August 31, 2011 | Alyson Stanfield

Enlist Help Promoting Your Art

There are plenty of people who are willing to help you promote your art, but don’t expect them to know where to begin.
If you’re one of the many artists who are showing in non-art venues like restaurants, coffee shops, and bank lobbies, you might be resigned to the fact that these venues can be challenging for sales.
But if you’re an art ninja, you will never tell yourself such a story. You must believe that any venue is the best venue for you at the moment.
Vow to make the most of your opportunities by going the extra mile to enlist others to promote your work for youwherever you’re showing your art.

©2011 Howard Cowdrick, Oneness #2. Mixed media.
©2011 Howard Cowdrick, Oneness #2. Mixed media, 14 x 11 inches.

Scratch the back of the person in charge. Your contact at a venue may be lower on the totem pole, but be sure you also know the decision-makers as they set the tone for the whole venue. Invite these people to your studio well in advance of your exhibit opening. Send them Thank You notes, say nice things about the venue on their Facebook page, and promote the heck out of their business.
Invite yourself to staff meetings at the venue to educate employees about your art. Give them the language they’ll need to talk with others about your work.
Don’t create a convoluted message that requires a PhD to decipher. Provide memorable sound bites that can be quickly recalled. Put the blurbs on one side of a postcard-sized piece of paper that employees can refer to.
Drop in from time to time to check on your art and to find out how the work is being received. Ask if there have been any questions that you could answer.
Call when you can’t drop in. Email is okay, but it doesn’t relate subtleties that can be detected in someone’s voice. Pick up the phone and ask what you can do to lend a hand.
Say Thank You in a timely and appropriate manner. Did someone on staff help sell a big work for you? Send a handwritten Thank You note or give them a smaller work of art to encourage them to keep doing more of the same (and just because you’re a generous soul).
You will remain your only champion if you so choose.
Or you can nurture a quiet army of fans on your behalf.
How do you enlist others to help promote your art?
This post was inspired by an interview with Shelly Lewis Stanfield, my sister-in-law, about how she has sold hundreds of paintings through nontraditional outlets. The audio and transcript of this interview is available to all Art Biz Incubator members. Check us out.

21 comments add a comment
  • Good article with concrete suggestions. Thanks….

  • How timely is this article! I am hanging in a popular coffee shop. It was supposed to be just 60 days. It is now 4 months. They have sold a small framed reproduction and just sold an original! I change out frequently so the “regulars” are always entertained and make sure my business card holder is full. But, your suggestion of talking with the staff, giving a little gift to the person who handled the sale, etc. is great. The young staff turns over frequently but the franchise owners who cut the check and go to that trouble deserve a little something, too. Today I am going over there to do this and leave a stack of promotional cards for a studio tour in my town. Thanks Alyson!

  • Great Article.
    Depending on the space, I definitely think its important to try and get as many staff members as you can to embrace your artwork. I think engaging everyone on staff is a pretty important way of getting them to do so. But I wonder if there isn’t a better way than inviting yourself to a staff meeting. I’d worry it might backfire.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Andrew: I’m sure it’s not always appropriate, but sometimes you might be able to come in at the end of a meeting or appear at the beginning and then leave.
      The worst they can do is say No, right?

  • What a wonderful post, Alyson. I one the idea of thinking creatively even in the marketing aspect of my overall studio work. Beyond the “how to’s”…art should be everywhere, and we should practice also in how we disseminate works in unique and educational ways. Thank you…again!

  • There are several ways one can fulfill the definition of professional artist…One way is to sell a certain number of works per year…Another way is to show your work to a certain number of people per year…There are more, such as having a degree in the field, being known to many as a professional artist, etc. …In a slow economic time, showing in a non-traditional venue is a nice way to fulfill the ‘show your work to a certain number of people per year’ definition…By being vigilant to protect your status yearly, it enables you to qualify for things you may be applying for…

  • Kelly Fitzgerald

    Fantastic advice! Thank you Alyson!

  • This is so timely! I went down this list of suggestions and did them. My work is currently in a local gallery. The gallery director seemed really pleased to hear from me and I have made a friend. Thank you!

  • Another place your art can help you sell is in the homes of your patrons. When they ask, rush right over with your business cards for their admiring friends. Also, take the time to assist with positioning your art in their homes. You can help them help your art look its best.
    And on a related note, I just got t-shirts with my art on them (thanks to the nudge in Cultivating Clients!!) that you could give to waiters for a change in their work attire…

  • I find my biggest promoters are past customers. I make sure I thank them for referrals by offering them discounts and offering great customer service.

  • alexandra lazovski

    Thanks Alyson. A week ago I started showing some art works in a new coffee shop, and your advice is right on time!

  • What a great article Alyson! I find myself at the beginning of my artists journey ,this is all new to me.Approaching businesses to show my work sounds daunting ,but I’m definitely going to give it a try.

  • lulu

    Great Article Alyson love it.

  • hey Alison!
    Great article. I recently sold 6 paintings in a gourmet grocery/deli, of all places! And now I am curating subsequent shows there for artist friends.
    In my case the owner was a neighbor and wanted “decor” for his blank walls. He is also committed to “local sourcing” so happy to highlight a local artist. Since he was busy with his own work, the key was to make it easy on him by having all the info easily accessible for buyers: prices, mini-bio, direct contact info, etc. so the owner doesn’t have to take time from his own job to answer questions.
    Plus, playing up his focus on “local” I wrote a press release with “local” as the hook and it was picked up for a news article.
    And lastly, dropping by regularly helped. I would occasionally switch out a painting I needed elsewhere and his customers were happy to chat with me, and purchase!

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