Monday, April 23, 2012

Artomatic and Promoting Your Presence

I came across this great blog posting about Artomatic that many will find useful. 

Artomatic and Promoting Your Presence

The email came last Monday afternoon:  Artomatic registration was open! The collective excitement and eagerness to register of so many artists was enough to successfully crash the server for more than an entire day.  With 350,000 square feet of space, there’s room for nearly everyone.  And, with registration still open, there’s space for everyone.  Since many of my friends are first-timers and a little unsure of what to do and how to approach it, so I decided to share some of my experience.

This will be my fifth Artomatic and I’m looking forward to the part where I get to see new work and all my friends, meet new ones, and reconnect with artists I haven’t seen since the last Artomatic in 2008.  This is usually when the stress would start, however, I’m taking lessons from the past events to make a list of things to do, things to consider, and ideas for making this one the best yet.  And, most importantly, I’m not taking it too seriously.

Artomatic, like other unjuried open shows, is a great opportunity to debut new work or explore experimental work since the show each artist produces is entirely their own.  It is also a lesson is self-promotion, marketing, design, and networking, all of which can be difficult for less experienced artists as everyone wants to take this wonderful opportunity and turn it into the best effort they can possibly produce, myself included.  

My first participation in 2004 was in a very old building and I had no concept of Artomatic other than that it was a space where I could show my art. Never having been to any of the previous shows, my understanding of the area was about equal to my being able to perform brain surgery.  On myself.  While I knew that we could paint our walls and install lighting, I did not understand how important it was - to make this MY space and to differentiate myself from the other artists around me.  During installation, I did see artists painting and hanging lights and doing other things to create a type of artist community, but I did not do any of this myself (and, I didn’t know anyone).  Honestly, I think I thought that it was a little silly to be doing all this work to a wall that was only going to be there for about 4-5 weeks.

How unbelievably wrong I was.  My little display was so embarrassing to me that I didn’t even take a picture of it.  Not only did I learn a very important lesson in presentation, I learned an even more valuable lesson in what it takes to actually pull off a great solo show.  Every aspect of my exhibit is up to me, alone.  There is no one else to help me create this space for me.  So, I absorbed the work that other artists spent to create their spaces and make them different and unique, their marketing materials, and their connections with the artists with whom they shared the room or hallway or wall, or even others located elsewhere in the building.

I took all of this information and tried to make my space at the next Artomatic, in Crystal City in 2007, a space I could truly be happy to show off.  While there were things I did not do (lighting) and did not plan well enough (business cards and other artist materials), I was happy with my presentation.  I was able to connect with my roommate and make opening night more fun and provide a sitting area and other things that visitors could use to improve their experience.

Artomatic 2007 in Crystal City, VA.  "Angela collapsed in a sea of art during installation, and I was there to capture it." Photograph by Erin Antognoli.

In 2008 and 2009, the buldings were brand new with rough, open floors without walls or fixtures.  Plywood panels were constructed on each floor and provided the structure on which each artist’s blank canvas was transformed.  I painted, installed lights, and coordinated with the artists around me for events.

One of the most important things I have walked away with was time spent with friends and fellow artists and connections that were made during both of the Artomatic shows I've participated in.  This is my opportunity to show my work.  The effort that I, alone, put forth determines its success - I am my own marketing manager and advertising agency, and you are yours.

Communicate.  One thing to consider when designing your space is to not take it too seriously.  Showing your work is the most important aspect and interacting with visitors who view your space comes in a very close second.  Provide a means to communicate so they can learn more about you, your work, leave feedback, and increase your network, or simply to say hello.  A guest book will help make this possible.  In the past, I've used a small, inexpensive table for the guest book and pen (both were secured to the table with sturdy string) and a holder for business cards (which will need to be refilled fairly regularly throughout the show).  Use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to let your fans know when you're there and where your work is located.  And, don't forget to invite them.

It may sound obvious, but put your name on the wall!  Freehand it in paint, use a stencil, vinyl lettering - it doesn't really matter - just make it easy for people to see your name.  I've had great success with vinyl letters that are cheap and easy to apply.

Business cards do not have to be expensive or elaborate, or even traditional business cards.  In many cases, I have picked up unique, hand-crafted cards made from a variety of materials including textured papers, postcards, and even photographs.  Anything that will display your name and contact information will work.

Coordinate with those around you for opening night, meet the artist night, and other events.  Plan snacks and other things that will pull the area together, create community, invite visitors in who will hopefully stick around for awhile.  Be prepared to talk about your work and yourself as this will help them relate to you and firm their interest (and, a place in their memory).  Although this may sound intimidating, it is a very important skill to learn.  If you are part of a group of artists, consider displaying a symbol or other type of marking on your space to show community and perhaps a listing of others in the group with their locations (if all members of a group does this, it could really increase traffic to your spaces).

Finally, join the community.  This has been the most rewarding aspect of Artomatic for me and I really do look forward to seeing everyone and meeting new friends.  Are you participating?


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