Fine Arts Career Day Students Told: Get out there and Sell Yourself”
The Fine Arts students who packed the room last week for their Career Day got a bucket full of very specific insider information on how the art world works.
Two speakers, one representing galleries and one speaking for alternative spaces, emphasized that marketing one's work is a big job and important to focus on early. Like now!
Both Kevin Boehm, owner of Byrneboehm Gallery and Jenn Schaub, Director of Division Avenue Arts Collective, spoke to the importance of getting on the web with a web site and a blog. Kevin shared the experience of an artist he represents who is also a Kendall alum whose career has taken off because of her work being posted on important art blogs. He described it as her "lucky break."
As a blogger, this interested me because blogging is a lot of work and takes a fair amount of discipline. Sounded a bit overwhelming. I'm sure many of the students felt the same way. Like, how do I do all this?
But the message was loud and clear: To be successful, artists need to work really hard promoting themselves.
Kevin told students to edit their portfolios when they present them to a gallery so that it represents what might be in a show. "Don't include the wedding invitation you did for your cousin," he says with a grin. “I only want to see the work that is meaningful in the gallery."
He said he has to be very selective, but at the same time, "Remember, we need you. We need great work to hang on the walls and fill the gallery."
He also said that once an artist gets a gallery show, he or she needs to work at helping the gallery sell the work. "The successful artists partner with the galleries to promote their shows," he said. “They don’t just walk away hoping for the best.”
Jenn Schaub was also all about self promotion. She represents the Division Avenue Arts Collective. In that job she organizes street shows, promotes the live/work studios on Division and spends her time helping artists. Her talk focused on "How to throw a show."
This material is all available on line on the DAAC website at thedaac.org. Her presentation was full of ideas for what artists can do outside of the gallery system to show and sell their work. These ideas ranged from organizing U-Haul shows to creating lapel pins.
She was clearly enthusiastic about Grand Rapids. "I truly think artists can live here in Grand Rapids and live well. Because of the internet you can sell on line, promote your work and keep your cost low."
She agreed with Kevin about blogging, "Post on your blog every week whether it is a new piece of work or reporting on something you've sold. And think of your web site as a gallery show. Put your best work out there."
I'm sure the students who attended this program left inspired to create ways to promote themselves and their work. I did and I'm not an artist.
~Susan J. Smith