See With Bigger Eyes

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Half a Dozen Things Fine Artists & Crafters Can Do To Help Themselves Survive the Economic Slump

Because fine art and craft have long been considered a luxury for an audience with a disposable income, v
isual artists, like many self-employed creatives are susceptible to icky, economic downturns.  Right now everyone is hesitant to spend to drop cash on what seems to extravagance, even the very wealthy.  But collectors and dealers know this is the best time to buy and fine art and craft is one of the safest places to "park" their moola. But, they are looking to invest in  established artists with proven and verifiable sales and exhibition histories.

This is not good news for most emerging and mid-career artists. I’ve gotten e-mails from creative friends asking for ideas about how and where to sell work during a time when many galleries are struggling to make ends meet. Galleries are way more likely to exhibit the work of artists they feel confident they can sell right now. So, if you are thinking about approaching galleries any time soon here are five things to consider:

Know your stuff. Do your research and keep up the news- art, culture and business. Keep an eye on trends in your community. Watch which galleries are advertising and who they are showing. This will be a strong indication of which galleries will survive. Know which galleries accept outside proposals and when, keeping in mind most schedule exhibitions months or years in advance. Understand that, like the business world, the gallery world ebbs and flows and you need to move with it.

Become a little geeky. Aside from having an organized electronic (email) database of collectors, fans and people interested in your work, as well as an accurate inventory system, take a little time to research web sites (if you don’t have one) and blogs. Determine whether you are better served with a blog that you can easily update or a static website that is updated quarterly or annually. Check out social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn to find out
how networking online with other artists and people of a like mind can
benefit you. It’s easy to let these things slide and find reasons for not having enough time, energy or resources…but, there is never a better time than now to get this stuff done.

Find creative weirdoes. Face it: being a visual artist can be a not only a weird but solitary profession, so in surrounding
yourself with other creative weirdoes you can help one another remain positive and upbeat. So find other artists and creative people you can talk to and/or meet on a
regular basis. It’s always important to keep creativity flowing but
especially during economic downturns. Nothing does that better than talking to other artists about their work and discussing yours.

Get out of the box. Be willing to think out of the box and explore non-traditional venues to
exhibit work and be willing to lower prices and/or barter for goods and services if you can. Look into local outdoor and weekend farmer’s markets and other similar venues. Look into renting space in an antique mall. Many people looking to decorate their homes with antiques also collect fine art and craft.

Curate yourself. Create your own exhibition of your existing work and approach local non profit exhibition spaces, small museums and college and university galleries with your ideas. Since many are coping with budget cuts, they are often more open to an exhibition that is already prepackaged and ready to hang. Use the distance you are willing to drive as your geographical radius and send proposals to everyone within that area. 

Do stuff for yourself. Everyone is under a tremendous amount of stress in this uncertain economic climate. The world seems chaotic right now. Money, career and family responsibilities can feel overwhelming. For many visual artists and fine crafters, it is our art that centers us and in an intrinsic part of who we are. We will all get through this, so continue to make the best possible art you can make and you will continue to thrive.

Note: Originally written for Active Gray Matter Blog.