There are all kinds of places where you could show your work.
Coffee shops would love to have your art!
Salons would fawn over it!
Professional offices would think they’d died and gone to heaven!
This is great news for you, especially when you are just starting out. It’s a stamp of approval when public spaces want to show your work.
Almost every artist does the “free” circuit. It’s where you get your toes wet.
These seemingly low-risk venues offer a venue for you to learn how to:
- Properly prepare and price your art for installation
- Curate a body of work because not everything you have made is fabulous and looks great together (Sorry)
- Install your art correctly
- Promote your art in a brick-and-mortar space
In addition, live venues test your conversational and and negotiating skills. There’s rarely a formal agreement in these venues, but you’d be wise to add that to your list of learning opportunities.
Because these non-art venues are considered less serious than galleries, many artists put very little effort into the process. After all, you’re looking for (here comes the e-word) “exposure.”
You deliver the work, install it yourself, add labels, and then, when the time comes, deinstall it and take it home.
Or perhaps the date for deinstallation is left open.
Six months fly by and your work is still there. The owners and patrons have gotten used to it. They quite enjoy having the nice backdrop. The owners don’t want to see it go, so they aren’t responsive to your attempts to communicate with them.
Your art show has turned into free décor.
Let me be clear that I have nothing against showing work in these places. As I said above, I think they are training grounds for many artists.
What I am against is you missing out on possibilities. Decorating a space for free.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are three ways to benefit from showing your work in non-art spaces.
1. Ask for a trade.
If you could benefit from what the venue offers, trade your art loan for their products or services. People need to know the value of your art.
2. Structure your agreement as a rental or rent-to-own.
Charge a small monthly rental fee that could lead to purchase if the renters don’t want to give up the work. Be sure to use a detailed written agreement that spells out all of the terms.
A quick Web search uncovered an art venue that leases art at 3-5% of the retail price, with the possibility that 75% of rental fees could be applied to a purchase.
3. Approach the installation as if it were full of possibilities.
Any venue is less serious if you believe it to be. If you don’t do anything but install the work, you have only yourself to blame for poor results.
To ensure your art is more than decoration, treat every venue as an opportunity for professional advancement. Learn how to improve on the list of opportunities at the top of this article.
To that list, I’ll add two last pieces of advice. First, get to know the staff. You can’t be there all of the time, but they are. They are a potential salesforce for you.
Second, be visible at the venue. Frequently.
This post was first published in 2014 and updated in 2018. The original comments have been left intact.