If I had a nickel for every time an artist told me that their lives would be better if only they lived somewhere else, well … I’d have a lot of nickels!
Some of you have convinced yourselves that your town isn’t an “art town.”
When I hear this excuse, I think to myself:
What is an art town?
Is it a place with galleries on every corner and informed people walking around buying art?
Is it a place that has a strong arts council with lots of support for public art?
Is it a place where museums attract plenty of blockbuster exhibitions?
Do art towns even exist?
I already know the answers to these questions. Except for a handful of places, I’ve come to believe that there is no such thing as an art town brimming with enlightened art buyers.
Not living in an art town is simply another excuse for inaction. Artists who use this excuse think that they would be more successful if they lived in New York or Santa Fe or Portland or, frankly, anywhere else but where they are.
I’ve witnessed plenty of artists grow their businesses and careers in places that don’t show up on the world or even regional map of art towns.
But let’s set aside this argument on whether or not there’s such thing as “art towns.” That’s fodder for a different discussion.
Now we can focus on how to thrive in your supposed cultural desert.
On the Bright Side
You live where you live – and apparently you would prefer not to relocate. (Rule #1 for complaining is that you can’t complain unless you intend to do something about it.)
If you plan on staying where you are, it’s far more fruitful to take advantage of the situation.
First off, you have a good shot at becoming known in your current community where you have connections. Even a small number of connections are better than none. Do not write off your community.
Until you get out there and start building connections, you don’t know what possibilities your community offers.
You might become the big fish in the small pond! In an art town, it’s likely you could end up as a tiny minnow in an ocean of sharks.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer being the big fish. There might be more red dots on gallery labels in an “art town,” but they’re divided among a whole lot more artists.
And, hey, you may find that when you gain a reputation locally, it is easier to move into other markets.
Do You Still Think It’s Hopeless?
If you live far from civilization or are convinced you’re in a cultural desert, you’re in luck.
You have online tools that are mostly free or inexpensive – tools that artists of past generations never had.
Focus your efforts on strengthening your online presence.
First, identify your ideal audience. Research where they hang out online and plant yourself there.
Second, begin building and using your email list. Keep building it. Focus on the loyal fans who love your work.
Third, develop a strong social media presence. You don’t have to be everywhere, but you do have to use the platforms wisely.
Too much work? Sorry, but you don’t get to complain about having to spend too much time on the computer and living in a cultural desert.
Face the facts and decide to do something about it.
Do you live in an art town? Tell us about it.
Cultural desert? What have you found to work?