction and feedback.

Your art is incomplete until others experience it.

As a former museum curator and educator, I’ve witnessed thousands of interactions between art viewers and original works of art. I believe that viewers complete the art. Yes, art exists without viewers, but its significance is greatly reduced.

Think of all the meaning that has been added to Leonardo’s Mona Lisa over the centuries. Or to Picasso’s Guernica or Kahlo’s self-portraits. Each viewer has brought his or her own experiences to the works.

These encounters with an artwork enrich the artist’s original intention.

It doesn’t mean you like every person’s reaction to your work, but you learn. You can’t help but get better as a result. Your work will improve along with your public interaction skills.

You will begin to speak more eloquently about your art while responding to questions and comments. This builds your confidence, which is a much-desired attribute for professional artists or any entrepreneur.

Every time you show your art in public, it takes you to a new level.

If I haven’t convinced you to book that next show, remember:

The more people who see your work, the more people there are to talk about it, love it, buy it, and collect it. < << Turn this into a mantra to amplify your enthusiasm for sharing your art.

So, where's your next show going to be?

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23 thoughts on “Book Your Next Exhibition – Now”

  1. Karen Leso Hegglin

    Thank you for another timely article. I love to paint, and am timid about sharing my work.

    Your articles are always spot on for me, so helpful, and yes, take away all excuses.
    Thank you.

  2. I have an exhibit in two weeks, so I am leaving now to go to the studio! I need to start planning for the next one…….

  3. Hi Alyson. I really enjoy your site and am finding it very helpful. I have taken your advice and have had my first exhibition and have paintings in two more venues at the moment with two more coming up next month. I have had three really nice comments in the contact book I left, but they did not leave contact details and one person contacted me to offer space for an exhibition. These are all in local cafes and businesses. I have not had any sales or commissions yet. My question is how would you recommend you evaluate these exhibitions over what timescales and what success should look like. I am sure other artists just starting to go public with there art have similar questions. Thanks Jane

    1. Thanks for your reply, yes that’s it, how do you evaluate success when there are no sales. Would be very interested to know what you think .

  4. Very timely piece Alyson. I’m currently working to find a venue for my very first showing this fall. Wish me luck!

    Love all your wonderful advice. Thank you so much!

  5. Hi Alyson,

    My fellow artist and I are in the week of recovery from organizing “Art Bomb”, a one day, juried, outdoor art show/sale. It took us a year from the initial idea, to booking the park, getting the insurance, requesting the city of Nanaimo to give us a one day business event license, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, to having a successful event on July 11.

    We advertised with postcards, posters, on the radio, the newspaper, Facebook, our blogs, mail outs, word of mouth, emails and were asked to be on TV by the local cable channel.

    In the end we had 20 artists, one food vendor, the only rainy day in over 3 months of hot weather and no time to count the attendees (we are estimating close to 300). It was busy, people were spending money and everyone was happy about walking in the rain!

    From this event I was offered a show at one of the trendiest independent coffee shops in Nanaimo. The Vault has huge walls so I am going to focus on larger paintings with small works along the shelf.

    So what I am saying is that your book, I’d Rather Be In The Studio, has been well used and very appreciated. Without your helpful advice and ideas I wouldn’t be this confident about what I can do and where my artwork should hang.

    Thank you!
    Carole Reid

    PS. The Nanaimo Art Gallery has three of my paintings in their gift shop. Next: I’m going to request an exhibition at NAG.

  6. Thanks Alyson, for the shot in the arm! I’m in the middle of writing a proposal (using your helpful guidelines) for my very first exhibition this fall. I’ll be showing my work with a friend who is a potter and we are really learning as we go. Your support has been invaluable. -Sally

  7. I agree that showing your work makes it come full circle, even though it isn’t always comfortable to put yourself out there.

    My husband and I are going to try to start an open studio tour in Niwot. We have a learning curve ahead but are hoping to making it a community event.

    1. Oh, that’s a great idea, Sally! You’ll meet a lot of people that way, too.

      BTW, for those not in the know, Niwot is in Colorado. In case you want to visit the studio tour. 🙂

  8. You have so many great ideas, I hardly have time to activate them. please keep me on your list because I’m working as fast as I can. Thank you for all you do to encourage us to move forward.

    1. Bless your heart, Peggy. Yep, I’m full of ideas. It’s up to you to prioritize them or to say, “that doesn’t work for me.” Sounds like you’re doing a great job!

  9. Another type of place to consider for exhibitions: hospitals. I had work in a group show which just closed at one, and will have a solo show at another in November. The opportunity for the first exhibition came as a result of a local art guild’s call for artists, and the second came as a result of a friend passing along information about the venue. I’m sure that the quick acceptance of my work for the November show was partly due to my having done the first hospital exhibition (and to the fabulous collage of my work I included in my email to the contact person!).
    Thanks for your thought-provoking questions and always great advice, Alyson.

  10. I always appreciate your little nudges to keep extending myself, Alyson – or sometimes they are more like a kick-in-the-pants 🙂 I’ve gotten lazy about putting my work out there!

  11. Is it possible to have successful exhibitions even if I cannot attend due to physical limitations? I have severe asthma where my triggers are perfume, cologne, smoke (and it’s residues) and chemical cleaners. A big challenge for me at exhibitions is passing out or requiring medical attention. I have also struggled at outdoor exhibits when approached by those who wear perfume or smoke.

    This problem has been a huge source of frustration for me, but it is also important to me where I can make a living despite my physical challenges. (Surgery and rehab is first focus right now, but I am spending my spare time building the foundation for my business once I am released to work… Hopefully towards the end of the year.)

    1. Jillian: This is a dilemma I’ve never before heard of. Of course you must look after your health. I would work with some co-conspirators to help and to help people understand why you can’t be there in person. I’d also add a heavy video component – online and in the gallery. That might make up for your absence. Lots of you talking to the camera and the people you can’t meet in person.

    2. It is a very frustrating challenge because I am an extrovert! Lol! I really think you are right about the video component and incorporating it in my site, blog, etc… And I will need to find some co-conspirators!

      Thank you!

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